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Thread: Wheelchair contingency plans

  1. #1

    Wheelchair contingency plans

    What's yours?

    Last night I discovered — the hard way — that I don't really have one.

    I mean, it's not as if I never considered the possibility that something untoward might some day happen to my chair while I was sitting in it. But it was always a bit of an abstract notion — as in, this is the kind of thing that only happens to other people ... right?

    I still remember when I decided to start a thread here — was it my second, my third? — singing the praises of my Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires because, yeah sure you betcha, they really are puncture proof, yes, Ma'am.*And for the most part, I'm still convinced that they are.

    But as of tonight, I also have conclusive, irrevocable proof that there's at least one thing they were never designed to handle: the wheel getting bent so far out of shape that one of the spokes can puncture the tire from the inside out.*I'm guessing *there is just no feasible means by which one could reliably design one's way out of an unlikely, though show stopping eventuality like that. Which is, of course, precisely why it was inevitable that it would some day happen to me.

    And what did I do to call this fate upon myself? Did I knowingly mistake my wheelchair for a stunt bike? No. Did I attempt a meteoric rise to YouTube fame by repeatedly throwing my gimpy body — chair and all — off my porch, and calling it humor? No. Did I decide to go for a wild hike through the woods? Well, uh ... yes. Repeatedly. But not today.

    Today, I was just being an obedient citizen, waiting patiently on the sidewalk for the light to turn green, when some kid on a skateboard decided that slowing down is overrated. He slammed into me full force, from the side.

    Now, let me take a moment here to stop and acknowledge the fact that, yes, this could have been much worse. Had I not been sitting down already, that guy would have definitely knocked me off my feet, and I might be typing this — or something like it — from a random ER waiting room. So, thank whatever entity I may or may not believe is somewhere up there, looking out for me, for the fact that I was, in fact, sitting in a wheelchair when this happened. The chair took most, if not all of the blow.

    (The skateboard kid is OK too, by the way. I guess now I know why they bother with those harness-like knee protectors and elbow pads and shin armor thingies and whatnot. He'll definitely need some new gear, but oh, well.)

    Still. It's minus 13 centigrade at roughly six PM, and here I am, sitting *in the middle of the sidewalk with a busted wheel. I'm essentially helpless.

    Luckily, humankind is about as fundamentally generous as it is fundamentally flawed in a million other ways. Within minutes, one complete stranger is in the skateboarder's face, asking him none too gently for his insurance information. The kid has no clue, and I almost pity him — almost. Meanwhile, another complete stranger has flagged me down a taxi, and he's even offering to pay for the ride (1).

    For a few breathless minutes, I'm not sure I should even get in. Where am I going to go? A bike shop seems like the most sensible option, but it's well after six PM now, so most of them are going to be closed. And even if I find one that's still open, it seems unlikely to me that any bike shop owner will be able to fix that wheel on the spot.

    So I get in the taxi and ask the driver to take me back to work. I remember from a previous mishap that there's a spare wheelchair hanging around in the company infirmary. Twenty minutes later, I'm out on the street again, sitting in a chair that's at least three inches too wide for me, and with non-removable armrests that are bugging the hell out of me. But hey, it's better than nothing, right?

    Last night, I also discovered just how wide the gap is between 'I can kinda-sorta hobble my way around the house on crutches when there is no other way' and 'I can get wherever I need to go using my own two feet'. It was a bit of a wake-up call. And to make matters worse, when I got to the hostel where I've been staying, I discovered that my new temporary ride just wouldn't fit in the elevator there. As a result, I am finishing this story while eating breakfast among American Naval Officers in dress whites, at a hotel that's costing me more for one night than I normally pay for a week.

    I will definitely need to think about a better contingency plan.


    (1) I politely declined this gentleman's offer. But sir, whoever you are, and even though it's unlikely that you will ever read this: thank you. You bolster my faith in humanity.

  2. #2
    You are an excellent writer, Sara.
    I hope you are able to get the wheel mended properly, not just slapped back together. And that the cost is taken care of by the kid who busted it.
    - Richard

  3. #3
    Moderator jody's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    east o the southern warren
    great story. once again, glad you are ok.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by rfbdorf View Post
    You are an excellent writer, Sara.
    So I've been told . Maybe I should finally bite the bullet and start a blog. You guys would all come and read it, right?

    Quote Originally Posted by rfbdorf View Post
    I hope you are able to get the wheel mended properly, not just slapped back together. And that the cost is taken care of by the kid who busted it.
    The guy I went to see about the wheel considered it a total loss. But the good news is, he was able to replace it with another one exactly like it free of charge, since it came off a demo model with a broken fold-down push handle. He only charged me €30 for the inner tube. There's still a visible hole in the outer tire, but that'll be next month's replacement.

    I realized again today how lucky I am to have such an ubderstanding boss, because I had to take about three hours pf unplanned leave today to call around until I'd found a DME who could fix my problem today, an then take two trams and a bus to get there, and back, with the busted wheel in my lap.

    I did all that, by the way, while sitting in a chair that felt about as nimble and maneuverable a battleship, which made my respect for those of you who have been in this game since before anyone realized that less is more (in wheelchairs above all else) go up another notch or two.

    Quote Originally Posted by jody View Post
    once again, glad you are ok.
    Yeah. It's getting kind of old, right? Thanks anyway .

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Rochester, NY
    lol!!! you are a great writer! i wouldve made the dude that hit me, pay for it. seriously tho i am glad you are not hurt!
    "Smells like death in a bucket of chicken!"

  6. #6
    Moderator jody's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    east o the southern warren
    Im sorry I meant nothing negative at all. I was only remembering your adventure when you got locked in at work. I like your stories very much and I always look forward to your posts.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Ontario, Canada
    I had a back cane break off my old chair among other parts, luckily I'd kept the previous chair which was the same in the garage to parts harvest

  8. #8
    Yes, it could have been worse Sara-but it is bad enough!
    It heartens me that people helped.
    And yes,I'd read your blog.

  9. #9
    How do you get your chairs in Belgium? Do you get them or do you buy them or do you pay some? You need a second chair - always. I even have a third. We don't pay but do not have so much choise for which chair but it is legal to get two for free.

    And my chair who has Marathon Plus tires got a flat yesterday. It is the second time I get a flat with those tires. So I was happy for my second chair because I don't like my third.
    TH 12, 43 years post

  10. #10
    I learned early on that having a backup wheelchair was critical.A real break came when they developed chairs with pop off wheels. I kept an extra wheel in my van so that when at work or where ever, that is as far as I had to go. I just popped the new one on. It saved me a few times because I worked in an environment full of bulletin boards with tacks dropping off.

    However, things change with a power chair. They are expensive so one just cannot go out and buy a spare one. If you really need a power chair, a manual does not do much good. Also, there is not room for two dinosaurs in my van so that would not work. I dread thinking what would happen if my current power chair goes out when I am away from home. It takes two people to push it with me in it.

    I had a friend who had a power chair several years back. He went to cross a street at an intersection and a pin sheered off in one of his drive wheels. He was stuck in the middle of the intersection and all his chair would do was go in a circle. The traffic light changed and the drivers started zooming around him and yelling for him to get out of the way. Fortunately a friend of his happened by a minute or so later. He stopped the traffic and rescued him. He laughs now but it was not funny then.
    You will find a guide to preserving shoulder function @

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