Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In a hard(er) seat

   I am trying to get a new manual wheelchair.  It turns out a trying experience is all I’m getting. 
   I’m not talking about a fancy new motorized wheelchair.  I’m talking about a plain, simple manual wheelchair, the kind that you push.  I have one that I use when I get up and when I go to bed and when I’m sick.  I also use it when I’m going somewhere where I can’t use my motorized wheelchair (like somewhere with steps) and, most critically, as a back-up. 
   It is time to get a new one.  I’ve had this one for something like 20 years.  The left footrest won’t reliably stay in place, which is not safe.  Also, it is a sexy, sleek sports chair with stick-like armrests and a hard, hard seat.  I was much younger when I chose it and wanted to be cool.  Now that I’m not so young, I want something a bit more substantial and cushy. 
   Months after requesting a new manual wheelchair, I found out last  week that I am not eligible to get one, because I already got a motorized chair several years ago.  I can’t get a wheelchair – any wheelchair, motorized or manual – through my Medi-Cal/Medicare for another two years. 
   That’s right.  I can only get one chair, manual or motorized, every 7 years (or is it every 5 years?).  That means that either my manual or my motorized wheelchair will be in use for at least 10 years.  And what if I think it’s more important that my motorized wheelchair, which I use for miles every day and usually when I’m on my own as I go about my independent, productive life, is safe and reliable, not old? It apparently doesn’t matter. 
   Now, I am fortunate, I am blessed.  I still have the manual chair.  Yes, it’s old and uncomfortable, but it’s not broken, and I can use it.  Also, if my motorized wheelchair breaks down, I am not completely reliant on this manual chair. 
   There are many who are stuck in their manual wheelchair if their motorized wheelchair breaks down. What do they do if, in trying to have one good wheelchair to rely on, they no longer have a usable back-up.  Are they stuck on the couch, in bed?    
   This is awful, nightmare stuff.  But it isn’t necessarily just a bad dream.  In the past, I’ve been stuck in my manual wheelchair for weeks while waiting for my motorized chair to be fixed (or, really, get approved for the repair).
   There was recently an article in the Los Angeles Times about a woman who was awarded more than $28 million from Kaiser Permanente after she became disabled as a result of the H.M.O delaying a M.R.I to detect a tumor in her pelvis. The article states that the woman now “uses crutches to get around…because she doesn’t want to use a wheelchair.” Never mind that it may be easier to use a wheelchair; the message is that being disabled is bad and that any sign of it, such as a wheelchair as opposed to crutches, is to be avoided. 
   With it being difficult to get equipment and help, no wonder the woman is doing everything she can to not be at least seen as disabled or more disabled.  No wonder being disabled is such a bad thing, or is worse than it actually is or has to be.  At least the woman has $28 million to make it easier to get what she needs to make being disabled not so bad, including a wheelchair when she wants one. 

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