Don’t break on me now, wheelchairDec 31 02:05
Wheelchairs, like cars, always break down at the worst of times. My chair has broken down on the 4th of the July, Christmas, while I on vacation and if it breaks down on just an average day of the week, it will always be on a Friday, leaving me to wait until Monday until it gets fixed. I want to say I’m cursed, but I know it isn’t just me. We’ve all been there.
But wheelchair breakdowns are much more than petty annoyances. They can be highly dangerous, and even cause death. I once knew a guy who’s wheelchair broke down at 2am in the middle of winter and he froze to death. Seriously scary stuff. And when your chair breaks, it is an end to your mobility, making you feel a million times more disabled than before. I am super clumsy and will spill water on my joystick. Everytime this happens, my joystick goes haywire and stops working until the water dries. This usually take 7 - 8 hours, leaving me stuck in one place until it starts working again. I’ve learned to be careful over the years, but accidents still happen (this is why having a cell on you is critical).
I once was forced into renting a powerchair for the weekend just to get by. I needed my independence for a wedding, and it cost me $400 to have it. If I ever get liquid one day, you can bet a spare chair will be sitting in my garage. I’d even have a personal wheelchair technician ready to fix my chair at a moment’s notice. Stephen Hawking, the world famous physicist with ALS (who I’m guessing had a pretty hefty sum in the bank), is on the search for just that.
On his website, he recently posted an ad looking for a “Graduate Assistant to Stephen Hawking,” who can fix all of his powerchair’s equipment, including repairing his speaking “black” box and other gadgets on his chair without needing to use a help manual or call tech support. You’ll also be required to fix his adapted van, prepare documents, be good at telling people how his equipment works and booking travel arrangements for his entourage (you included). The job pays $38.5k a year and starts February 26th, 2012.
Wheelchair breakdowns are a package deal when you use a wheelchair. You just can’t get away from them. While I don’t have $38,000 a year to devote to a wheelchair technician, I do have the ability to be as careful as possible, and the ability to pray, to make sure the next breakdown isn‘t too bad, very very hard.
What is your worst wheelchair breakdown story?
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1. Bob V | Dec 31 05:29
Hi Tiff, Great post as always. As a para I use a manual chair and I always keep my old chair when I get a new replacement (*most* insurance companies *should* purchase a replacement manual or powerchair every five years). As far as spilling liquid on your joystick electronics--here is a great trick. Take a one-gallon zip-loc bag or and slide it over the wet electronics--fill the bag with dry rice (be sure sure to pack the rice all the way round the box) and put rubber bands around the open end of the bag. The rice has an almost magical ability to suck all of the moisture out of the electronics and get them up and working again. I did this when my new digital tape recorder, complet with 10-hours of interviews--went swimming with me in the colorado river. Into a bag of rice and 8-hours later it worked good as new.
2. Tiffiny | Jan 04 04:53
I use this tip on my cell phones, Bob :D
3. robinorr2 | Feb 10 08:29
I have an electric wheelchair that can be taken apart fairly easily. One day my husband and I were heading into town so I transferred myself into the front seat of the car while my husband proceeded to take apart my chair and put it in the back. As he was placing one of the batteries into the car, flames started shooting up from it while on the tailgate of my SUV. As quickly as he could without burning himself, he picked up the battery and put it on the ground. If this had happened 30 seconds earlier, I would have been IN the chair and gotten myself some toasty buns.
4. Robert Paige | May 10 01:44
It seems this is a major problems amongst users of powered wheelchairs. With advances in technology i'm sure that soon enough we'll be looking at water proofing anything electric, especially powered chairs.
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.