What did I do? I went down to the garden shed to look for inspiration. I found it an old power wheelchair with a broken clutch, a dead battery, and a flat tire. I plugged in the battery charger and connected it to the wheelchair. I walked back to the house and prayed that the battery would charge.
When I went back to the shed the next day, all lights were green. It was a beautiful sight. The battery was reading ‘fully charged’, so I was able to move on to the next problem; the flat tire. I had to push the chair down the garden to my van, which happens to have an air compressor in the back. After a few seconds of air, the tire was plump and round. ‘Now let’s see how long it lasts…’
A day of experimentation showed us that the tire held the air, and the battery held the charge. The clutch was bit dodgy, but it worked most of the time. Becky was all set for camp, well, except for packing clothes and medications and things. We quickly set to work completing the mundane aspects of camping and were ready bright and early the next morning. We set off with a smile on our faces and a song in our hearts, or something like that.
There were no calls of distress while Becky was away, and I just didn’t feel like having service men around during my holiday, which I spent decorating a bathroom, but it was still, officially, my holiday, so I didn’t call the service department. As soon as Becky was back, I called and arranged for the wheelchair to be picked up and taken into “the shop”. I reminded them that we needed another chair and I was told that they would have the broken chair diagnosed and repaired in a day and we would have it back in two days. Service guy #1 arrived early on July 18 to take the broken wheelchair in for repairs. We could expect it back on July 20.
July 20 came and went, so did July 21, 22, and the rest of the month. I wasn’t too worried as we now had a back-up chair. Becky was due to leave again on July 31 for five days. All we had to do this time was pack. Piece of cake.
Unfortunately, I received a call from London on August 4, saying that Becky’s wheelchair had stopped dead despite being charged the night before. She was almost two hours away. I managed to find the phone number of a local wheelchair service company and explained to the receptionist that this was quite urgent. I was stunned to receive a call two hours later explaining that the service guy had already been out and fixed the problem. ‘Really?! Can I get his name?’
“The problem would be recurring due to the age of the chair,” they said,” but for now, it was working well.” For the next day and a half I prayed that the wheelchair would last till I picked Becky up on Saturday morning. It did, but that’s all it did. The flat tire would not hold air anymore. I got Becky home and into bed; the only place where she could be without a wheelchair.
Becky spent the rest of the day in bed while I tried to come up with a miracle. I failed, miserably, but the next day I was full of useless and crazy ideas. All I needed was sidekick. Enter, Tom. What a fun day we had. I’m sure it will live in his memory as a special time that can be plucked out of his brain cells, and held close to give him a warm fuzzy glow.
We loaded the dead wheelchair into my van and drove to every car mechanic that was open on a Sunday. Apparently, no-one could get the tire off because the rim was too small for their machines. ‘What machines?’ I thought, ‘We used to use the spoon drawer to remove tires when I was a girl’. Rather than argue, we moved on. We found a very nice Russian man who said he thought he could do it, but he couldn’t repair the inner tube. If we found a new inner tube, we were all set. The seed of hope was sown in our minds. It quickly died.
The rim was too small for a trailer tire and too big for a wheelbarrow, or the other way around, I forget. ‘How about a child’s bicycle,’ I suggested. Off we went to the next town to the bicycle repair shop. No, they didn’t sell inner tubes that size, and no, they couldn’t get the tire off anyway. Defeated and starving, we drove home with our collective tails between our legs.
After a small amount of sustenance, the creative juices were once more flowing freely. I came up with, what I thought was, a particularly brilliant idea. We could buy a used wheelchair from the internet. Yeah! I ran to my office and started surfing. There were lots and lots. Great. I found a couple of power wheelchairs, relatively close by, and not too expensive. I managed to send one e-mail out asking for more information, and then my computer screen went blank…