Saturday, 14 August 2021

Still Alive

 Still alive but distracted by life.  May post again soon when the spirit permits.


Saturday, 5 December 2020

A Tale of Two Ceilings

Ceilings torment me.  I can recall the day that the doctors entered my hospital room and coldly announced that I'd never walk again.  After they departed, I was left alone with my thoughts.  Laying on my back I found myself staring at the ceiling.  So as to not dwell on the depressing news, I started counting the random perforations in the ceiling tiles.  When I lost count, I'd start again, and again....  That little act of insanity was keeping me sane.

So I slowly recovered and made progress but never recovered the ability to walk.  I could still stand if braced and supported, but that ability only goes so far.  I remain a prisoner of my wheelchair.

In the subsequent years I accomplished a great number of tasks which I was told I would be beyond my ability.  Still so many more were out of reach for my world was now within a "bubble" where I could independently go only so far left or right, forward and back and up or down.  As a proudly independent person, that loss was the most devastating of all.

Having moved to a new house several years ago, I decided to redecorate.  While I did paint the walls and most of the ceiling, I wasn't able to get close to the light fixture with the paint-roller (on an extender).  No matter, I would get it when the light fixture was exchanged for another.

My friends and family always offer help but it is on their timetable.  I'm impatient and want to accomplish tasks immediately when I see them calling out for service.  "We'll do that later," "not now," or "leave that for another time" annoys me for I found out long ago that if something is out of sight, it is also out of mind.  Another time may never come.  Repeated pleas for help often are deferred and chores remain undone.

I am too proud to beg; repeated requests become "badgering"; I have never ordered anyone to do anything, and so I remain quietly frustrated with my own lack of ability to complete tasks which were so easy to accomplish a number of years ago.  I now wait and wait for charitable service when that someone's mind remembers and the their body is willing.

So now I lay in my new room--freshly painted some three years ago, and stare at a different ceiling.  There was no time allowed for me to finish painting the small area beneath the previous light fixture.  "We'll do that later."  I was grateful that my friend exchanged one light for another--his dirty hand-print on the white ceiling reminds me daily of the help he extended.

 Arrows point to hand print smudge and beige halo around light fixture.

Nightly, I look at that beige halo on a white ceiling which encircles my light and find it a reminder of my inability to accomplish so many of even the most simplest tasks.  I doubt it will ever be painted in my lifetime.  How can such a small thing be so devastatingly depressing?

*   *   *

Sunday, 13 September 2020

CPAP Cleaners - Marketing 101


While sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are not a "disability", but rather a condition or an affliction, or what have you--I thought I'd add my two-cents worth regarding the unnecessary hefty expense ($$$) of a CPAP cleaner on your wallet or the generosity of your insurance plan.  As of late, several brands have been forcefully marketed via television commercials.

Marketing 101: Increasing Sales: Make people afraid of something, then sell them an item or service which you insist will alleviate their fears.  This sales technique also works well in politics.

As a former microbiology laboratory technologist, I watched fellow Canadian William Shatner hawk a CPAP cleaner on television.  A good money-making opportunity is never lost on competitors and imitators.  Soon rivals began to promote their version of the expensive and unnecessary item.

What is a CPAP?  It stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and is a device which supplies air under increased pressure, theoretically keeping organs of the throat from collapsing and blocking the airway.  When this occurs, the person may stop breathing for a number of seconds leading to oxygen derivation which, as you can imagine, may have serious consequences.  By gently blowing air down the nose and windpipe, most commonly via a mask which the user wears, the airway is kept open and theoretically results in a healthier and more restful sleep.  Surgery is another remedy but understandably it is less popular than strapping on a CPAP mask at night.

 Why do I claim it is unnecessary?  Think about it logically.  What is the source of the air the CPAP uses to blow down your windpipe?  It uses the same household air which you breath all day long before donning your mask.  Most CPAP units, if not all, have a pre-filter which cleans the dust, pollen and other particulates fro the air prior to sending it through a hose to the mask under the increased pressure.  While this is not a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter which would filter out bacteria and viruses, it serves to make the air somewhat cleaner than that which you breath daily.

