I’m not a big fan of making adjustments to my wheelchair.
Like many of you, I spend 14-16 hours sitting in my wheelchair every day. The difference between feeling comfortable and making it through the day with no skin issues or fatigued muscles often comes down to adjustments of a few centimeters.
In my dream world, properly setting up all the components and configuring all the measurements would be a one-time deal — “set it and forget it,” to borrow from legendary TV pitch man Ron Popeil. Of course, that’s an impossibility. Parts break, bodies change, needs change.
Years go by with everything working perfectly, body and chair in harmony, each pushing the other to new places. The chair becomes an extension of you, and you find yourself wondering how you ever lived without it. You tell all your friends about this cool thing your chair helped you do, and you plan special excursions just for the two of you. Even though you know you can’t really afford those carbon fiber rims or the newest Frog Legs, you make sacrifices, because by god, you love that chair.
Then one loose bolt or one tiny crack in the frame changes everything. What seems like a small hiccup metastasizes into a slew of new problems. Your physical therapist does their best to fix things, but the problems persist. The smooth ride you’d savored for all those years grows bumpier and bumpier. Your pristine new casters start wobbling, and hard as you try to keep going straight, your chair slowly drifts away from you.
Before you know it, it’s hard to even remember the good times. Gone is the feeling of safety your chair used to imbue. Now all it engenders is wariness. When you roll out of bed, you eye your cushion with doubt — is today the day you’ll betray me?
You catch yourself looking at other people’s chairs lustfully. Your chair doesn’t say anything, but you both know it’s over. Maybe you tear up a little thinking about the good times — that late summer’s roll through the park, that time you killed it together on the dance floor at Megan’s wedding. But distant memories are no salve for bumpy rides, and the simple fact is you can no longer see any future together.
Finally, you make the call. You tell your therapist you’ve exhausted all the avenues you can think of. Maybe there is someone else out there for this chair, but you two are done. You are ready to start trying out new chairs, particularly that cool new ultralight with the sleek design. You’ve even started dreaming about how you might look in it, and how nice it will be to throw its lighter frame in the backseat. Dealing with all the ups and downs of the last few years, you realize you’d forgotten what it feels like to be excited. Looking at this new chair has you feeling alive again!
At the seating clinic, your therapist looks at your paperwork. It turns out your insurance won’t pay for a new chair for another two years. And about that ultralight? Sorry, your plan doesn’t cover that.
You feel your heart drop. It sinks below your level of sensation to a depth you haven’t felt in years. Thoughts of duct tape fixes replace the beautiful future you’d dreamt of with your new chair.
As you slowly push your old partner back to your car, the dents in the rims remind you of all you’ve been through. You’ve been here before, you can do this. Only two more years …