So, my computer now had a virus, and we still didn’t have either of the wheelchairs repaired. After I finished laughing, I poured myself a big glass of wine and wrote on the calendar, “Bad Day”. All I could think of doing was wandering down to the shed, again. This time I spied ye olde manual wheelchair. Becky has left-sided weakness called hemiparesis, so it is impossible for her to wheel a regular manual wheelchair around. This one had a ‘one arm drive’ added, for an exorbitant cost, to enable her to wheel around. She is pretty small, and it became quite obvious that she would never be independent in this type of chair. That’s when she switched to power wheelchairs, and she never looked back. She was on power chair #3, so why we still had this piece of junk, I’ll never know, but we had, so Tom and I pulled it out into the daylight.
We had a bit of a shock; it was covered in mould! Out came the hose and we washed it as best we could and left it to dry. After eating, and drinking a bit more, we had a good look at the historical specimen. The broken brake was a bit of a problem and the brake extension, which helps Becky push the brakes on and pull them off, was on the right side, which is her good side. Anyway, we managed to switch the brake extension over to the left side, once we had found some extra bits in the basement, and put the left brake together. Perfect. I wheeled it in the house, and realised that the tires had deteriorated so badly that they were leaving a trail of rubber behind them. Oh well. Becky stayed in bed, but at least she had a wheelchair for the next morning.
I should mention here that I had contacted the wheelchair service company after two weeks to discover that they hadn’t even looked at the wheelchair yet! I asked again about a replacement chair. No need, we’ll have it back to you in a couple of days. I did remind them that I heard that before, but it didn’t seem to make much difference.
First thing Monday morning, I took my computer in for repairs. I used another computer to check e-mail, but the one used wheelchair I had enquired about, had already sold. I was reluctant to look for another used chair on someone else’s computer. What if I destroyed their electronics as well? By the next day, I had learnt to deal with these misgivings and jumped right back into hyper-space on Becky’s laptop. There was a new listing, only a few hours old. I called and left a message. Within an hour we had a response; the chair was still available. We were able to go out that afternoon to see it.
We shovelled down lunch and took off to downtown Toronto in a rain storm. Parking, as always, is difficult, but we managed to find a space and headed to the apartment building. We were supposed to meet in the lobby, but had traded cell numbers, just in case. I cleverly left mine in the van, and wasn’t about to leave Becky in a strange place by herself, so it stayed where it was. A man eventually came down with a cell phone attached to his ear, looking around outside. Yes, we had found our man.
We went upstairs, leaving a trail of rubber, to look at the chair. The batteries were dead. No, really. I could not believe it. We had driven in a rain storm to downtown T.O. (Toronto) for a dead wheelchair. Luckily, the guy that met us was a service guy and was acting as a go-between for the sale of the wheelchair. Understandably, the person selling it felt a bit vulnerable meeting strangers in their apartment and had asked for his help. This person, let’s call them Jack, had a new model of the same chair he was selling. Obviously he didn’t need the old one and was trying to make a bit of room by selling it. The service guy proceeded to take the batteries out the new model, took the batteries of the old model, put in the new batteries, and Hey Presto, a working wheelchair!
Becky went for a test drive around the building, while Jack and I had a nice chat. He was obviously a very sweet person forced into difficult circumstances by his deteriorating health. Becky came back with a big grin on her face. “Okay”, I said “you’ve got yourself a deal.”
Now all we had to do was wait for the batteries to be switched back again, which are extremely heavy by the way, the wheelchair to be stripped of extra features that we didn’t need, the batteries to be switched back again, just to make sure nothing essential had been disconnected, and a final battery switch back to Jack’s chair so he wasn’t stranded. Easy peasy. The service guy helped us to the van with the non-powered power wheelchair and, of course, I insisted on his contact number and told him he was our new best friend. We drove back to Mississauga in rush hour traffic, happy in the knowledge that we were closer to a working wheelchair than we had been in days. The euphoria rubbed off a bit after sitting an hour in stopped traffic.
I called the next morning, and our new BFF came out with replacement batteries for Jack’s old chair. He also spent an hour setting up the chair for Becky; adjusting footrests, armrests, the back rest, and cushion. By 4 pm she was driving around the house taking out all the woodwork on the door jambs. Yep, we need to make some adjustments. They say everything is relative, and it is. Suddenly a few wood splinters, quite a few actually, didn’t matter because Becky was independent again! She was able to go back to her day program the next day, and I spent my free time rearranging her bedroom so there was more space.
This was wheelchair #3. Of course, now we had a working wheelchair the service company called to say they couldn’t find anything wrong with Becky’s chair which was being tested in their shop. I can’t begin to describe the feelings of frustration, incredulity, and anger I felt as I heard this. I just asked them to test it in a different way and hung up. An hour later they called back. The service man who had worked on the chair the night before had just come in to work and he explained that the chair was a disaster, running down to 0% power in a short time. Hurrah!
The chair was returned the following week with new electronics and batteries. Apparently, the ‘brain’ of the chair had not been switching the charger off when the batteries were fully charged, and had burnt out the batteries and the rest of the electronics. Not good. In fact, the service manager followed up with the manufacturer, and on August 25, three months after the first service call, they upgraded all of the power and electronic components, giving Becky, essentially, a new wheelchair. Phew.
My computer proved to be a bit tricky and all my files had to be removed, software removed, software replaced, and files replaced. I had my computer back but nothing was set up and I couldn’t access any of my files, documents or photos. I quickly set to work and had e-mail up and running as soon as I could. Naturally, I wanted to vent, so I wrote to my cousin in England and told him what had happened; that we had gone through three wheelchairs and a computer in 6 weeks. “You make it, we break it” I wrote. He wrote back and suggested we write to Hummer, and ask them to design a wheelchair for Becky. Now, wouldn’t that be cool!