Thursday, 29 September 2016

Permobil is Rollin' Again...But For How Long?

I feel like I'm walking driving on eggshells! 
Saturday September 24th, 2016, ~ 9:00 pm -Permobil power wheelchair breaks down as it can only pivot in circles around one wheel indicating it is not getting power or is inoperative (broken).  Problem identical to previous motor breakdown where motor was grudgingly replaced by Permobil U.S.

Monday September 26th, 2016, 08:00 am - Call my wheelchair service provider, Motion Specialties and leave message detailing new problem.

Monday September 26th, 2016, ~12:00 pm - Service call returned.  Will send service technician tomorrow (Tuesday).  Incidentally, Motion Specialties is so overwhelmed with service calls after Shoppers Home Healthcare dumped all their clients onto Motion Specialties.  I understand, sympathize and offer my patience.

Tuesday September 27th, 2016, ~12:00 pm - Service technician arrives and is well familiar with this Permobil 'piece of junk' that I own.  Doe's not bother looking at it in my home but takes it straight to the shop.  Will try to get loaner chair for Wednesday.

Tuesday September 27th, 2016, ~04:00 pm - Service technician expectantly arrives at my door with my powerchair.  Motor power cord was unplugged and plugged back in which appeared to reset the motor so that it runs again.  Shows me where, under the rear plastic housing, the cable can be located.  If this were to happen again I am to have someone unplug and re-plug the cord connector to hopefully reset the motor yet again.  This is good to know and fine if someone is home to help me as I cannot reach that low on the rear of my chair.  Currently I am home alone for an extended number of days.

Thursday September 29th, 2016 - Chair continues to run but I have no faith in its continued operation.  If it cuts out again, I cannot reset it until without calling someone up to come over and do so. I feel like I'm walking driving on egg shells waiting for the Permobil to break again!

Regardless -why did it stop working in the first place?  The two identical times this left motor stopped working, I was sitting at my computer with the power still turned on.  I drove up to my desk without any indication of a problem but when I tried to reverse, the chair pivoted around the 'dead' motor side.  I could only turn in a circle.  The chair stopped working when not under any load.

After my retirement, this chair has been used exclusively indoors between three rooms, four if you wish to include my tour around the washroom.  One floor surface is linoleum type tiles while the other two rooms are a very flat, low pyle carpet -hardly a source of great resistance.

So, I currently am riding a Permobil power wheelchair which may stop operating at any time without notice and my service provider does not know how to correct this problem (other than rooting around the cabling and plugging - re-plugging) and Permobil head office in the U.S. cannot care less!!

I have almost a year to go before I can replace this piece of junk and you can bet it will not be a Permobil!!

*   *   *

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Permobil Broken Again!

Permobil Thinks I Have Money To Burn!! 
Well, I spoke too soon!  Do you believe in a jinx?  Did I jinx my chair by noticing it was still running?  I started my previous post on September 21st by saying my Permobil M300 was still running after both Right and Left Motors were replaced earlier this year and the Left motor was replaced twice.  That's right - three new motors since January of this year.

This evening my chair again stopped working in an identical manner as last time.  I try to back up from my work desk and the wheelchair feels like it is struggling - like something is caught in one wheel binding them up.  The chair will not back-up straight, but turns, and turns sluggishly.  One motor is not engaged (left I think) or perhaps does not receive full power.  As a result the working motor pivots (pushes) the chair around the non-powered tire.

I disengaged the motors (manual mode), then re-engaged them hoping that resetting them cure the problem. Nope!  There are no indicator lights on the joystick flashing error codes.  One motor is either damaged (unlikely as this is the second replacement).  At the end of last year the control module died requiring its replacement.  Could it be that the new, replaced controller unit has a fault that shows up periodically?  Is there a power distribution problem in the Joystick itself?  Where can this problem lie?

One of the motors failed just past three months after it was installed.  Three months is the length of Warranty Permobil offers on their fine product.  If not for the persistence, and insistence of my repair shop supervisor, I would have had to fork out another $945.54 Cnd.  Now it appears as if the same motor has failed yet again.  It was installed on August 6th of this year so it appears to have broken after about six weeks of operation.  Will my repair shop supervisor have to fight to get this motor exchanged for yet another (3rd), if it is indeed the problem.

I can stand up.  Permobil knows I can as their sales person had the fold-up foot rest made specifically to fold beneath the chair, clear of my legs.  On standing, I brace against the chair and the motor brakes keep this chair from rolling back under my pressure.  Could that be damaging some component, perhaps the motor brake?  I stood with my old Quantum without any problem.  Permobil's sales person was eager to sell me this chair - so eager they outright lied to me on another issue.  Could it be that this chair's motor brakes are not strong enough to brace me and become damaged.  Why would someone sell me a chair that is not suitable for my needs if this is the case?  Pure greed, I imagine.

So, I am in my manual chair until I can call the service department Monday morning.  After that, it depends on whether they can diagnose the problem, talk Permobil U.S. into a replacement motor for the replacement motor for the replacement motor - if that is indeed the problem.

Last time my Repair shop supervisor spoke with Permobil U.S. it sounded like some Abbot & Costello routine where Permobil U.S. asks what code was showing and my service person says there was no code, where Permobil U.S.responds that they can't tell my service person what the problem was without a code where my service person points out that if he had a code he would know what the problem was and wouldn't be calling!

This Permobil powerchair has not left the house since the last motor was installed.  It travels between three rooms -four if you count the washroom.  Every part except for the steel tubing frame has broken and or been repaired/replaced.  Repairs have cost more than I paid for the chair in the first place.  I feel that Permobil owes me a grovelling apology and a brand new replacement chair.  Another chair manufactured by anyone but Permobil.  They think I have money to burn!!!