Most CPAP cleaners have a water reservoir which when filled with sterile distilled water, moistens the air so as to not dry out the users upper respiratory tract during operation.  Water condensate may be present in the hose after use, however, this vapor condensate is a poor medium to nourish the small amount of non-pathogenic environmental bacteria which may have made it pas the filter.  Remember, these are the same environmental bacteria which you encounter in you home on a daily basis, regardless of the amount of cleaning and scrubbing you perform.

When I first watched the television commercial for a leading brand of cleaner, I almost doubled-over in laughter watching the dramatization of a fellow vigorously shoving some sort of pipe-cleaner repeatedly down the hose in an attempt to scrub it clean.  I swear he appeared to be raising a sweat as his elbow pumped repeatedly like a piston in a revving engine.  If your CPAP tub is so soiled--if your CPAP tub is filled with fecal coliforms, then perhaps you're strapping the mask over the wrong orifice and you should re-read your manual!

"If your CPAP tube is so soiled--if your CPAP tube is filled with fecal coliforms, then perhaps you're strapping the mask over the wrong orifice..."

As a microbiologist, I cultured the entire inside length of several CPAP tubes* after weekly use and found very low numbers of common environmental "dust" bacteria such as several Bacillus species as well as Staphylococcus epidermidis and related non-pathogenic Staph species.  The face mask proved to have similar non-invasive common skin bacteria such as Corynebacterium species and Streptococcus viridans.  Unless severely immunocompromised, these should not be a cause for concern for the user.  Those are the same bacteria you commonly find in your home and in your nose and on your face.

However, some diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis result in the colonization of more hardy bacteria such as mucoid strains of Pseudomonas aeruginosa or coliforms such as Klebsiella pneumoniae.  If afflicted with CF and a CPAP is recommended by your physician, more frequent and thorough cleaning of the unit may be warranted.  Again, the commercial cleaners will probably not be up to the task.  Link: CPAP information for those with Cystic Fibrosis.

How to Clean your CPAP Hose & Mask:

Submerse the hose in a bowl full of soapy water and allow the solution to touch all surfaces as it runs through the interior.  The same soapy solution (dish detergent, or better yet, a hypoallergenic skin wash) can be applied with a damp washcloth to the face mask nightly before use or even once a week if your ambition so dictates.  Rinse all with clean water afterwards.

Too hard to periodically rinse with a soapy solution?  The leading CPAP cleaning unit sells for $399 dollars Canadian ($295 U.S.).  However, the drain on your wallet doesn't end there.  It is recommended that every six months, the user replace the Cartridge Filter Kit which retails for $40 Cnd.

So, how does the CPAP cleaner claim to clean the CPAP unit?  It exposes the surgacesto what it calls "activated oxygen" which is in fact, ozone.  While ozone does have antibacterial properties, the FDA claims commercial CPAP cleaners cannot achieve the level of ozone necessary to effectively kill the bacteria.

Apart from not being effective,, the odour of ozone may be retained by the hose/mask and must be flushed from the unit by those who find it offensive.

Other manufacturers use ultra-violet light (U.V.) as a source of sterilization.  U.V. light may be adequate for surface sterilization, however, it has poor penetrating properties and organisms must be exposed to the source for an appropriate length of time to be bactericidal.

In their own words, the FDA reported that devices claiming to clean, disinfect or sanitize CPAP devices or accessories (such as masks, tubing, headgear) using ozone gas or U.V. light are not legally marketed for this use by the FDA in the U.S. According the the FDA, it is unknown if these CPAP cleaners are safe and effective.

I am not a doctor and am not recommending any particular action.  It is up to the user to decide what they are willing to do or to spend in order to feel safe.  I simply wish to share my microbiological experience with CPAP units.

Any commercial broadcast on TV, seen in print or found on the internet, can be broken down and explained in ten words: "Send me your money and your life will be better."

*I no longer have possession of my study and won't further bore the reader with recalled specifics.

*   *   *

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Chair Etiquette

Where were you raised?  Pick-up after yourself.  Put it back when you're done!  All common pleas from frustrated parents, particularly exasperated mothers.  By the time you reach adulthood you should have learned a few lessons--neatness and orderliness among them.

While enjoying a cup of morning coffee under this morning's sunrise, a good friend dropped by to join my on the patio.  Pulling a chair from under the patio table, he planted himself firmly before enlightening me to the recent events which had transpired in his semi-quarantined life.

