Thursday, May 31, 2007

Straight Ahead: Using a Powerchair

I got my used Jazzy 1113 power wheelchair yesterday. It's highly manueverable . I'm impressed at how the chair can turn quickly and easily in small spaces. I have not tried to use it outside yet since I'm still getting the batteries up to snuff.

It's the first time I've used one and lesson one was all about the importance of keeping the wheelchair going straight forward with the joystick. I have a small ramp going over the lip of the threshold into my bathroom and the first few times I went up it everything was fine. The third time something went amiss and it took me a minute to figure it out - basically I did not approach it straight on.

The wheelchair just died on me halfway up this very little threshold. I turned the chair off right away, figuring I'd done "something" wrong. Then I turned the chair on again. It powered right up. I backed into the hallway , straightened the chair out and went in without further problems. The manual cautions users to take inclines in a straight forward fashion.

Other than that I haven't had any problems using the chair. I'm keeping the speed low until I'm better with the joystick. This is keeping me from running into counters, the refrigerator and walls. I'm used to my manual wheelchair which I've used for over a decade and this feels like going from walking to a wheelchair all over again. I'm relearning how to judge starting, stopping, how to open doors, how to avoid running over the cat and Meredith and the best way to deal with tight spaces (all homes have them). My most challenging place is in my kitchen. I have a variety of things I do out there - using the sink, the refrigerator and appliances, etc. and I'm still working on getting the approach right so I'm close enough and at the right angle. However the energy I am saving is definitely worth any adjustments!

I am amazed at how easy it was to charge the chair. It has an onboard charger so all I had to do was back the chair up near an outlet and plug it in overnight. Maintenance was one of the reasons I did not want to get a power chair but this couldn't be easier. I'll get new batteries if these don't work well but I'm going to give them a few good long charges before I give up on these.

One thing that has been frustrating and making me unhappy about using a manual chair in the past as a quad is the feeling that I am limited by my arm strength from moving from Point A to Point B . I play wheelchair sports to keep my arms as strong as possible, but on days when I work a lot this is an issue. I just need to wrap my brain around the fact that a power chair gives me the freedom to independently get from one place to another and conserve energy rather than see it as giving in somehow.

Making equipment changes is such a lesson in seeing how important it is how you frame things in life.


bob said...

Useful to anyone dealing with these issues. Good stuff - good luck with that.

Maury said...

I'm a para and I keep a power chair around. When I'm busy at work I drag it out. It's saved my shoulders for the long haul.

goldchair said...

You got more important things to do than prove you can push a chair around- don't let anyone tell you that you gave in by doing this.