*   *   *

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Last Day of Summer 2016

Permobil Chair has not broken down in the last month.  I find that surprising.

What changed in year nine post injury to cause those massive 'Atomic' spasms to begin.  Previous to year nine, spasms would occur, most commonly in the evening, then run their tormenting course and leave me alone until the following evening.

In my ninth year - post injury, spasms still occurred during the evening hours but now they were so powerful and violent that I felt I was being disjointed - femur ripped right out of the hip socket with each massive spontaneous contraction.  The pain is excruciating!!

Prior to year nine, spasms primarily occur in the evenings but once they dissipated and died off, the would allow me to sleep uninterrupted until morning.  Now they can also occur, most often between 2:00 am and 4:00 am.  The generally do not wake me. I wake on my own to shift and change position which tends to trigger them.  Once started, they build in frequency and intensity until they die out, most likely hours later.  It is impossible to sleep or get any rest for that matter when one leg or the other (left is the worst) contracts so violently that it threatens to pitch me from bed.  You also can't use a laptop or read or do any other meaningful task while they are throwing you about.

My wife is out of town currently for an extended stay which now allows me to let out those screams of painful torment when my left leg tries to tear itself from my hip-joint.  The sciatic nerve also becomes either pinched or stretched adding further misery with each contraction.  Contractions every 3 to 10 seconds, violently, painfully, for hours on end.  It feels good to scream rather than to clench my teeth and grimace from a pain that brings tears to the eyes.

I feel that any effect the Baclofen had on my spasms has been lost. Do I find some neurologist and request a Baclofen pump?  It seems that the only ineffective treatment is to constantly increase the dosage.  An every increasing dosage that races your increasingly resistant pain to your most welcome grave.

I slept through last night.  The two nights previous, spasms kept me from sleep - both days between 2:00 am and 4:00 am.  Daylight doesn't wait!  What will tonight bring?

I stopped living long ago.  I exist...

*  *  *

Saturday, 6 August 2016

A New Motor to Replace my New Motor

Those who have followed my posts know that both my Permobil motors failed this year, within a month of each other.  Motors are not stocked in Canada and so have to be ordered and shipped from the United States.  You would think that with Faxing and e-mails orders could be placed withing minutes and with overnight courier shipping, items could arrive the next would think!

Followers may also know that one of my new motors acted up shortly after being installed.  With Permobil "shortly" is a very subjective term.  As best that could be determined, without a displayed code, and non-existent help from Permobil in Tennessee, was that the motor brake would not release.  The result was that I would spin in circles when trying to drive.

At the repair shop, the problem disappeared as it had appeared -without cause or notice.  The chair was returned to me but I had little confidence in its operation -when would this happen again?  I thought that was the end of it.

However, the repair manager at Motion Specialties repair facility did not give up.  Unbeknown to me he contacted Permobil in the U.S. once more and requested a replacement motor for my chair.  Motion specialties U.S. pointed out to him that the motor was over 3 months old and therefore the warranty had expired.  If I was to get another new motor, I would have to lay out another $945.54 (base price) and buy a new one outright!

My service manager took the issue right up to the CEO (if I understood him correctly) asking him if their products were so poorly manufactured, and that they, themselves had so little confidence in them, that they would only offer an 90 day warranty on their product.  After some discussion  Permobil authorized a replacement motor at no cost (original replacement to be returned to them).
I know of no disabled people who could afford to lay out $945.54, (installation is extra), ninety days after having just done that-twice!!!

Still, the problem occurred in July and it was only yesterday, August 5th, that the motor was exchanged.  Motion Specialties is very busy now that it has acquired Shoppers Home Healthcare's dropped operation.  However, they have always acted in a timely and punctual manner.  I have to wonder if it took over a month for Permobil U.S. to act.

I have to believe that this replacement motor of a replacement motor will work for the duration of this chair's life...or significantly longer than 90 days, in order to get my $945.54 out of it.

So, kudos to Motion Specialties, and my service manager for going above and beyond on my behalf.  Another big 'raspberry' to Permobil for producing a lousy product and not fully standing behind it.  For the former, their customers are everything; for the latter, profit is everything.

*   *   *

Again, I asked my service manager "why does your company continue to offer Permobil wheelchairs if they are this bad"  He replied that he had never seen a chair such as mine that essentially had to be replaced and rebuilt from the ground up in now, just four years.  He told me that they just received a Permobil powerchair in the shop that is having its first motor replaced after 9 years of service.  All I can think of is that they made things better almost a decade ago.

I will let the reader of this blog decide for themselves if Permobil is worth the risk.

*   *   *

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Permobil M300 Wheelchair -Lack of Confidence

I have no confidence in the Permobil M300 Power Wheelchair!
(will it get me to where I'm going...or not?)
My wheelchair service provider returned my Permobil M300 wheelchair a couple of weeks ago after being in the shop yet again this year (4th time).

The wheelchair service technicians could not find the source of the problem that caused the chair to only turn in circles, however, they believed the brake within one motor was not releasing.  If you recall from previous posts, both motors failed and had to be replaced a few months ago.  They are both new motors!

My service technician called Permobil U.S. in Tennessee, the nearest large distributor of the wheelchairs.  (I believe the U.S. Permobil headquarters is in Texas)  Permobil U.S. was less than helpful as they kept asking my technician for the error code.  There was no error code displayed - if their was, the problem would be evident and there would be no need to call!  Permobil in Tennessee just didn't get it and offered no solution.

So, although I've used the chair for just over two weeks with no further problems, the original problem was not found or resolved.  So, I use this chair with little confidence, not knowing if or when the problem may show up again.  I am in a Permobil wheelchair and I have no confidence in it getting me to where I am going.  What a fine product!