Our chit-chat slowly tapered off until exhausted.  Screech...the chair pushed back and turned askew as my dear friend rose to continue his day.  And there the chair remained--where his posterior had deposited it--nowhere near the table from whence it came.

I was reminded of the daily battles I fought with lunch-room chairs at my workplace before my retirement.

The fact that I was disabled could not have escaped others present--imbibing on their morning cup of java or chowing down on the meager cafeteria offerings.

As a group from one department or another rose in unison to return to their daily travail--their chairs pushed out in a row askew--facing this way or that, some further some nearer.  Deposited like mines in the channel, they sat in wait of my attempt to sail my wheelchair through the course their recent occupants had laid.

My colleagues were no better.  They stood likewise and with nary a look back at what was preventing my motorized butt from keeping up.  They just danced they're serpentine do-si-do dance, weaving in an around the chairs as they made for the dance-hall exit.

As I approached each abandoned chair I had to stop, reach out with both hands to lift and shove the chrome and fabric monstrosities from my path and return them one by one to the table to which they belonged.  With order in my universe thus restored they could now be photographed for display in an Amazon sales ad and I could be on my way.

People, when you finish your lunch, don't leave your mess on the table for others to deal with.  Deposit it in the refuse receptacle provided.  Mothers using the drop-down baby change tables in public washrooms--return the table to the folded upright position so that it does not block by entry to the washroom.  Unless disabled, don't park in disabled parking spots (laziness is not a valid disability!)  And please people, put your chair back from where you got it even if there are no disabled persons in your workplace.  It is just common courtesy and do your mother proud.

*   *   *

Friday, 10 July 2020

Lost & Found

About one year after receiving the Quantum Edge power wheelchair, I can say that I'm quite pleased with the model.  It is certainly a vast improvement over the disastrous Permobil M300 which was in-operational more often than not.

Plastic!  I am no fan of plastic.  Oh, it's a fine product but is used in the wrong place--as a wrong material, perhaps 90% of the time.  Why?  Because it is cheap--yet the savings are not pass onto the consumer but are hoarded by the manufacturer and/or vendor.  Overall, plastic is less durable over time, immediately more fragile and subject to ultra-violet (sunlight) deterioration than comparable light-weight metals--just to name a few properties.

Wheelchair manufacturers use plastic over light-weight metals now more than ever citing cost and weight as justification.  I believe profit is the only motivating factor.

Several months ago, I pulled up to my bedside with the intent to transfer.  As the power-chair approached, the left front caster arm grazed the metal bed frame which just happened to be at the appropriate height to pop the plastic cap to the caster pillar like a bottle-opener to a bottle cap.  Off it flew.  I could hear it pop but I could not tell to where it flew.

So I retrieve a mop and sweep under the bed.  Nothing.  I check the other side of the room--perhaps it rolled in the opposite direction.  Nope.  Under the book case?  Nada.  Ah-ha! I won't get fooled.  It had to have flung back into the wheelchair itself.  I retrieve a flashlight and prod all the nooks and crannies with a narrow ruler.  I can't pick the power-chair up and shake it out.  It doesn't appear to be on the chair or foot rest.  I'm perplexed!

That plastic cap had been attached to the caster pillar or post by friction.  The cap is manufactured with a lip, perhaps one-sixty-fourth of an inch smaller than the diameter of the pillar or post onto which it fits.  The assembler places the cap onto the pillar and with a slap of a closed fist or rubber mallet, drives the cap home.  The trouble is that an equal and opposite force just as easily removes the cap as there are no threads or set-screws to secure it to where it has been placed.

After weeks of scratching my head and wondering where the plastic cap had  gone, I gave up.  Perhaps it now resides with Jimmy Hoffa as the concrete foundation of a high-rise or with Amelia Earhart someplace off the coast of the Howland Islands.  Maybe its with the Amber Room and other lost Nazi plunder.  A black hole may have momentarily opened up in my bedroom and drawn the cap into its singularity, never to be seen again.  But life goes on as house-dust, saw-dust, garden leaves and other life's refuse gathers in the cup to keep the caster's retaining nut company the same as the lint which must accumulate in a vagrant's navel.  The "spontaneous breaking of symmetry" as a quantum physicist may note.  I hate that the left side looks different than the right even more than having use forceps, a vacuum or whatever, to keep the dust and detritus from accumulating.

