Thursday, June 25, 2009

Aftermarket add-ons for your wheelchair – Safety and Style

A while back, I wrote about the horn Bill and his brother rigged up for his motorized wheelchair. If you missed it, read "Aftermarket add-ons for your wheelchair - The Horn". Here is the story of a few OTHER additions made to the chair...

We got the wheelchair in early March 2005. To break in the new wheels, Bill decided to take himself to the barber for a haircut. It was a perfect spring day and his favorite Supercuts salon was only about 2 ½ miles from the house. We knew he had enough power, so I checked his wallet on a string, fastened his seatbelt, reminded him about looking both ways at the intersections, kissed his head and sent him off. Little did I know my admonition would come in handy! About two and a half hours later he returned with a buzzcut and a “mad-on”. Dear Lord…he wasn’t gone that long, what could possibly have happened? Through his wild eyes and keyboard banging, I learned that drivers could not see him, they often honked at him, and a couple of times he felt really terrified. For the record, it’s not easy to scare a guy who made his living by running into burning buildings!

Over the years, I’ve learned that there are times when it’s best to just listen and not try to do or say anything. This was one of those times. Once his blood pressure was back into the range of normal, he announced that we were headed to a bicycle shop and Home Depot, in that order. I grabbed my shoes, my handbag and the car keys, and loaded us up into the van.

We got to our favorite bike shop and he sped right to exactly what he wanted – a bright orange flag, the kind that parents generally add to a tricycle or the bike of a small child. Next stop…Home Depot. That part of the trip did not go as smoothly! He was having a hard time explaining to me what he had in mind. Never mind that he had to use “talky” to try and translate! We started to draw a small crowd! Frustrated for both of us, I told him to stay put and went to find a hardware guy! The universe was truly watching out for me that day, because the first guy I found turned out to be an angel in an orange apron! Within just a few minutes, he completely “got” what Bill was trying to accomplish. While he was looking at the chair, he noticed that Bill had strategically angled his walking stick between the chair seat and the handles. He asked if that was working and the answer was “only part of the time”. They had another quick round of discussions and our new friend set about making the necessary alterations. About 20 minutes or so later, not only was the flag attached to the chair, but so was a piece of PVC piping. Both the flag and the piping were mounted to the back of the chair with metal brackets. The walking stick fit neatly into the pipe and his baseball cap fit over the pipe, keeping both close at hand. The flag actually had a joint, allowing me to detach the top part of the flag so that he could get in and out of the van easily. When it was in place, the flag extended approximately 3 feet above his head. It was just enough to make him feel safer when he was out and about on his own. It was really quite ingenious!

A few weeks later, our good friend “Aunty Em” gave him a bouquet of bright yellow (his fave color!) silk daffodils. He loved them and immediately asked me to stick them into the PVC pipe to wedge the walking stick. Turns out, the rattling was making him a little crazy and this was a perfect, stylish solution! The daffodils were a small bit of sunshine wherever he went and never failed to draw a smile.

In addition to the normal wheelchair adjustments and equipment additions we made to accommodate ALS as it progressed there was one final bit of flair added. The chair we received came with 3 sets of removable fenders. So his best friend took the silver set and with the help of an artist friend who details fire engines, added some hand painted flames to the otherwise vanilla looking fenders. When all was said and done….it looked like he’d won a trip to the reality show “Pimp my Ride”!

The addition of the flag allowed Bill to feel more confident when he was out and about on his own – a true blessing which allowed him to keep his independence just a little bit longer. The flowers and the flames were the icebreakers that made the chair a little less threatening to strangers and children. For me….I just smiled and was thankful that ALS only got his body and not his spirit!

1 comment:

Fern Cohen said...

Kathie,
thank you so much for your input on my blog!!