On the surface, there’s nothing remarkable about the adjustable-height table that sits near the foot of my bed. The stainless-steel frame and faux wood plastic surface look like pretty much every other rolling bedside table I’ve seen. Except for a little warping on the top and some ingrained rust and dirt on the H-shaped base, it appears to be in good enough condition to pass for new-ish. It’s only when you try to roll the table that it betrays its age.
Instead of freely swinging in the desired direction, the casters dig into the floor and resist. Thick mats of dirt-encrusted hair block any movement and grip the floor like claws. The hardwood is streaked with black skid marks showing our previous battles.
I can’t find replacement casters, and the smart thing to do would probably be to scrap the old table and get a new, better one, but I can’t bring myself to do it. We’ve been through too much together.
The table has been with me from the beginning. When I came home from rehab 21 years ago, it was sitting there in a box. I actually remember opening it and assembling it. Not that getting a hospital table is particularly exciting, but it definitely drove home that living with an SCI was my new reality.
Every other morning since, I’ve rolled under the table and settled in for my morning routine. That’s around 3,800 morning routines. At two hours a pop that means we’ve spent the equivalent of 45 full weeks together — that’s more than many relationships — just me and my table; reading the newspaper, watching shows on my iPad, playing that stupid tower defense game …
If the table could talk, oh the stories it could tell. All the caregivers — the good, the bad and the crazy. The litany of medical mishaps and frustrations. The highs, the lows and the times things were just pretty normal.
Almost all the other equipment from my early SCI days has moved on, whether it be to DME heaven, a friend or fellow wheelchair user, or, most likely, the dump. I have a box filled with partially-used tape rolls and a hodgepodge of dressings, bandages and other wound care fun, but that’s about it.
It feels odd to harbor any emotional tie to a piece of equipment — especially one as mundane as a hospital table that I didn’t even choose — but I’d be lying if I said my mind doesn’t flash back over the thousands of hours I’ve spent using the table every time its wonky wheels lurch across the floor.
So I take good care of it; bleach-wiping the surfaces, keeping the rust on the base in check and greasing the adjustable shaft to ensure it still goes up and down. And whenever I visit a good, new hardware store I peek at the caster selection, hoping that maybe — just maybe — they’ll have the type my table needs.