I should begin with a little background about me, before I relate the story of the wheelchair catastrophe. Why? Because it may provide some awareness of what a stubborn, self-righteous fool I am. In the past I have had a mobility scooter as I have limited mobility caused by multiple sclerosis but, I had discovered a revolutionary drug called Esperanza Neuropeptides which seemed to be helping my mobility and so I took the decision to sell the mobility scooter.
How not to dismount a wheelchair
I describe this as a humorous episode in the page Meta description of this post. And it was, but it could easily have been a drastic accident.
Set the scene; I have a small office constructed in the back garden of my house.
At the time of construction, I was still fairly mobile and did not use a wheelchair. This was clearly an oversight and a breach of planning regulations. However, my health deteriorated and I was leaving the house far less frequently.
Then, my fortunes changed. A good friend, with PPMS, was upgrading his chair and I could have his old wheelchair.
Now, I need to store the wheelchair somewhere, and the office was the obvious choice. It was actually the only choice; access into the house is much more difficult, there is nowhere in the house to keep the chair and my wife would object most vociferously to me cluttering up the house with my gadgets.
The problem: The office has a sizeable step entering the door. I do not have the strength to lift an electric wheelchair over the step.
The solution: Build a ramp… Simple… Not so simple as it might at first appear.
I am impatient, when I have an idea it should be simple, low-cost and practical. The solution I devised hit two of these points but, missed the practical goal by a wide margin. I had a custom-built ramp that I had used for the mobility scooter but the wheelbase of the wheelchair was too wide for this ramp. I managed to unearth a sheet of half-inch plywood that should serve the purpose.
The photograph shows that it did the job admirably, or so I thought… the unforeseen problem was the lip on the door-frame itself. When trying to drive the wheelchair over the lip, it pushed the plywood back, dropping it off the step and thereby dropping the rear wheels down several inches.
All the weight of the wheelchair is in the batteries making the centre of gravity near to the back of the chair. When the rear wheels dropped, with me sitting in it, the consequences were inevitable. The chair tipped backwards, spilling me onto the ground.
An athletic, balletic pirouette – disabled, I don’t think so.
Below the ramp are concrete slabs. Fortunately, I was aware of this and, avoided allowing my head to crash back onto this solid surface. But, I managed a very graceful, backward somersault.
It is instinctive, I know, but I jumped up, ensured nobody was watching me, and dusted myself off. My shoulder was bruised, my pride was bruised but my head was fine. “You stupid old man!”
The plan had come undone. So much for simple and practical. But, all was not lost.
The theory was good, the implementation just needed a little refinement. So, it was off to the hardware store for some more wood and try again.
Therein lies another story; We went to our nearby DIY supermarket. I shall not use the name, they do now pay me to promote their brand, and it will probably mean nothing to my non-UK visitors.
It was a reasonable good MS day, I could walk a little and, so long as I have a shopping trolley to use as a walker I don’t appear too drunk.
We selected a suitable piece of 10mm plywood and took it to the wood-cutting counter to have it trimmed to size. I then enquired, of the assistant, as to the location of their wood glue. Furnished with this information, we strolled off to the requisite aisle. At this point, we encountered a gentleman. We stood and chatted for a while, making small talk.
It was as we left for the check-out, I realised that I must have looked a real fraud. I had been explaining to the said gentleman about my need to build a wheelchair ramp for my wheelchair while I was standing and walking about with no apparent difficulty.
With the shopping expedition concluded, we returned home to have a well-deserved cup of coffee and a sit down to allow my MS legs to recover.
A small Difficulty
My plan had been to to glue and pin strips of the wood to the main sheet to form the ramp. I set about doing this, only to discover that my eyesight is now so bad, or perhaps it is the lack of spatial awareness, that I could not hit the nails with the hammer no matter how carefully I tried. Fortunately, the wood glue sets quite quickly and the nails weren’t really needed.
With my ramps now constructed it was time to see if the wheelchair could now be navigated in and out of the office. The result was good. I did not try to “drive” the wheelchair, but by pushing it the operation was successful. I had achieved something!
Now, hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I have found a useful page on wheelchair safety which I, clearly, should have looked at earlier.
The moral of the story: Don’t say never. Never is a long time.
I was lucky. It could have been far worse. I dented my pride, I bruised my shoulder but, I could have smashed my skull, my wife was at work so no help would have been forthcoming. All for the sake of proving a point.
So, while I still have some mobility, I can push the chair in and out of the office, with relative ease. We now have a hoist fitted to our new car. And, I am now fully mobile again.