*   *   *

Permobil Wheelchair - Latest Part to Break & Fall Off

Cleaning the dust off of my wheelchair with a soft cloth, I see something fall off.  It appears to be half of a plastic washer or spacer.  It is not obvious from exactly where it fell or where it belongs.  When finished, I backed away and found the other half of the spacer.

 Latest mystery part to fall off of my Permobil M300 Power Wheelchair

I will place the pieces in a box with the rest of the items which have fallen off of this Permobil wheelchair and no longer are held in place where intended.

I don't wish to hear that "it's not important" as it was added to the wheelchair during assembly and served some purpose.  I paid for the part and for proper operation of this Permobil wheelchair.  The chair has been disintegrating piece by piece almost since obtaining it.

Plastic is a fine product however, it is most frequently used in the wrong places for the wrong purpose!  These days it is used to make products cheaper -not less expensive.  Bigger profits is the only concern!

*   *   *

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Expoding Airbag vs "Atomic" Paralytic Spasm

Exploding Airbag vs "Atomic" Paralytic Spasm:  Which is Faster?
(I think my spasm would win the race...)

A spasm so explosive, they occur with no warning as the affected limb reaches its maximum contraction and then attempts to painfully contract further.  A contraction so sudden, so violent and so extreme that your own body attempts to tear the limb from the joint.  If my foot was caught or restricted. by some object, I fear that bones may break. If not held down, my knee attempts to hit me in the nose!

I feel my "Atomic" spasms are so violently explosives that they explode faster than an automotive airbag on collision!

They can happen at anytime, however, they are all but guaranteed to occur most nights. On "better" nights (if anything about this affliction could be considered "better") they run their course, whether for an hour, or more likely for hours, then subside to let me sleep.

The last few nights were particularly bad.  Friday night I fell asleep around 11:30 pm only to be awakened at 2:00 am with spasms that tried to launch me from bed.  Fell back asleep sometime around 6:00 am and then tried to face the day at 8:00 am.  Four and a half hours total sleep.

Next night, Saturday, I try to go to bed at 11:00 pm with spasms already in full explosive glory.  Painful, explosive, rhythmic, contractions, one followed by another, over and over until after 3:00 am.  At least that is when I last checked the clock.  Up at 9:00 am so I finally got a solid six hours total of sleep.

My overall impression is that my body's increasing stiffness, tightens the muscles more on my left side which pulls on my hip which in turn tugs on the sciatic nerve (resulting in sciatic nerve pain in the hip and foot) and this tightness irritates the sciatic nerve triggering the spasms.  Pressure, stretching, massaging, drugs (Baclofen, muscle relaxants, analgesics) seem to have little if any effect on relieving  the spasms.

I am taking a total of 30 mg of the antispasmodic drug Baclofen, 3 times daily.  While I haven't independently verified this, my understanding is that this is about the maximum oral dose before unwanted side effects may start showing up.

 10 mg of Baclofen, 3 times daily = 90 mg/day

I wonder if my body has somehow become resistant to the action of Baclofen as I cannot imagine spasms being even worse if not on this drug.  In fact it has never had much of an affect on what I consider to be a spasm; the unintentional, rhythmic contraction of the affected limb.

Once, when I tried to slowly ween myself off of Baclofen, I found that the jerking spasms remained about the same in frequency and intensity.  What did increase is is an overall stiffness.  My body felt much more rigid and my legs wanted to "scissor" or cross.

When I tried Botox to loosen my Achilles' tendons, the administering doctor rattled off an alternative definition of 'spasticity'.  So, I wonder if the medical and 'common' definition of spasms are one and the same?

I have felt much stiffer in recent months and wonder if oral Baclofen no longer has the expected affect on my spasticity?  What would be the answer?  Increase the dosage?

I understand there is the 'Baclofen Pump' is a surgical option where a reservoir and pump is implanted to deliver liquid Baclofen via a tube directly to the spinal column.  I find this a rather distasteful option -I have to investigate this further.  Is this invasive procedure really the only remaining option?

I have no idea what torment tonight will bring.

*   *   *

Friday, 24 June 2016

Permobil M300 Still Broken.....Kind Of...

No Confidence in this Piece of Junk! 
Well, I got my Permobil M300 back today, exactly 2 full weeks after it was sent for repairs.  If you recall from my previous post, my Permobil once gain failed to back up and only turned in circles.

Last time it was the power control unit and so I suspected it was the same problem in a defective new unit.  However, last time the problem was displayed on my joystick hand control indicator as a sequence of flashing lights.  No coded message this time around.

Repair person came to my home and examined the chair to confirm the problem, then measured the electrical output from the recently replaced power control/distribution unit.  It seemed the controller was not the problem, rather one of the motor's internal brakes seemed to stick or not release properly.  Off to the shop it went.

Permobil M300 Clunker is still broken

So, after a week I call the shop for an update.  I'm told they will have a Permobil representative come down (?) or consult with them (this was unclear) on the following Monday.

Monday came yet I received no update;  I have patience so I wait.  Wednesday I call again and leave message on voicemail - nothing, Thursday I call again and leave message.  Employee calls to inform me that the Service Coordinator has had a personal issue to deal with and will call Friday.  Motion Specialties has always treated me well as had the Service Coordinator so I understand.  They will call on Friday.

Today, Friday arrives and my favourite service tech shows up at my door.  He has delivered my chair.

Good news and bad.

Bad News First:  The problem was evident at the shop but somehow corrected itself (sticky brake released?) and they were unable to reproduce the problem after trying various test runs.

Permobil in U.S.  were indifferent, unhelpful!

