Friday, January 15, 2016

"I Do" Fix Wheelchairs

Image description: A wall full of wheelchairs and walkers in a warehouse.
I rolled into a huge warehouse where there were wheelchairs and walkers and scooters, not only that there were tub chairs and toilet adaptions and crutches. Most of what I saw was in bits and pieces, with people studiously putting them together or carefully taking them apart. In amongst all that sat my wheelchair. The back and seat were off but I recognized it right away and a kind of funny thing happened in my heart.

Years ago when we moved we had to put Fred and Eric, our dogs, into the kennel for a few weeks. It was a difficult thing to do but we had no other option. When we went to get them, and they spotted us and yelped while running pell mell to greet us, I felt the same kind of thing. An enormous, overwhelming attachment and a sense of pure gladness at seeing it. I know that many will not understand, but for me, my attachment to my power chair is a real thing. I love that chair, I love the memories attached to it, I love what it has done for me over the past seven years.

We went over to the chair and met with the fellow working on it. I had fears about this meeting and how it would go and those fears turned out, in this case, to be baseless. He was a kind and gentle man who treated me with nothing but respect. When I was on the chair, he watched the chair, asked questions about the chair and seemed to understand that I would 'feel' things in the chair that he would not. I knew how it worked at it's peak and could compare to how it's working now. His questions were respectful and probing and showed a keen interest to understand my concerns exactly.

During our conversation we were talking about travelling in my power chair and Joe piped up to clarify, "We never take it on an aeroplane." The repair guy laughed and said that he knew all about travel in a wheelchair because his wife, of many years, has been a life long wheelchair user and he and she have their own travel horror stories to tell.

I am not saying that you have to have a disability or be intimately aware of disability to be a good service provider, but I think, maybe, it may help. His interactions with me were completely natural, not like they were as a result of some standardized training in speaking with or working with someone with a disability. I see this same thing in staff who work with people with intellectual disabilities, I see the difference from when they come out of school, full of ideas and ideals, and then run smack dab into the messiness of the lives of people with disabilities. Shock and surprise that, like everyone else, people with disabilities live lives of both chaos and contradiction. Then later, if they have allowed themselves to listen and to learn and to grow, they become very different people and provide very different service.

It's cool.

There are some big problems with the chair.

I'm going to be dealing with this for a long while yet.

But fear not, especially those who have written to tell me that I'm writing too much about my chair, I won't be making this a part of my regular blogging unless there is a story that I want to tell or an incident that I want, for myself, to record.



clairesmum said...

Well, it sounds that now you have a proper diagnosis for the chair's ills, and can begin a treatment plan. And, the 'care provider' understands both the science and the art of healing - technical knowledge and a good connection with the patient. In this case, that is you and the chair, as a working pair. I'm looking forward to hearing about the chair's progress back to fully functioning, so you and your chair can work together again!

I think most people have a favorite chair in their homes - I've been delaying the replacement of a couch that is worn and stained because it feels so comfy, and came with us when we moved across the country last year.

ABEhrhardt said...

Glad it went well, BUT - you were apprehensive because communication over the phone indicated they couldn't find ANYTHING wrong with it (IIRC).

You had good reasons for worrying - why couldn't they be just as respectful over the phone and clue you in so you wouldn't worry?

The man is a good technician - maybe the people on the phone were not him?

A little feedback would make it right - be sure you tell them both sides of the customer interaction.

lexica said...

those who have written to tell me that I'm writing too much about my chair

Whaaaaat? By now I shouldn't be boggled that people would have the presumption to tell you (or anybody else) what you should or shouldn't write about, but somehow I am.

I hope you'll continue writing about whatever you feel like writing about. I love reading what you have to say, whether it's about large societal issues, tiny intimate moments, or anything in between. The picture of "Dave" I've created in my mind from your words is of somebody thoughtful, considerate, funny, loving, dedicated, determined, passionate, compassionate, often happy, sometimes discouraged, occasionally angry, and all-around somebody I'd love to know in person.

Please don't listen to anybody who's telling you to silence yourself. Your voice means a lot.

Anonymous said...

I second lexica's comments. It's your blog -- write about exactly what you want. If the problem with your chair is top of mind at the moment (as I can certainly imagine might be the case) then write about that. If I want to read it, I read it. If not, I don't. Seems simple enough to me.

AkMom said...

I agree with lexica. I love reading about Dave. And the chair is a part of you.
Why should anyone dictate what you write about?
If you want to share your chair with us, please do.

Anonymous said...

Another echo. Chat away. Goodness, it is part of your life, a big part! It enables you to enjoy, to go, to be a part of the bigger picture. Being without it is a constant "check" in your day. Another layer of worry. I feel you have shown great restraint. It has been a loss, hopefully temporary, but a loss all the same. It is enjoyable to share the journey with you Dave. May not always agree, but always respect what you have to say. As others have said, it is your blog. We are privileged to have a peek and gain insight from it. I do hope you will keep us updated. I am also glad the appointment went better than expected. Whew!!

Claire said...

Wonderful post! My daughter is a wheelchair user, but she is severely intellectually and physically disabled and fundamentally non-verbal, so everything about her chair has to be about my figuring it out along with techs and PT and OT. But, in terms of support workers for my daughter...the ones who have already worked with wheelchair users are always the best. There are so many details about positioning a person in a chair--watch for clothes bunching, make sure she is pushed right back into it, make sure her shoulders are positioned, make sure the armrests are up at the right height, make sure it's not too straight, but not too tilted...OMG it's exhausting to teach it over and over again.

Unknown said...

Write as much as you want about the chair. It's interesting - but even if it wasn't - it's YOUR blog! Who on earth reads your blog and thinks you shouldn't write so much about chair?

szera said...

Maybe if the naysayers considered their plight with a broken leg or anticipating leg surgery and what would be most on their mind….right!?!
The chair is your legs…it has been broken and you have not known if surgery was imminent. You therefor and your friends and family (we are included here) are concerned and most of us wanting to be kept in the loop…please and thank you :)
Everything you write about is insightful and always the anecdotes … LUV them!!! No holds barred and no gag-orders allowed!!
Love, Light and a healthy set of wheels!!

Unknown said...

Personally I appreciate the chair posts lol.