Now this 2-inch diameter plastic cap might have been manufactured with a thimble-full of molten recycled plastic costing one-one hundredth of a penny for material and labour -- plus shipping and handling, for of course we all know from endless commercials that shipping and handling are extra.  Yet I'm certain should I order a replacement, I would be charged perhaps $25.00 for the opportunity to lose it a second time.

So what happened to that cap?  Over the next few months I would find a curious and unidentifiable dark gray-coloured piece of plastic here or there in my travels.  On four largely separate times, the chair suddenly jolted to a stop with a chair icon flashing on my controller--twice forward twice backward.  I still didn't clue in.  Then I found the major segment which comprised the top of the cap--well chewed as if a salivating puppy had found a new play-toy.

The cap had in fact flown back into some dark crevice in the chair and resided there for some time until through bumps and jostles it worked its was down to some hidden [from me] but exposed drive-gear mechanism where it would be periodically fed to the grinding teeth.

So now the chair grins back at me like some boxer who has lost a tooth.  It mocks me in knowing I was outsmarted by a wheelchair...

Just a few of the pieces of the cap left like bread-crumbs leading me to the answer of what happened to my caster cap.

One can see that the cap which covers the top of the caster is missing on the caster pillar seen at the right of this photo.  It covers a large retaining nut which holds the post around which the caster swivels.  Not just for aesthetics, the cap keeps foreign materials and moisture from the nut so the swiveling action is not impeded.

*   *   *  

Monday, 25 May 2020

Government Scrimping on Wheelchair Seating

When I acquired my latest power wheelchair, the Quantum Q6, I requested a seat cushion, a GeoMatrix model which I had once used on a loner chair (while my Permobil was yet again nonoperational) and had found it fairly comfortable.  The cost of the wheelchair and seating combination was partially subsidized by the government's Assistive Devices Program (ADP).

I also purchased a second seat cushion identical to the one I had been using on the Permobil, a Prism Supreme II.  As the government subsidizes only one seat cushion per applicant, I paid for this one fully with my own funds.

I had found that a periodic change of seating contributes to comfort.  Regardless of the cushion's design or quality, prolonged sitting will inevitably result in discomfort.  One cushion may be superior to another in certain situations  

When I received the cushions I noticed my vendor only supplied one seat cover per cushion whereas when I received my seat cushions for my previous two chairs, they always came with a replacement seat cover.  Asking my vendor about this, they replied that the Assistive Devices Program no longer supplies a second seat cover for the seat cushion provided.  "Why?" I asked.  My vendor shrugged and told me the obvious, "In order to save money."  Unless the wheelchair user claims to be incontinent, which I am not, an alternate seat cover is not provided.

Through ADP, I previously received two seat covers per seat cushion so that the used cover could be swapped out for a fresh cover when the other is sent to the laundry.

From my vendor, I now understand that each cushion comes with only one seat cover.  So when the users seat cover becomes soiled for whatever reason (perspiration, spills, and yes, even accidents), one must transfer to some other surface and remain off the wheelchair for however long it takes for the soiled cover to be laundered.  (What if you do your own laundry at a laundromat?)

What a chintzy way of saving money!

Does one have to prove they urinate or defecate on their seats in order to get a second seat cover to use while the other is laundered.  Do you have to have an "accident" on command, or would a note from your healthcare provider suffice?

I suspect that even the most penurious, down & out homeless person has a second pair of britches they could put on while the first pair take a spin in a laundromat or rainwater barrel.

Even those television commercials hawking some product or another shout "But wait!  We'll even throw in this travel pouch to contain your widget, a thirty-dollar value, for free!!!"

There is nothing special about these cloth sacs which should warrant a premium price and therefore what savings could be realized in denying the disabled a second cover?

I'm unaware of other's experiences with seat cushion covers, but my seat covers, two at that, quickly show wear and tear simply form daily usage.  Seams separate, material shreds and zipper's snag.