Service technician tells me that they contacted Permobil Service Specialists in their U.S. Tennessee plant and they were anything but helpful.  The needed the coded sequence of lights to diagnose the problem, however, as I previously mentioned, there was no coded sequence of lights.  If there was, the problem would be evident to our own service technicians without having to place an international call.  My service technicians impression was that Permobil U.S. also did not care about problems which occur after the sale is made.

So I now have my Permobil M300 powerchair back however some hidden problem remains with no way of telling when it may again repair.  That leaves me with little confidence in using this chair.

If it should happen again, I suppose the motor would have to be exchanged for a new one, assuming it happens while it is still under warranty.

Good News:  If there is any good news associated with my disastrous Permobil M300, it is that there is no charge at this time.  Stay tuned...

*   *   *

Friday, 17 June 2016

Permobil M300 In The Shop Yet Again...

For the fourth time this year my Permobil M300 is again in the repair shop, inoperable!..

My Permobil M300 "clunker" is in the shop for repairs, for the fourth time in five and one half  months.

Just before New Years of 2016, my Permobil's right motor died and had to be replaced.  It was finally replaced in January at the cost of $1137.99 Cnd.

Two weeks after my right motor was replaced, my Permobil's left motor died and had to be replaced at the cost of another $1137.99 Cnd.

In late March the Electronic Power Unit which controls the motors failed and had to be replaced at a cost of $650.00 Cnd.

(The above are only the most recent problems with my Permobil M300!!)

On each occasion the chair had to be taken to the shop for diagnosis and repair leaving me dependent on my manual wheelchair.  On each occasion the chair remained in the shop between one to two weeks waiting for parts to be shipped from Permobil's U.S. regional supplier in Tennessee.  When shipping the replacement Power Control Unit, the customs declaration  papers were not filled out properly by Permobil U.S. and the part was returned to the company further delaying my repair.  It appears that Permobil has only one small office in Aurora Ontario which attempts to serve the entire country.  From my experience, it appears as if they are solely a sales office and stock no replacement parts.

So now, in the first week of June, 2016, my Permobil powerchair once again lost power on one side, allowing the chair to struggle while only turning circles.  I pull up to my desk and work for a while, then when I go to back up, I don't go straight, but turn.   Again, one motor is working while the other struggles.

The repair person comes to my home and disassembles the chair.  Is it the new motor that is bad?  Does the electronic brake not release?  Is the new Electronic Power Control Unit that is bad?  And the repair person notices an additional power control unit which is generally only added when the chair has a secondary motor such as a tilting seat.  This chair has never had one, leaving him confused.  Of to the shop it goes.

Now, after 1 full week has passed I call my repair shop and am informed that a Permobil representative will be coming down to have a look at my Permobil M300 and that they hope to have more information for me on Monday, June 20th.

So, yet another sunny summer weekend about to start which I will spend indoors as my patio doors to my backyard deck are barely wide enough for my power chair to squeeze through.  My manual chair has canted (angled) wheels making the chair too wide to get through this newly renovated exit.

In summary, it appears as if my Wheelchair Repair Shop is baffled by the cause of my latest breakdown.  I continue to have utmost confidence in Motion Specialties as they have always responded to my problems quickly and professionally.  The same cannot be said about my Permobil M300 wheelchair or my experience with their salesperson.

I am hoping it is a problem with one of the recently replaced components as they should be under some sort of warranty after only months of use.  I do not need another expense!!  Everything has bee replaced on this Permobil M300 except for the Joystick, frame and 3 of 4 castor wheels.

If the malfunctioning part is under warranty, I suspect I still have to pay for the service call as it is not Motion Specialties fault that I own a piece of Permobil junk that fails monthly!

Since January, 5 1/2 months have passed.  In that time I have had to spend $3250.00 Cnd on repairing the Permobil M300 powerchair and of those 5 1/2 months, the Permobil has been in the repair shop for over 1 month waiting for parts to be shipped from the United States.

Since my retirement last fall, this chair has been used exclusively indoors between 3 rooms!  Hardly strenuous terrain!

My Permobil M300 Powerchair is more disabled than I am!!!

Stay tuned: Updates to follow.
*   *   *

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

4:15 am: Bouncing in Bed

Not as exciting as one's mind may conjure from the title's description.

4:15 am and something is not right.  I feel a rocking motion but I'm not dreaming about sailing on the ocean.  Spasms!

Last night I had to wait for the creepy, buzzing, sparkling electrical feeling, above and beyond the constant burning sensation, in my bouncing, spasming right leg to subsided before I could fall asleep.

Now at 4:15 am I am awakened by my spasming left leg.  It is no use.  I can't get back to sleep; put the coffee on.

Right leg becomes "creepy" where it feels as if it inflates and a swarm of bees with extended stingers bounce around the hollow interior of my calf.  The sensation may also feel like the leg is filled with hot bubbling soda water with bubbles bursting as the touch the interior surface of the skin.  Or perhaps those Christmas sparklers which erupt in sparks when lit, each burning spark hitting the inside of my calf.  Then there are the rhythmic contractions; the pumping spasms - contract and relax, contract and relax, contract and relax - for up to six hours at a time.  Spasm may originate in the thigh but the calf is where the torment ultimately presents itself.

Left leg differs from right as the injury is not symmetrical. It seems as if the back gets tight and contracts tugging (stretching) on, or perhaps compressing the sciatic nerve.  These spasms can be of the simple variety as in contracting and relaxing or they can now be of the "atomic" variety where the leg contracts quickly and violently, trying to go past the range of motion that the joint was designed to offer.  These spasms may be so explosive and violent that they rival the speed at which an automobile air-bag would deploy as they try to disjoint your limb from its socket!  They can lift you up and even throw you from bed.

