Monday, March 3, 2014

Fix it

A few days ago I received a package. My mom, between all the things she has on my mind right now dealing with my father's prolonged hospital stay remembered to send my replacement parts for my Swiss, custom built wheelchair. Now it will be up to me to find a place that will be able to put them in for me. Those who follow my writings may remember, that I got the chair as part of the settlement after a near death experience with a Gainesville city bus nine years ago. During my European visit last fall where I was speaking at a disability conference in Munich, my dad determined that my four wheels are no longer structurally safe. I get a good use out of it just riding around, and all the folding and unfolding on planes, car trunks and pick up trucks got it pretty banged up. A lot of the essential parts are now broken. The whole thing may collapse under  me at any time. We tried to fix it up a little bit for the time being when we were  in Europe. My father used a seat from an old hospital chair and screwed it to my frame. A shop in Warsaw replaced my front wheels and back tires and a few missing screws for the anti-tippers that drag on the ground, but they were running out of time for more severe repairs. My dad was always in charge of doing the tune ups to my chair. He wanted me to know in and outs of the construction as well, just like other people know how to care for their bikes, but I'm not mechanically inclined. I do know when I need help however and when to look for it. I know I rely on my wheelchair for... anything and whatever the stake, I must keep it in good repair. It may be something as small as hair, dirt and rust getting into my small front wheels. From time to time they need to be unscrewed and cleaned. If I don't maintain them in good condition, the front gives me a lot of resistance making it that much harder to wheel around. My Air-Lite model chair feels heavier all of the sudden than most of those bulky hospital units. When my parents came with me to America to get me settled in Gainesville, they thought it was essential for me to have a mechanic or a person to look over my chair. If something happens to it, I'm stranded. Often I compare my wheelchair to a fitting accessory, like sun glasses, just to show how comfortable I am with it and in it and hows I don't mind it at all. But in reality it's more like an essential body part. When I was waiting for my new wheelchair to arrive after the bus incident (and it took us 7 months to settle and get one) I was getting around in an aluminum chair I brought from Poland as a temporary mean of transportation, for emergencies. I guess it's true what they sau, nothing is more permanent than a temporary fix. That small chair was never intended to serve me as long as it did. Once I made a mistake of bringing it in to the bike shop on campus. They lifted it up to clean it and the grabbing clasp broke one of the aluminium bars. The chair kept sinking in and collapsing until I found a welder in town to fix it. At that point I realized that whoever I entrust my wheelchair to clean it or fix it, they need to know what they're doing and it's essential to my existence. Luckily, the Gainesville company that took the measurements and ordered the chair for me has been very good with any service calls I've had, from clearing my wheels to replacing the worn out axles or fixing the loosen wheels or re-aligning my brakes. The equipment in the box that I have yet to open will need to find its way on there and soon. One of the things that broke, through years of wear and tear, use and abuse is the bar that supports the sit and entire construction. I'm a little bit lower if you will and deeper in the sit, but so far nothing has fallen off. I fear that it may be just a matter of time.  

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