Something of which I was unaware - ADP does subsidized the replacement of a seat cushion every two years (as opposed to five for wheelchairs).  How long this will continue is uncertain as my vendor revealed that they had heard the government's Assistive Devices Program may be terminated.  I wonder if this is the ultimate cost saving measure?  Would the program be replaced by another, or would the disabled be left high and dry to fend for themselves?  Who among us, even if employed, can afford a $10,00+ power chair every five years or so?  And which wheelchair vendor and repair facility could stay in business if the disabled are no longer able to obtain the mobility devices they need?

I have not confirmed these rumours with ADP itself.

Blake Medical's GeoMatrix seat consists honeycombed gel sheets of select densities.  While the gel itself doesn't breath, the pockets do offer some ventilation particularly when shifting.  A third gel cushion may be inserted for extra weight-bearing capability.  One thing I've noticed is that the gel "pockets" slump forward when going down a steep ramp and offers a sensation that one is sliding off the seat.

My GeoMatrix seat cushion was priced at $621.00 Canadian.

The seat cushion I bought outright (with my own funds) was the Prism Supreme II.  It consists of various density foam blocks, stacked and contoured.

My Prism Supreme II was priced at $459.99 Canadian.

I can buy a full-size living room sofa for the same price.  Somebody must be making a huge profit on these simple items.

I suspect that each cushion has been individually inspected, sat upon and blessed by the Minister of Heath and the prices charged support his/her six-figure salary.

*  *  *

Monday, 18 May 2020

New Power Wheelchair - My Third

Anyone who has stumbled upon my blog may know of the troubles I encountered with my second powerchair--a Permobil.  Problems with that powerchair began almost immediately after taking posession of it, and continued to where virtually all parts of the chair had been replaced, at least once--well before I was eligible for government support in purchasing a replacement.

Since that time I've heard from numerous owners of a Permobil with similar issues and frustrations.  My personal advice is to stay away from this flawed brand!

My first chair was a Quantum, which ran well for seven years, with only one motor (under warranty) and the joy-stick needing replacement in that time period (not including normal wear on the tires.)  It was repossessed by the ADP government agency on my receipt of the Permobil (something to do with the tilt-seat which I really didn't need in the first place).

The Permobil was a nice looking chair and I was assured by the vendor that it was reliable.  I regretted the choice early on.  The curly-cue sides rails do not permit hanging side pockets for personal items such as keys, etc.  The only plus-side to the design of the Permobil I found was that the motors can be disengaged at the front, by the user, rather than at the rear.  This may be useful if you have some use of your limbs, as I have, to maneuver yourself to a more advantageous location during a breakdown.

A sympathetic friend found a used Quantum 300 powerchair which he offered for my permanent use.  This workhorse freed me from the Permobil nightmare and it continues to work to this day (I did replace both motors after one failed).

On July 12, 2018: having met eligibility for a replacement powerchair, I contacted an Assisted Device Program (ADP) representative at a major local hospital, requesting assessment for a new wheelchair.  I received by e-mail a Microsoft Excel form to fill out with my pertinent information, which then was returned.  This I did and then waited.

August 10, 2018: Not knowing how long these things may take, I waited patiently.  Not having received an update on my submitted request after a month, I again contacted the ADP representative.  She claimed not to have received my e-mailed Excel document.  I suppose I should have asked for a receipt on submission.  I found the original document in my "sent" folder and re-sent the same form which they now received.  (my e-mailed document did not "bounce back".  They must have lost it,)

September 18, 2018: I met with this ADP representative in my home where she assessed my needs and took measurements of my freebie Quantum.  She filed my request with the government agency and we waited for approval.

Late March, 2019: Almost a half-year after my request was filed, I was approved for a new powerchair

April 2, 2019: The initial chair recommended by the ADP agent would simply not meet my requirements.  The vendor who delivered the demonstrator model quickly assessed my situation and proposed another Quantum model.

May 19, 2019: The vendor I had selected delivered a Quantum Q6 model which I found much more to liking and suitable to my needs.  The vendor placed an order with the manufacturer to construct a Q6 to my specifications.

June 11, 2019: The invoice for my Quantum Q6 bears this date and has a listing of the components specifically requested, including seating.

August 22, 2019:  I took possession of the new Quantum Q6.