An interesting observation is that left and right never occur simultaneously (ie only one side spasms at a time).  There may be a momentary crossover when they change sides, but they really only happen on one side at a time.  Some sort of neurological pathway property??

Things aren't suppose to change so late post injury.  It was only last year, the ninth year post injury, that spasms woke me up.  They would run their course in the late evening and be done with until the following night.  Now they often wake me, extending their torment until dawn.

So too with the "atomic" spasms -the ones that try to disjoint you.  They started only in the ninth year (March) and have continued since.  Why so late when nothing else in my routine has changed?

So, running on about 4+ hours of sleep today.  Spasms can occur anytime, but they come with a vengeful force every nightfall.  I wonder what tonight will bring?

*   *   *

Thursday, 2 June 2016

If My Foot is Itchy.....I Just Scratch My Butt for Relief!!

...Absolutely true!..

My spinal cord injury was not due to some physical trauma such a crushing or shearing motion.  Mine was damaged by infection: by Staphycoccus aureus bacteria which somehow got into my body and evaded my immune system's attempt to destroy them.  Once they took up residence on my spinal cord, they began living on the interstitial nutrients and they "crapped" out a variety of enzymes whose purpose is to further break down their surroundings for further nutrients (food) and to destroy or evade the body's immune response which tries to destroy the bacteria.

These enzymes have left my spinal cord physically intact for the most part, however the enzymes have fused some of the cord transmitting fibers or elements together resulting in electrical shorts or 'cross-talk'..

To simplify, if the spinal cord consists of transmitting fibers or elements, say lettered A to Z, which conduct the brain's commands to the lower body and relay sensory (and other) signals back up to the brain, some of mine have short-circuited.  Where A should continue along as A, B as B, C as C and so forth to Z, mine have been stripped of the electrically insulating myelin sheath and have fused back together in some other order. 'A' may now connect to C and D connect to F, G & H, while E may no longer connect to anything.  In my case 'Butt' is connected to 'Foot'.

It would be something like pouring some solvent over a bundle of wires (or perhaps burning the covering).  The plastic insulation surrounding the transmitting wires would melt and drip away exposing the metal core.  Metal transmitting cores can now touch one or more adjacent metal cores thereby short-circuiting the spinal cord transmission system.  This is what has happened to me.

The intact bundle of electrical conductors at top represent an intact spinal cord; a bundle of transmitting fibers or elements.  An injury resulting in the total severing of a spinal cord might be represented by the end of the top bundle where the conductors are sheared off exposing the ends and any signal transmission ends.

My injury is more like the bundle at the bottom where a solvent or overheating has stripped the insulation from the conducting fibers resulting in short-circuits.  Conductors are for the most part intact but the transmitting surfaces touch each other and 'cross-talk' or short-circuiting jumbles and scatters the signals. Commands may not reach the proper site for activation and feedback sensations such as pressure, temperature and proprioception may send back erroneous or confused information.

And so it is true.  When I scratch my butt (left cheek), I feel it in the arch of my left foot.  In fact I feel the scratch in both places; in the arch of my foot and at the site on my butt where I am scratching.  The signals somehow merge and a new pathway now exists.  Weird!!

*   *   *

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

How Many Calories in Prescription Pills?

Just how many calories are there in all those prescription pills?  Mine prescriptions add up to 140 pills per week.

The vigorous workout using the wheelchair joystick doesn't have any noticeable effect.  Should get back to the gym I guess...

...mmmm, delish!

*   *   *

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Renovations? Beware!!

It was time to replace the windows in our 41 year old house so we shopped around for a contractor.  We chose a popular fellow who has a business here in town and has worked on numerous houses in our extended neigbourhood.  An established professional in good standing -we had dealt with him previously when we needed new siding.

The window replacement included upgrading our heavy wood & glass sliding patio door for something with new bearings that would slide easier.  We took great pains to point out to the fellow that this was my secondary wheelchair exit and that It was imperative that I should be able to get through it without restriction.  He assured me I would.

The old door had a very low threshold allowing me to drive through the door opening with hardly a notice.

The new door was installed and right away I noticed a problem.  There is a 3 inch (7.5cm) high threshold which now has to be mounted with my wheelchair wheels in order to begin the climb over it.  Worse still is the fact that these new light doors are all made from some sort of extruded plastic which seems to delicate to be driven over by a 300 pound chair plus my own weight.

Where my old door's track and mechanism was made of solid wood and a stainless steel runner which was embedded at almost floor level, the new one rises 3 inches above floor level and is framed with flimsy, fragile plastic.

What is worse, I am scraping the sides of my armrests as I try to line up and maneuver through the opening.  Kinda like threading the needle with a floppy thread - lining the two up takes repeat attempts and patience -not what you want if the house were on fire.

So, the explanation is this:  Doors are made with flimsy materials because that is what makes them light and maneuverable, but mostly that's what makes them inexpensive for manufacture. Good for the manufacturer, not so much for the purchaser.  Cheaper materials do not translate into an inexpensive product.  Most major manufacturers produce comparable doors at that price. (not bottom of the line, either!)

The high threshold has something to do with local safety standards.  I cannot see what a three inch threshold protects you from - in fact it is a tripping hazard!  It certainly won't keep out any floods.  Anyone think of some other safety issue the three inch threshold would protect you from?

Yes, the specs show that the doors opening is certainly wide enough for my wheelchair.  But that is before you add the safety stops which prevent the door from falling out as well as the door handle which acts somewhat like a bumper, not allowing the door to open to the maximum.  Together, these reduce the doors width by over three inches, leaving only 1/2 of an inch on either side for me to squeeze through.

