Sunday, August 17, 2008

What If This Was Your Car?

OK, I know it’s been a couple months since I wrote something in here, but I’m finally back. My energy level’s been really low, especially since my wheelchair’s been out of commission.

Maybe I should tell you a little about my chair. I got an Invacare Pronto M91 power wheelchair in the beginning of 2005, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Although I was born with my disabilities I’d never had a chair until then. Once I started using this chair I had a lot less pain and didn’t get tired so easily, and this allowed me to do a lot more than I could ever do before. The lateral supports on my chair gave me much better posture than I’d ever had, and this was a big positive in itself. I had a rocky start though, since bolts started falling off my new chair soon after I got it. But once that problem was fixed it was pretty smooth sailing for the next 3 years.

But this year, at the beginning of March, things started getting pretty weird. I was driving my chair one day and it started jumping. (Yeah, you’re probably thinking wheelchairs don’t jump, but it sure felt like that’s what mine was doing.) A few days after I called my service provider my chair died on me completely, and it was a week in total before they came out to my place with a loaner chair for me. The loaner chair they put together for me wasn’t the best fit for my needs, but I was still very happy to have a wheelchair again. Also, I figured I could handle the chair’s drawbacks for the few weeks it would take for my own chair to get fixed.

A few weeks??? Nah, try 4 months and counting! And I found out from my service provider that for at least 3 of these months my Pronto M91 hadn’t even been touched because of a backlog. Meanwhile, I was having more problems with my loaner chair. For the first 2-and-a-half weeks in June I had no wheelchair while the loaner was being repaired. At the end of July the chair started having more problems with the electronics, and it stopped dead on me in the street a couple of times. So it’s been in the repair shop for about a week, and I’m without a chair again. A few times I called to check on the status of my own chair, and was told a part was on backorder. I would have called them a lot more often than a few times, but I just didn’t have the energy.

For the past week I’ve been trying to find out the status of both chairs, and all the higher-ups I tried to contact were either out of the office or on vacation. Finally someone got back to me on Friday and said they’d try to have the chair back to me by Tuesday or Wednesday. When I asked whether he was talking about my own wheelchair or the loaner, the guy quoted me the model of the loaner and said this was my original chair. I corrected him and gave him the model of my Pronto M91 chair, letting him know it had been in their shop for 4 months. I waited while he checked for it in the system, only to hear that he couldn’t find it. After that I lost it. I was in tears when I told him how I’d been without a chair for a week, with no way to get groceries and do what I needed to do. He seemed sympathetic, saying he’d try to get the loaner back to me on Monday and that he’d check further into what happened to my own chair.

So I’m still in limbo with no idea when I’ll get a wheelchair, or where my own chair is. Now tell me, when you take your car to a mechanic does it take them 4 months to fix it? I’m guessing it doesn’t take that long, since most car owners have the physical energy to keep on the mechanic’s butt if the repair takes too long. What many people out there might not know is that the average power wheelchair costs as much as a car. So what would you do if your mechanic kept your $8,000+ car for 4 months or more? What would you do if you couldn’t get anywhere without that car and didn’t have supportive friends or family to help you out? What would you do in my shoes?

P.S.: a few days after I wrote this post I was told my Pronto M91 hasn't disappeared into the ether, but a part is still on backorder and I should have it back in another week.