As I wrote a few days ago, I’m getting a new powerchair. I was very upset when I first discovered I needed a new one but then I made a conscious decision to see that as a good thing.
I’m getting a bit sick of telling people this story but it’s important background to something else I want to write so I’ll share it here.
The last Bank Holiday weekend my footplate on the powerchair broke. For as much as I’m always breaking the damn things on the manual chair (see also: “designed to break” and file it under bullshit excuses) I’ve never broken one on the powerchair. I don’t think I’ve ever broken a footplate on any of my powerchairs. I had what I thought was a minor knock on a door frame (90 degree turn and tight door) and although I originally thought nothing had broken it seems I was wrong.
It was beyond frustrating because the actual chair was working fine it just wasn’t safe for me to use with only one footplate. I spoke to the tech and emailed him some photos of what had happened when they reopened on the Tuesday and he came round on the Friday with the bits he thought were needed to fix my chair.
And then when he went over my chair he pointed out that one of the front castors wasn’t on the ground properly (I hadn’t noticed we think because my weight in the chair was forcing it down). He was concerned that there was something seriously wrong and the wheel could fall off at some point.
So I cried and he took it back to the workshop and stripped it down. At which point he called me to tell me the entire chassis was bent. The chassis is a bit of a known weak point on the Salsa M and it’s the second time I’ve needed it replaced (it cracked about a year and a half after I got the chair and was replaced under warranty).
I’ve got insurance on my powerchair which covers accidental damage so I made a claim and the tech sent a quote. I started getting very antsy at this point because all of a sudden there was no end in sight. It didn’t help that the insurer had told me they could usually make a decision same day and the quote went in Friday afternoon and I didn’t hear back until Tuesday midmorning.
And the decision was that the chair was worth less than it was going to cost to repair it so it was a write off. Oh and by the way, the new for old clause in the policy? Doesn’t apply because of how old the chair is (it has an estimated life of 5 years and I’ve had it 4 and a bit).
So I suddenly needed a whole new chair and my ability to cope was rapidly going out of the window because I had no idea when I’d be mobile again or anything (in reality the tech bought me a loan chair the next day although I wasn’t able to use it properly until they replaced the batteries a week after due to a spectacular trip to town via taxi where I wheeled a not very long distance and dropped a third of a charge and then couldn’t find a taxi home).
Here’s the thing:
I’m very very fiercely independent. I go here, there and everywhere and do everything I can without help. I go to the supermarket and do all my own shopping (occasional online shops for heavy stuff every few months and small shops on my way home from CAB a couple of times a week). I go out and see friends and I go off for days out and trips away. And I do it because I’ve got a powerchair.
My ability to wheel my manual is too little and wheelchair accessible taxis are too rare (there is one taxi company who has two in Didcot and last time I checked there are none in any other place in South Oxfordshire) and too expensive for me to be able to go out when I don’t have my powerchair. I basically didn’t leave the house for nearly three weeks.
So suddenly I had to get all of my shopping online. Which is fine. But then you have the times when all I needed was a loaf of bread or another packet of sandwich stuff. Not enough to do an online shop and not something I’d think twice about popping out for a bit to grab if I had the powerchair. Only it was something I couldn’t do any more and finding someone who would go and do that isn’t always easy. And my prescription? Well I get it sent to a pharmacy I pass all the time. Only someone else had to pick it up and would probably have found one of the supermarkets easier to get it from. That letter that needs posting? Not going to happen.
I wasn’t really seeing anyone because I wasn’t getting out. And all of my independence had gone. Because as independent and out there as I am, it’s all sort of fake. It works as long as I have the equipment I need to make it possible. And the minute my powerchair went, that did too.
I’m enjoying having the loan chair (although I’m not a fan of the actual set up it’s got) and being independent again. But I don’t think I’ll feel calm and confident again until I get a set of wheels that’s actually my own.
Especially given the fact that I managed to accidentally disconnect the control on it today and for thirty terrifying and heart stopping seconds I thought I’d properly broken it and was going to be stranded again.