So, I've adjusted what I could to maximize the width without having the door fall out of the frame.  I will take my time and try not to break the door frame whenever I attempt to use the door.

I considered buying commercial ramps to scale the height of the threshold.  Some are dense rubber of various 'rise over run' dimensions.  They cost about one hundred dollars each and I would need one on either side.  While these commercial ramps solve the height issue, I still have a 6 1/2 inch (16 1/2 cm) transition gap between the front of the threshold trim and the rear of the threshold trim.  I cannot simply drive across this divide as the plastic is too fragile and would no doubt shatter.  The aluminum runner on which the door glides is also of thin gauge metal and would quickly become bent and misshapen after only a few passes. A helpful neighbour built a small metal ramp which I can lay down to scale the transition.  It has a wooden crosspiece which lies in the central plastic channel thereby distributing the weight to protect the sides and bottom.

I am grateful for this ramp but it still has to be lined up carefully so that when dropped in, the cross brace enters the plastic channel to distribute the weight evenly.   While I am flexible enough to do this myself, it may take several attempts to get it in properly.  I then carefully 'thread' my way through hoping not to damage my chair or the door jamb. Once on the other side, I have to pick the ramp up in order to close the door behind me, so as to keep the insects out. 

Not as quick as before when I could just open the door and drive on through with ease.  But, it is what it is....

Even when you ask the right questions and get assurances, things may not work out as you expect!

The Threshold of the new sliding patio doors heading out to my backyard deck.  This is my secondary exit from the house in case of a fire.  The threshold is about 3 inches high and the width of the door, door frame and trim, all which have to be traversed is about 6.5 inches.

The New threshold is made of extruded plastic and an aluminum runner on which the door rolls or glides.  Again the overall height is about 3 inches while the width of the opening is about 6 inches.
It consists of (1.) the door frame base, (2) the plastic wall (2 pieces) which sandwich (3.) the aluminum runner on which the door rolls or glides.  (4.) is the channel through which the front face of the door runs through which I fill with the ramp's cross brace to reinforce against crushing. (5.) is the outside plastic trim behind which the door face runs as it slides open or closed.  (6.) is the screen door which runs on its own, lower track.

Here is the metal ramp which my neighbour constructed for me.  This ramp is standing on end.

Here is the reverse side of the ramp showing (1.) the cross brace which drops into the slot through which the door runs through.  Without it the plastic may twist or be crushed.  (2.) are angled braces which distribute the weight of my wheelchair so that the metal ramp doesn't buckle or bend.  The angle is approximate and made to accommodate the transition between the height of my living room floor and that of the exterior deck.

A photo of the ramp in place.  While it works reasonably well, I do have to make sure the cross brace underneath fills the plastic slot in the threshold perfectly so as not to crush the structure.  It does 'toggle' a bit (rock back and forth) as I drive over but not really a problem if prepared for it.  I do have to remove the ramp once through so as to keep bugs out.  While I can bend down and place/remove the ramp, it is a bit of an effort and annoyance compared to just driving straight through as I used to.

Here is the handle (another handle on back) and the door frame, which, along with the safety stops (not shown) which reduce the actual size of the door opening by about 3 inches (7 centemeters).  If I divided the 3 inches in half, I would have an inch and a half per side and adding the half inch clearance per side I currently have, I would have almost two inches per side to drive through with ease.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Planned Obsolescence and Disposable Products in Today’s ‘Feel Good’ “Green” Society

Planned Obsolescence and Disposable Products in Today’s ‘Feel Good’ “Green” Society
“Cheap” versus “Inexpensive”

This post is somewhat off-topic however my ongoing problems with my Permobil M300 power wheelchair had me thinking about quality or perhaps today, the lack of quality in the products we purchase and use daily.

I was delighted to find that Motion Specialties, my current wheelchair repair company had hired a repairman from the now defunct Shoppers Home Healthcare.  My experience with Shoppers was a total nightmare, however their one and only bright spot was that they had an excellent field service technician.  One of my many troubles with Shoppers was the difficulty in getting Shoppers to dispatch any Field Service Technician to repair my wheelchair.  I know he will be a great asset to Motion Specialties.

When this technician arrived at my door, we began to discuss the lack of quality of my wheelchair and in a wider scope, the lack of quality in many of the products and commodities sold to the consumer in today’s marketplace.

I was disappointed to learn that the wheelchair motors are not refurbished and the electronic modules are not repaired but that they are thrown into a bin and either disposed of, or they are crudely recycled for metals and such.  It seems like such a waste of resources and energy.

As I mentioned in a previous post, an electronic module controlling my wheelchair or that found in any television, may have stopped working because of a defective resistor or capacitor.  In bulk it may cost the manufacturer one-thousandth of a penny to purchase, yet when damage, it is not repaired but replaced with a new module is sold to you usually at hundreds of dollars.

It is no longer financially prudent to hire an electronics technician to diagnose and repair these items.  It is cheaper to trash the item and sell the client an entirely new unit.  If not recycled properly, the rare heavy metals often used in these components may be lost.

I asked, “Why aren’t wheelchairs made from military or medical grade components?”  It is not cost effective for the wheelchair company.  It seems the manufacturer need the chair’s components to break down so they can sell you replacement parts.  The bottom line is that it is more profitable.
The technician went on to explain that when a new wheelchair is developed, their financial “bean counters” scrutinize the chair from top to bottom asking “how much did this screw cost?”  “Can we replace it with something cheaper?”   And so it goes…

And make no mistake: “Cheaper” does not mean “Less Expensive”.  Cost reduction translates into an extra bonus for the CEO and increased profits for the company shareholders.

