I promised wheelchair adventure stories. I have about a year’s worth of experience with wheelchairs, a transport wheelchair and a power wheelchair, and yes I have already collected adventure stories.
A transport chair is a wheelchair that is meant for a person to push and not for the rider to operate. I first became acquainted with these when I broke my arm and obviously could not operate the wheels as a rider. I even bought one figuring it would help me with places and events where I needed more stamina to attend. My kids were very supportive and each participated in adventures.
My first outing was an adventure. Luckily, I had a few ladies along to monitor how my boys maneuvered the transport wheelchair. The wheelchair has a seatbelt that I decided I would not use. I could see myself strapped in, stuck, in a runaway wheelchair. I don’t know how I thought I would escape a runaway wheelchair unbelted, but unbelted I rode. The ladies with me curbed my sons’ need for speed and curiosity of what ifs. The event was my daughter’s band concert in an auditorium with sloped aisles. Nervous, anxious, and well, fear was what I felt as the wheelchair hovered at the top of the aisle while we all discussed where to park the wheelchair. The brakes are in the back for the pushing person to operate.
I used the transport chair for stores too. It was great getting into stores that I had not visited in about a year. There was no hurry up before I lose stamina! However, when there was disagreement between which rows we needed to browse, my sons would just park me, with brakes engaged, in an aisle and go off where they wanted. This became a thing.
My most fun transport wheelchair adventure was with my daughter. We found a new way to shop until you drop. We went into a craft/decorating store with narrow aisles to get some dorm decorations and ideas. Well, if she pushed me, there was no way for a shopping cart. I put a shopping basket in my lap and off we went. We filled the basket and then found several large wall items. We balanced posters, wooden art and canvas prints on my feet and I used one hand to hold them. My other hand held the overflowing basket in my lap. When we felt there was no way to carry more without dropping, it was time to navigate which isles our wide load could fit towards checkout. Loading the bags on my lap, my feet, and the wheelchair handles was also challenging!
Getting pushed through a large outlet mall made me consider more independent means of transport. I needed a method that did not leave me stranded in an aisle or store corner and did not require being pushed everywhere. I also had a deadline – my daughter’s college orientation. I involved my kids in the shopping of an electric scooter or wheelchair. I chose an electric wheelchair that broke down into 4 major parts and then began the process of ordering a lift for my car. However, now I could, and did, leave my sons in aisles! And when my daughter left me in an orientation photo op line, I was not stranded.
My first power wheelchair adventure was my sister’s back yard. She has a long small pebble path towards the water. Well, the pebbles were too deep for the all terrain tires and chair weight. When a tire went on the pebbles, the wheel sank and needed lifting out, with me in it!. A couple of times the tires were so deep I did need to get out of the chair. The power wheelchair is 2 foot wide. My sister found a stack of 2ft x 2ft square floor foam interlocking pads. I learned precision power chair driving quickly to navigate the foam pads path my sister and my kids created by constantly moving the pads along the pebble path. The trip back up from the water was much smoother.
The most risky power wheelchair adventure was on vacation. We went to a restaurant that offered back porch waiting. Access was a steep ramp that mostly had the same footprint as three steps. The top landing was small and had waiting bench seating. So, I needed enough speed to get up the ramp but needed to stop before hitting the people waiting on the bench. I don’t know who was most scared, me or the bench seaters. A couple did jump a bit aside as my chair gained a little air before a hop stop! Our table was back on the lower level. No way I was going down that ramp. I walked down a set of stairs and a boy with a standing navigator, my daughter, fearlessly navigated the ramp with the wheelchair and through the bar area back to me. Did I mention the kitchen door was at the bottom of that ramp?
No doubt I will continue to experience and gather power wheelchair adventure stories to share. Until then, I will continue exploring the world watching for places to plug in the power wheelchair battery.