I found this Quantum model an improvement over my old freebie Quantum, particularly the suspension.  I find it climbs over obstacles much more smoothly.  The demonstrator came with similar curly-cue side-arms.  My model has the more common square frame side supports which Pride (Quantum) supplied with small side bags on each side.

I am keeping my freebie Quantum as I never want to be without motorized wheels again.  Those who have read this blog know I spent the summer of 2017 powerless as I waited another vendor to try twice to resolve my loss of power issues.

I changed vendors as I found the first vendor's office staff somewhat complacent regarding my urgency.  Vendors can only move as fast as the manufacturers offer cooperation.  I don't see why in this age of faxes, e-mails and overnight courier shipping, it takes two weeks to a month to obtain a wheelchair part.  This is in addition to the week's wait before a technician can diagnose the problem and another week for an appointment for the installation of the part.

Enough text.  Here are some photos of the Quantum Q6:

Front View: I requested a foot-rest which folds up underneath the chair.  I can stand and do so frequently during the day.  Also, because I have some use of my legs, I simply lift them up and drive to where I'm going around the house and my property.  The foot-rest would only be employed if I was to travel by a public disability service (taxi or bus).

Right Side View: The tubular arm supports form a square frame and you can see a small bag hanging from the middle strut of the arm-rest.  I find this useful for keys, pen; small personal items.

Rear View: The rear caster support bar is clean and compact.  Reflectors on the casters.  Motor disengagement toggles are at the rear as in all Quantum models I'm familiar with.  Cables from the controller unit to the motors are exposed and I worry that I may back into something and snag them.  (I'm capable of doing the impossible.)

Left Side: Identical to the right side with another small pocket on the sidebar.

A photo of the foot support lowered. It is nice, compact and has smooth surfaces so when I stand up and brace against it there is no sharp pressure against my legs.  One problem (arrow) is that the covers to the nuts securing the casters is simply pressure-fitted. My bed frame is at the precise height that it acts as a "bottle opener" and the cap flung off probably as easily as it was punched on.  The cap disappeared into the dark recess of my room, never to be seen again.  Sweeping under the bed with a mop did not recover the cap.  Nor was it thrown back into the nooks and crannies of the chair.  That cap seems to be gone forever.  One of those mysteries like where is Jimmy Hoffa, or Amelia Earhart.

One problem I had (with every chair that I owned) was that because I have the ability to stand, I brace against the chair to do so.  The seat pan of every chair is a metal plate about an eighth (or five-sixteenth?) thick.  Even though it is rounded over, the pressure of bracing against it produces cutting discomfort.  My solution was to obtain a thick-walled hose such as that used for washer drainage, easily obtained at a local hardware store such as Home Depot.  The hose is slit using a box cutter or other such item (careful!) and it is slid over the sharp edge.

Here the hose bumper can be seen in place (arrow), protecting the backs of my legs--particularly if in shorts--from the discomfort of bracing.

With warmer weather arriving (the battery won't freeze) I've placed the old Quantum in my garage and hope to use it exclusively outdoors.  I'll transfer from one chair to the other outside and in that way will keep the new one clean if I pull weeds, saw wood or paint.

I still have the Permobil at another site and am not sure what to do with it.  It is a useless "paper-weight" containing many new parts.  In that sense it is too new to scrap but I have no confidence in its continued operation.  Perhaps I can make a nice flower planter out of it.

*   *   *

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Still Alive

Yes, still alive...

I've simply not had the drive to contribute any further personal observations regarding my situation.  As such, any readers who may have stumbled upon this blog site had been saved from having to read my incoherent ramblings and meaningless drivel.

Not that I've gone totally underground.  As frustrating as this disability is - significantly robbing one of their ability to freely move about wherever they may wish and whenever the desire to do so strikes them, life still goes on.

My interests have not changed - only my ability to pursue them to the fullest.

My interest in television had died years ago.  Still I have to thank television--for it was that "idiot box" that persuaded me to increase my consumption of the printed word, primarily books.  I can leisurely tear through three or four books per week.  While many have begun to develop "cabin fever" from their CorVid-19 imposed isolation, my disability has inured me to such isolation while my personal library has, as always, provided pleasure and mental stimulation.