 I think about the household products I have bought, used and had to replace after only a year or two.
I am on my third Cuisinart coffee maker.  Suddenly one day, it just stops working with no obvious reason.  So I purchase another (still a good make according to reviews) and cross my fingers.  I could purchase another brand but in this world it is just a game of ‘musical appliances’.  They are all made to fail after a certain period of time.  If I decide to try another brand, someone who has that broken ‘other brand ‘now tries mine old brand.   And so it goes; by continuously having to buy replacement appliances, you are keeping the appliance maker in business.  If your toast lasted thirty years, toaster sales would grind to a halt.

Plastic is a fine product but it is used in the wrong places perhaps ninety percent of the time.  My toaster's plastic sides are warped and discoloured.  I have encountered worn plastic gears and broken plastic hinges.  But plastic is inexpensive to the manufacturer and cheap so it will break requiring the purchase of a replacement.

My RCA television has failed for the second time.  First time it was a module which cost over $150 to replace.  Now the module is no longer available as my TV is considered old technology.  

I have an issue with the cordless tools currently on the market.  It is wonderful not to be tethered to a wall with an electrical cord.  But anyone who buys a cordless tool must realize that the batteries do not last forever.  After a period of time, they will no longer hold a charge and will have to be replaced.  The problem is that (a) you find the replacement battery costs more than the appliance which requires it, or (b) the battery is no longer made for that particular model of appliance or tool.

My wife has a Shark brand floor sweeper and the replacement battery cost more than a new Shark sweeper.  A Sears department store salesman gave me his sales pitch stating that “This cordless drill is the last one you will ever need…it will last a lifetime!”  Well, yes… it just might, but I found out that they no longer manufacture the rechargeable battery after 15 years.  I found the model in the U.S. and purchased it, but even though it is for the same model, the U.S. battery has different internal wiring.  Different standards for different countries – it won’t work.  So now it is a useless piece of junk which I have to dispose of.

One manufacturer is currently advertising some 50 tools that can be powered by one battery.  All I see are fifty useless tools when the company suspends manufacture of the battery model.  And you know they eventually will.

The bottom line is this: If you have rechargeable batteries, they will eventually fail and  have to be replaced.  Will the manufacturer still be making the battery?....and will the replacement be reasonably priced?

So, do you bring your watch in to be repaired?  Do you take your shoes to a cobbler to be re-soled?  No, it doesn’t make sense to pay for the high cost of repairs (if even available) unless you have designer shoes or a Rolex watch.  Like the rest of us, you throw them out and buy another.

Society prides itself on extolling the virtues of going green.  Governments may mandate it.  A green disposal fee may be added to the cost at time of purchase and the local dump (sorry, environmental refuse and recycling center) may charge again for a disposal fee.

We all get a fuzzy warm feeling all over because we are “green”,  however, I wonder how many batteries, appliances, shoes, watches, batteries, televisions, plastic bags and bottles, cell phones, and on and on –get thrown away and not properly recycled.

In past years I’ve read stories of recycling centers being overwhelmed with items and finally sending them to the landfill without processing.  Plastic items have been reclaimed and processed yet there was no market for the item.  Companies preferred using virgin plastic bought from suppliers.  

Yet we all feel so very proud during 'Earth Hour' when we turn off our lights and text of BFFs in darkened bliss...

Still further aside: Currently our Province of Ontario is offering large incentives or rebates on those who purchase electric vehicles.  Just this week they announced plans to phase out natural gas, a relatively clean energy source with by-products of water vapour and carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas which is utilized by growing vegetation) to be replace with “clean” electrical heating.  However, this brainless group of ‘feel good greenies’ has not explained how this electrical energy is going to be generated. 

The government and citizens are generally opposed to expansion of our nuclear power plants.  Coal fired power plants were closed years ago.  Natural gas plants make no sense if you phase out natural gas for the general population citing green concerns.  All but one major river has already been dammed in this Provence –there are no more.  Niagara falls perhaps can produce a bit more at the risk of affecting the spectacle and tourism.  Do you claim agricultural farm land and replace crops with fields of solar cells and wind turbines?  (as the old joke goes, “who needs farms when we have supermarkets?”)  Cold fusion has not yet been accomplished.  Just how will we make this power?  It appears that only the brain dead run for political office…

It is about the money…It is ALWAYS about the money!

Unbridled Capitalism is just as bad as Communism... is just the flip side of the same coin!

Update: June 25th,2016
It was just over a month ago that I posted this blog about planned obsolescence, where companies make products with purposely built in weaknesses, knowing they will fail in an approximate per-determined span of time.  That time period is always slightly past the length of warranty offered by the manufacturer.  I think we have all experienced this 'true-ism' at one time or another.

Someplace in the Cuisinart factory, engineers are doing a 'high-five' as my 3rd Cuisinart coffee maker (same model) has joined its predecessors and died.  Of course it comes with a three year warranty and my machine died yesterday, just short of the forth year.

So today we bought our fourth, thereby doing our part to keep the Canadian economy running along.  Why do we keep buying the same brand and model you ask?  Well, the independent reviews have this make and model always rated near the top in quality.  Also, most manufacturers, in the same price range at least, offer the same warranty.  Changing brand loyalty is like playing musical chairs - you simply give your money to a different manufacturer that will also self destruct in that same pre-planned time period.

Our fourth coffee maker;  each previous one failed right after the warranty expired!

So, what has this got to do with wheelchairs?  Same strategy!  The chair's components are manufactured to fail after a certain length of time or mileage so that additional parts and/or labour can be charged and shareholder profits extended.  I have replaced just about every component on my wheelchair and everything has failed after the one year warranty expired!

