Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When Your Electric Wheelchair Stops, So Do You

Guest blogger Carl Thompson talks about his trusty steed packing it in...eek!.....

All three of my electric wheelchairs have been extremely reliable over the years. I've really been lucky in this regard, I'm not sure whether it's because I treat them well or if it's due to my parents and I choosing quality models. Regardless, I feel confident that my chair will get me to where I want to go without any major dramas.

Still, my current electric wheelchair is very old. Seven years old in fact. I'm due for a new one, and as the old sayings and superstitions predict, as soon as I ordered a replacement, my current chair was mightily offended and reacted by turning strange. They have a life of their own sometimes.

When your electric wheelchair stops working there is really not much you can do. It's frightening, I really mean it. I wouldn't be able to go outside for one. And it would be impossible for me to even get to my computer. All I would be able to do is sit on my couch, and watching daytime TV is not my idea of fun. When an electric wheelchair breaks down, your life breaks down. As melodramatic as that sounds it's pretty accurate.

Last week my chair wasn't turning on. Can you imagine the inconvenience? I had a full day of university planned. I tried turning the chair off then on again and nothing happened. I waited five minutes and tried again, no luck for me. We unplugged and wiggled the cords connecting the electronics to the battery. Success! Disaster averted, or so I thought.

I entered my car, turned my wheelchair off and relaxed for the drive. Can you guess what happened next? That's right, when I wanted to exit the car my chair wasn't turning on again - so frustrating. We wiggled the cords, tried turning the chair on again. No luck, so we rinse and repeat. Not very fun and I'm already running late for my lecture. Eventually it worked, but doubt still remained. It was extremely unnerving for the rest of the day, sometimes the chair worked, other times it stopped and I was stranded for five minutes or so, frantically wiggling cords.

I finally made my way back home, and luckily when my dad had a proper look at my electric wheelchair he found a loose cord in a hidden location. All is well that ends well I suppose.

Whilst a massive inconvenience, what I spoke about above was definitely not my most scary experience regarding electric wheelchair failure.

I remember in year seven when I was about 12 or 13 years old, I had an extremely active day. I must have been racing about everywhere as my electric wheelchair battery was pretty low by the end of the day. This was in the good old days when nobody my age had a mobile phone. And yes, I used to walk (drive) home in those days. Can you guess where I'm going with this?

My electric wheelchair battery meter was logarithmic. I didn't know what that meant back then, but I found out soon enough. It meant that for every bar of battery lost, losing a subsequent bar became easier and faster than the last. I was on about four out of a possible six battery bars by the time school had finished. Surely enough battery for me to be able to get home?

I set off on my walk home - everything was going okay, the chair was certainly going slower than normal, but at least it was going. When I reached the hill however, things started to go sour. My chair went down to a snail's pace and I started to panic.

The route I took when walking home was through a quiet park where there was never really anyone around. I couldn't yell out for help.

The lights on my chair started flashing, and then it ground to a halt and stopped completely. I didn't know what to do so I turned the chair off and on again. There was some slight rejuvenation and the chair started moving again. 20 m later it stopped again, and the process repeated itself. It was a torturous time, but the worst was yet to come.

I reached the road, it was not far at all from my house and the only one I needed to cross. By now however, the chair could only manage about 5 m before it stopped. This was where I really became worried. Granted, it was a quiet road. But when your electric wheelchair stops dead in the centre near a blind spot it is a cause for concern. Stranded in the middle of the road, I frantically turned my chair off and on. Luckily it worked, and my electric wheelchair crawled another few steps closer to the curb. It was still on the road when it stopped for a second time, more panic, and again I turned the chair off and on. At a snail's pace I arrived safely having crossed the road!

Another five minutes of crawling to my house in what would have taken 30 seconds under normal circumstances, I arrived home.

My parents wanted to know why I was late, I had a pretty good excuse.

1 comment:

  1. It is really frightening!! for a wheelchair user its hard to move around in a damage wheelchair.