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My New Ride

Posted Feb 08 2014 4:35am
Well, I got myself a new rig. Yup, after five and half years the time has come to put my old wheelchair out to pasture, and to welcome a new mechanical monster into the fold. I’m a bit of a sentimentalist, prone to developing emotional attachments to things animate and inanimate, so consigning my old chair to mothballs comes with mixed feelings. The old guy has served me well, and was, after all, my first wheelchair. Don’t we always hold a special place in our heart for our firsts? First base hit on a baseball diamond, first kiss, first boink, first wheelchair – wait a minute, one of these things is not like the others.

I find it almost impossible to believe that five and half years have come and gone since that old chair and I first made our acquaintances, but I guess that just goes to show that time flies even when all of your days are not exactly filled with wine and roses. Time definitely speeds up as you get older. These days, I’ll retire to the bathroom with a good magazine, and when I come out it seems several months have passed. I’m pretty sure Einstein noted this same phenomenon in his general theory of relativity, much of which I’m fairly certain he came up with while sitting on the throne. There’s a reason men spend so much time in the bathroom. Lots of heavy thinking going on in there. Trust me.

My new chair is the exact same model as my old chair, a Quantum Q6000Z ( click here ) with the high-speed motor package installed (hee hee). Unlike my trusty old friend, which had a static seat, my new mechanical wonder comes equipped with all the bells and whistles. The seat tilts, reclines, the leg rests extend and rise, and the seat can elevate 10 inches. With the seat reclined fully and the legs raised to their maximum height I can just about lie flat on the thing. It’s almost like having an easy chair on wheels.

All of this, of course, makes the chair much more comfortable for extended periods of use, but, alas, there’s the rub. Five and half years ago I didn’t need all of these fancy features because I was much more ambulatory than I am now. In fact, when I first got the old chair I didn’t even use it around the apartment, only employing it for outdoor excursions. These days my ability to walk has been reduced to attempting maybe five or six treacherous cane assisted steps, and I’m finding the new chair a much more hospitable environment in which to plant my backside for long stays. And although I do appreciate all of the new features, they also serve to remind me of the full-court press being put on by the disease, and just why they call progressive diseases progressive. They progress. I have a real bone to pick with whoever came up with this diabolical concept; I’d really like to give them a piece of my mind. Hey, hold on, thanks to MS, I already have. Dammit.

Naturally, the new chair is taking some getting used to. It’s a bit larger than the old chair, due to all of the extra seating motors and stuff, so it’s a lot trickier getting it around the tight corners in my apartment, and it’s not quite as responsive when trying to dodge pedestrians on crowded city streets. Hey, their problem, not mine. What’s a few ruptured Achilles tendons and smashed kneecaps amongst fellow New Yorkers? If pedestrians walking on the streets of New York insist on having their eyes glued to the screens of their cell phones, I refuse to take any responsibility whatsoever for whatever damage comes to them if they happen to crash into my speeding chair. I’m just a maniacal gimp gleefully careening through the streets of New York. I abdicate all culpability in the matter. After all, they’re the ones with working limbs. Or at least they were before running into me. Dammit.

This chair doesn’t seem to have the same range as my old chair, in which I could travel about 15 miles. Because of the very wintry conditions we’ve had lately, I’ve not taken the new chair out for an extended trek, but it looks like this chair’s range is significantly less than the old one. Of course, my body isn’t up to my marathon jaunts of old, as my “good” joystick controlling hand tends to want to stop working after shorter and shorter intervals, thanks to that whole progressive disease thing. Dammit.

Astoundingly, the list price of my new tricked out wheels came to an eye-popping $29,000. Yikes! I could buy a pretty decent car for $29,000, or even two economy cars for that same amount. I can only imagine the profit margins on power wheelchairs. How much could all of the parts cost? $10,000, max? I’d much rather have spent the money on a nice “preowned” five-speed convertible BMW, but these days I’d qualify more as luggage than driver, so that’s out. Dammit.

Thankfully, my wheelchair vendor got me a discounted price on the new rig, and my insurance company picked up the majority of the tab. Between the new chair, all of the diagnostic tests I’ve gone through to figure out the mysteries of my disease, and the myriad treatments I’ve tried in vain trying to tame it, I guess I could be the poster child for why healthcare costs in the US are absolutely insane. But hey, at 50 years old I think I’d be more a poster man than child, despite my hard fought battle to maintain my youthful demeanor. Thankfully, you’re only young once but you can be immature forever, and that’s exactly how I intend to continue to play it, with a hearty "hey diddle diddle and a nah nah nah" to boot. Perhaps I’m delusional, but looking at the new chair as a really slick shiny toy to play with makes the whole concept of “me in a wheelchair” much easier to swallow.

Hey, whatever it takes. Dammit.

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