 Home base.
 One of my bookshelves between two CD towers.

When the eyes become fatigued from hours upon the printed page, I revert to my music library: classical music, folk, but primarily classic rock.  From the 1950's to the mid-1990's (music after that period died, or like myself, became severely disabled in that it stagnated--in my humble opinion).

My record collection and another CD tower.
45's, 78's and other musical formats reside elsewhere.

Yet my stereo system, like myself, has become somewhat disabled.  My injury occurred during renovations during which I had dismantled my Stereo. Only years later did I resurrect it and to my horror discovered that capacitors had dried out in my Linn Sondek LP-12 turntable's power unit while other maladies plagued other components.  My pricey Denon CD player had developed a digital stutter while a secondary Pioneer player's door refused to open on command and then chomps down on a CD before it can be loaded.  Analogue and even digital home hi-fi repair shops have died off at a rate comparable to 1960's Rock musicians.

 Old and dated, as I am...but I still favour it over an iPod.

I never claimed to have an audiophile system.  The audio-gods would frown upon me and others who don't have gold-plated, cryogenically treated audio-interconnects or Tos-link fiber-optic cables of the shortest length suitable for the purpose.  I have an old "head-banger' stereo from the 1980's with a spaghetti bowl of copper cables - a virtual Gordion knot, which if taken apart (as I did), can never be recreated in any usable fashion.  The secret of its operation has been lost forever.

 Forgive me audio-gods, for I have sinned.  My Gordion knot of interconnects.

Someday, finances permitting, I may want to join that elite group of audiophiles who spin vinyl on $10,000 turntables through equally pricey Class A amplifiers and electrostatic speakers.  Then again, they're spending a fortune just to squeeze the most they can from a $3.00 piece of vinyl.  It makes no sense...nevertheless, I understand.

Then again, I wonder what the Coronavirus and the stock markets are going to do to my pension?

Perhaps this Pandemic is the perfect time to take on such a challenge--to resurrect my system, however I'm certain my wife thinks otherwise.  As an American, she prefers the TV, following the antics playing out in her homeland south of the border.  (I suspect she may have long ago sabotaged my system.)

Soon after I became disabled, I scrupulously cleaned each and every album in my collection.  However, before preserving them in archival-quality record sleeves, I digitized each recording and saved them to two mirrored Fantom terabyte drives.

So, while I don't get to rattle the house with some heavy metal through my Infinity speakers - I do get to play my digitized albums through some fine Altec-Lansing monitors.

Someday, I will "shake, rattle & roll."

Rock on!

Monday, 3 December 2018

Quite Frankly, I'd Rather Be Waterboarded

Though I've not had the pleasure, perhaps I'd rather be 'water-boarded' than to experience paralytic spasms.

When your torturer 'water-boards' you he will eventually stop or he will kill you.  Either way your torment has an ending.

Spasms are a nightly torture which will continue unabated for the remainder of my natural lifetime!  And so you find yourself praying for a short lifetime.

Spasm:spazəm/ :Noun: Spasm; Pleural: Spasms

  • A sudden involuntary muscular contraction or convulsive movement
Synonyms: contraction, convulsion, cramp, twitch, jerk, tic, shudder, shiver, tremor.

Paralytic Spasms: 
  • Hell's hop-scotch
  • Dance of the Living-Dead
  • Midnight Jumping-Jacks
  • Hangman's Jig
  • Modified Saint Vitus Dance
  • Punting imaginary footballs from midnight till dawn
  • Trying to kick down you ceiling light from your bed

Meet my nightly visitor named "Spasm"  *

Spasm can visit me any time but he most frequently arrives in the evening or night time.  A ravenous beast who bites my leg hundreds of times a second as his burning saliva saturates the limb.  Spasm then mercilessly begins to yank on my leg, lifting it up in the air and throwing it back down, over and over and over again--usually for hours on end.

December 1st: ~8:00 pm to ~2:00 am - 6 hours of unrelenting contractions and releases, contractions and releases--pulse after pulse after pulse.  Every 10 to 12 seconds for six-hours straight!!
December 2nd: ~7:00 pm until ~2:00 pm - 7 excruciating hours of tugging and releasing, tugging and releasing.
December 3rd: who knows what time and duration he'll have for me tonight?

