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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kickin' Around the Tires

About the only thing missing today was the new car smell, as I was fitted for a new motorized wheelchair. The price tag was certainly there, but fortunately it will be covered by insurance (not that that is cheap, either, but it certainly helps when paying for equipment as expensive as a luxury vehicle).

After looking at three particular models from various manufacturers and consulting with the physical therapist and medical equipment salesman, I decided to go with a mid-wheel drive chair by Invacare (pictured above), from its TDX series (Total Driving Experience -- being in a wheelchair is apparently now an "experience").

Though the measurements of my new chair will not change, the new chair should be a major improvement over the current one. With a battery for my ventilator incorporated into the design of the chair, the chair should not tip back when going over inclines.

It will definitely be a bit different to drive at first, as the fact that it is mid-wheel drive means it has six tires instead of the four to which I have been accustomed for nearly 20 years (I can't believe I've been in a wheelchair that long). When going up an incline, the chair uses the back four wheels; when going downhill, it will use the front four.

As the physical therapist told me, "You'll probably hate [the mid-wheel drive] for the first week, but then you'll really like it."

Apparently, the turning radius is not nearly as wide, so I should be able to navigate turns more easily. However, I'm sure that it will run over toes just as easily, so people better be nice to me -- or else!

The new chair will also be able to recline. Hopefully, that will make it possible for me to take a nap during the day when I get tired. I never do this now because it would mean getting out of my chair, into bed, and then back into my chair.

The most important component of this wheelchair, as with my current one, is the mini-joystick, which allows me to control the chair with the tip of my thumb. As I told the physical therapist and the salesman, I would be unable to drive my chair without such an innovation. I explained how, when I got my current chair with a mini joystick, driving became so effortless for me once again that I could not sit still, so to speak. When people ask me now why I'm constantly moving around, I tell them that I am "pacing!"

I was my usual humorous self throughout the process today. I got a good laugh when the salesman asked me if I were sure that I didn't want a color other than black.

"No sparkles or anything like that?" he asked.

Sparkles? I don't think so. Look, this is coming from a guy who once had a teal wheelchair frame when that color was popular and from the same guy who once had a fire engine red seat cushion. It's a wheelchair, for god sake! Trust me, having a really cool color isn't going to make being in a wheelchair any better. Being able to recline and drive really fast, well, that's a different story!


SEG said...

I'm so glad you're back posting. Cool wheels.

Anonymous said...

Hey Josh,
This is Graeme & Anna, friends of Steve & Sue, maybe you remember meeting us at Thanksgiving years ago. Great to read that technology is helping just a bit ! Looking forward to learning more about your progress with the new wheels in future blogs.
Love G&A

The English Courtesan said...

Dare I ask what its top speed is? Sparkles might be uncool but I do wonder if some retro go-faster stripes might be in order.

For a word of warning see this article about 'Hell's Grannies' from the good BBC - . Do not try that at home, young man! That's a stern peer over my librarian glasses at you... :-)

Here's wishing you happy driving (and steel toe-capped boots to friends and family in close proximity)... ;-)

Livvy xxx