As for my coffee maker, it can't be repaired, at least not at a reasonable price so out it goes for the city waste pickup.  How much of it is actually recycled or reused is beyond me but as you can tell, life has left me cynical and I believe most will go to the landfill to be driven into the ground by a bulldozer.

So again, on 'Earth Day' we turn off our lights, turn on our iPhones and tweet each other about how 'Green' we've become!
  What a sad little planet we've become...

*   *   *

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Loblaw having acquired Shoppers Drug Mart now wishes to dispense medical marijuana

Part I: Loblaw food store chain acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart with apparent intent to drop Shoppers Home Healthcare division altogether –leaving clients stranded.

Part II: (further below) Loblaw expresses desire to sell Medical Marijuana through its Shoppers Drug Store/Loblaw pharmacies.

Part I

When you buy another company, you also buy any “baggage” that company had accumulated during its years of operation.  You would think that when one company purchases another, the onus is on the purchaser to make sure the seller fulfills any obligations, resolves any problems, correct any errors and address any concerns or misgivings that may now reflect badly on the acquiring company.

You lay down with dogs, you may get some fleas…

In a March 28th, 2014 Globe and Mail[i] article, Loblaw’ CEO Galen Weston announced that the planned purchase of Shoppers Drug Mart by Loblaw Supermarket chain, first announced July 15th 2013[ii], has been finalized.  The announced cost of the transaction was $12.4 billion in cash and stocks.

Also, when you buy a company, you acquire all of its subsidiaries (unless specifically excluded from the deal) as was the case with the above transaction.  Shoppers Drug Mart brought along Shoppers Home Healthcare as part of the package deal.

However, it has become apparent that Loblaw wanted Shoppers only for their pharmaceuticals and had no interest in the greater scope of their Shoppers Home Healthcare division which, in general, supplied devices and aids to physically challenged clients. (eg. wheelchairs, oxygen supplies, walkers, etc.)

Loblaw must have researched Shoppers thoroughly prior to the purchase and no doubt had extensive knowledge of the extraordinarily poor performance of the Home Healthcare branch of their business[iii],[iv],[v],[vi].  I suppose they had planned from the start to divest themselves of the Home Healthcare operation.  Rather than improve the deplorable “service” that Shoppers Home Healthcare provided, they let the operation languish and their clients suffer in frustration.

If I was purchasing a company, I would demand that all aspects of its operation were brought up to acceptable standards before making the purchase.   If not, I would make those changes immediately on purchase so as not to reflect badly on my own company.

With Loblaw’s first announcement of its intent to purchase Shoppers Drug Mart (July 15th, 2013), to when the transaction was finalized (March, 28th, 2014) to when Shoppers Drug Mart (now owned by Loblaw) was divesting itself of the Shoppers Home Healthcare division of its operation (March 22nd, 2016)[vii], a full two years had elapsed –enough time for Loblaw to demand Shoppers Home Healthcare get its act together or for Loblaw to do it themselves after the acquisition.

Obviously Loblaw had plans to drop the Shoppers Home Healthcare division altogether so they expended no finances or energy in bringing the “service” up to standards or doing right by Shoppers’ clients.

Shame on both Shoppers and Loblaw if the intent was always to divest itself of the Shoppers Home Healthcare division.  They continued to allow poor service to be offered and failed to give their clients a sufficient ‘heads up’ to locate alternate healthcare service providers.

However, it’s always about the money, isn’t it….always!

Part II:

This week Loblaw’s CEO Galen Weston announced its intent to sell medical marijuana through its Loblaw/Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies once legalized[viii],[ix].  He was quick to point out that only ‘medical’ not ‘recreational’ drug would be stocked.  In that articleMr. Weston told shareholders that Loblaw increasingly is focused on bolstering its healthy (sic) care goods and services.” (Obviously those goods and services did not include wheelchair and other disability aids sales and services)

Ontario’s liquor control board’s retail outlet, the LCBO stores were suggested as a retailer for marijuana however is seems that the public prefers that alcohol highs and marijuana highs be sold in different locations.  I suppose that ‘highbrow executives’ don’t want to be seen purchasing their single-malt scotch in the same store where ‘dudes’ buy their doobies!  But I digress…

My concern is that Loblaw/Shoppers Drug Store pharmacies may do as poor a job of dispensing ‘medical marijuana’ as it did with providing service through Shoppers Home Healthcare.  Having had such a poor experience with Shoppers Home Healthcare, I have no intention of giving Shoppers, and now Loblaw/Shoppers any of my business.  I’m sure many others who felt abused by Shoppers Home Healthcare feel the same way I do.

Shoppers Home Healthcare under Shoppers parent company had the sole contract for sales and repairs on articulated wheelchairs (those with special features such as tilt and elevating mechanisms).  I truly hope there will not be a monopoly on the sales of medical marijuana.  If I were ever to decide to use it to relieve my pain and stiffness, I hope that Loblaw/Shoppers would be my only source for the medicine.

Lack of competition creates laziness, complacency and stagnation!

I am still curious as to how the entire system is intended to work once marijuana sales and usage is legalized in Ontario, and Canada as a whole.  Pharmacies will dispense medically prescribed marijuana.  Pot shops have already sprung up selling a variety of marijuana products to the general public intended for recreational use.  Finally, will you be able to grow your own as you can brew your own beer or bottle your own wine?  It seems that you may be able to do so for personal use[x], at least ‘medical’ marijuana users, otherwise you may be a tax evader.  So why would you go to a pharmacy if  you can grow your own unless you wish to pay the price and the tax for a controlled dosage of THC?

To read of my own frustrations with Shoppers Home Healthcare and their total lack of anything that remotely resembles service, click HERE to read my post.