A few weeks ago, I wrote here about reading Super Sad True Love Story, a novel by Gary Shteyngart. Well, I have a super sad true wheelchair story!
It is about my new power wheelchair - yes, the one that I got in June and have written about here, the really cool one (a Quantum Edge 6) that is so agile and has an awesome tilting seat, the one that I ended up waiting nearly eight months for after a prescription was botched and nearly six months after my old wheelchair broke down. So this story is partly sad even before it begins.
The super sad true wheelchair story starts on a Sunday morning in late August, when I went out the door at the end of meeting for worship. I heard a man say my name. I looked back and saw that in his hand was a wheel from my chair. I looked down and saw that the rear left wheel had fallen off. This was most surreal and definitely ended worship, at least for me!
I got a ride home, and, the next day, called the wheelchair place and pushed to have the wheel fixed in the next few days. I was leaving on a trip on Thursday, and, after all, I had just had the chair for two months. The wheel shouldn’t be falling off - ever, and especially not after two months.
The wheel was fixed in time for the trip, and all went well while I was away, but on the day after I returned, it was apparent that the wheel was coming off again. I called the wheelchair place, and a technician came out a day or two later and declared the chair “unsafe to drive.” (Really?) When I called the wheelchair place to find out the next step, I was told that the wheel was bent, that it was something I did and that, since this wasn’t under warranty, a request would have to be sent to Medi-Cal - a process that we all know can take months.
A few days later, feeling quite low, I called the saleswoman, who had raved about how great the chair was outdoors, and told her what was going on. A few hours later, literally, I received an e-mail from the wheelchair place saying the wheel is under warranty. Mmmmm.... Someone’s face got saved.
Then, over the next few weeks, it turned out that the wheel was on “back order” - there were no wheels? really? MAKE ONE! - until early November. But, two weeks ago, a wheel was “found” - actually a wheel from the demo. Again, someone’s face got saved.
A few days later, a technician - a very nice, super polite man (not your usual mechanic - I’m just saying...) - came and replaced the wheel. The next morning, for the first time in a month and a half, I got into the chair and left to go to a memorial service for Karl Benjamin, the famous artist who taught at Pomona College here. I was 20 feet from the house and in the middle of the street, and the left motor began cutting out. My attendant was out at the time, and, by turning the chair off and on several times, I managed to get back to the house. I didn’t get to the memorial.
I immediately sent an e-mail on that Saturday and then called the wheelchair place on the next Monday, when it was again implied that I had bent the wheel and was lucky to be getting a new one under warranty. The same nice technician came and discovered that the motor has a short - nothing to do with how the wheel was attached, like I wondered. I immediately felt a sense or relief, that I wasn’t crazy, that it really wasn’t my problem. This was last week, and the technician, who seemed genuinely ashamed, couldn’t say when the new motor would come in. I will call again on Monday.
Too bad there isn’t a lemon law for wheelchairs! I asked.
I have left out some twists and turns here, including being told by a disabled friend last month that these six-wheel chairs really aren’t good for rough outdoor use, but you get the drift. I have also been trying to get a mount so that my Vmax speech device with fit onto the other power wheelchair I’ve been able to use (and may well need to use more than I had in mind in the future), but that’s a whole other sad, dreary story - right in time for Halloween!