Monday, July 12, 2010


It's been a glorious month of whizzing about in my new wheelchair. From posting my own letters unaided, to trundling around shops at my own pace, to attending meetings and events, it has been amazing.

Right up until Sunday morning.

I connected the wheels to the charger and, instead of charging, it started beeping at me in a most distressing manner. A flustered few minutes with the manual, looking up the "acoustic signal" in the two-page Error Messages table, revealed that one of the wheels knows the charger is plugged in, but cannot detect a current. Swapping the charger plugs over showed that the issue was with the wheel, not the charger. The wheel must be sent for repair.

Then I burst into tears.

Sounds silly, doesn't it? Until five weeks ago, I didn't have powered wheels, and yet I was perfectly happy. But having grown used to them, the idea of them being taken away was simply shocking. It was almost as bad as the first time I fell over and couldn't get up. A huge sense of bewilderment, frustration, anger... even betrayal, if it's not too weird to use that word about an inanimate object or your own body. And powerlessness. That's a big one.

Technically the wheel hasn't been taken away yet. It's sitting right here in the room with me. A flurry of emails and phone calls has resulted in a "pass the parcel" arrangement, where the manufacturer will send a brand new wheel to the vendor today (or possibly tomorrow seeing as it's already after 3pm), the vendor will check it and courier it on to me, and then in a few weeks' time when a rep from the vendor happens to be in this neck of the woods, he'll take away the defective one. I've been told to keep the brand new wheel, probably because the expense for them of reversing the whole process to move a repaired 24-inch, 11-kilo wheel across the country in order to exchange for what will by then be a used one is not cost effective.

I am really, really, REALLY regretting that I was dumb enough to get swizzed into purchasing the wheels from the big national chair vendor rather than my first choice, the local Shopmobility (not licensed to sell the chair I was assigned, but could have sold me the wheels. It's a long, boring, complicated story). If I'd stuck to my guns and bought from Shopmobility, I could have been down there in a taxi sorting it out face to face by now. But hopefully I've been enough of a pain in the backside to the current vendor that they will come good and I'll have a new wheel in a couple of days.

So. I still recommend the e-motions - frankly, even this one month would have been worth re-mortgaging a kidney - and I cannot wait to get my shiny new wheel, but I'd really suggest being prepared for the fact that it may go wrong, and shopping locally if at all possible.

Edit added one week later, on Sunday 18th July 2010
Instead of a courier with an entire new wheel, they sent a repair guy on Saturday morning. Unfortunately they had only provided him with half the wheel components, and naturally this did not include the half that was malfunctioning. So it looks like I've got another week with no power. Well, either that or going round in circles.


Carie @ Space for the Butterflies said...

Oh no! Fingers crossed the new wheel arrives soon

Lene Andersen said...

nothing makes you feel completely disabled then your chair breaking down. I hope you get mobile again quickly.

evilstevie said...

The worrying thing being the batsgirl reaction to Bloop's upsetment a bit ago was to create a real-life exploded-diagram of Bloop all over the living room floor, only shouting for help to find the right-sized screwdriver to get further in (got to love modular robotic construction).
Hopefully this'll be sorted before the week's out :)

Mary said...

For any newer readers who are wondering, "Bloop" is the name of our Roomba robot vacuum cleaner.

He cost about 1/16 of what the wheels cost, and is more than a year out of warranty. Nothing was invalidated when I opened him up and the problem was visible and mechanical - over 3 years of use, some dust and fluff had got where it shouldn't.

Electrical or possibly even software errors on a £4k bit of kit purchased only 1 month previously? Different kettle of fish.