I have tried to describe the accompanying feeling which Spasm delivers to my limb but no description can adequately impart the extreme creepiness which makes you want to jump out of your own skin...but you are paralysed and cannot jump!  There is no way to describe or impart to those who are able-bodied, that awful creepy feeling that accompanies the spasms.  The words have not been invented!

I have to wonder if my spasms differ from others who have become paraplegics by other means such as accidents or stroke?  When the spinal cord is severed the nerve pathway is cut.  I acquired my injury through a bacterial infection in which the toxins and enzymes produced by the organism short-circuited my spinal nerves as would removing the insulation from a bundle of wires.  I suspect many of my pathways are intact but heavily damaged.  Signals get through but with the motion, the pain and the reflexive spasms.

I am taking the maximum dose of Baclofen for the spasms but as noted elsewhere in this blog, the drug has never had much of an effect on the spasmodic contractions I experience.  Baclofen's only effect seems to be reducing some tightness.

Perhaps downing the entire pill container with a Jack Daniel's chaser would have some effect?

I have never had much confidence in any of the doctors I've had, both pre and post spinal cord injury.  In fact I believe my injury could have been lessened with a more immediate and aggressive response.  My lack of faith in the medical profession prevents me from seeking further and more radical treatment.

When experiencing Spasms, you cannot concentrate or become involved in something as simple as reading a book.  The creepiness robs you of your concentration and you cannot keep you place on a printed page with continual spasms.  You can only lie there and stare at the ceiling -- cursing God for your own existence.

While Paralysis will rob you of mobility, Spasms are what robs the quality of your remaining life! 

*Unauthorized use of Les Edwards art from Uriah Heep's album 'Abominog'

Monday, 8 October 2018

Spinal Cord Injury Recovery -My Story 12 Years Post Injury

Spinal Cord Injury Recovery - My Story 12 Years Post Injury

A while ago I checked the statistics relating to specific spinal cord injury topics I’ve posted and not surprisingly found that Spinal Cord Injury Recovery the most read.  Not surprisingly as anyone who has experienced this life-altering injury desperately hopes that there’s a light at the end of that very dark tunnel.

Do you believe in miracles?... I don’t.

If you were told you won’t get much better and find yourself improving, I attribute that good fortune to medical misdiagnosis of the severity of your injury by your doctor.

If you are a religious person, go ahead and pray to your God---it certainly won’t hurt.  But I personally don’t believe it will help.  After all, where was your God when your injury occurred?

For myself, I don’t believe God had anything to do with my receiving this injury and God will probably offer the same amount of involvement in its healing.

Some more background:

So, first off---all injuries are different, not only in cause but in severity.  Immediately after your injury, were you properly stabilized and moved by properly trained personnel?  How quickly were you diagnosed and received appropriate medical intervention?  How quickly did you receive physiotherapy to keep you limber and maximize your chance of recovery?

As my injury was due to an infection by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, its physical invasion and toxins produced damaged my spinal cord differently than severing, shearing, crushing or even a stroke would.  Even other bacteria or viruses would have damaged differently.  You see, Staph aureus produced a variety of enzymes and toxins that can inhibit the body’s response to the invasion as they damage tissue.  It is my belief that many of my neurological pathways are mostly intact but modified.  The enzymes action on my spinal cord were similar to a solvent being poured over a bundle of insulated wires which when denuded of insulation produce short-circuits.  I can relieve the itch on the bottom of my left foot by scratching my left butt.  Go figure!

I believe most doctors tell the spinal cord injury patient that what they get back in the first few months (six months) is all that they can expect to recover. (I’ve heard a number of variations on the timeline).  Personally, I could not move my knees together more than an inch when discharged after six months.  Movement did not improve until the eighth month when the inflammation from my infection subsided.  I believe my injury would not have been so great if the inflammation could have been reduced much sooner.  The body produces inflammation to swell the tissues thereby localizing the injury or abscess.  However, that same inflammation may also restrict the body’s cellular defenses against the infection, constrict blood flow to the area and the physical swelling may further damage surrounding tissues.

My injury (infection) occurred at the T-5 to T-7 area.

Only after 8 months post-injury, as inflammation subsided, did motion slowly begin to return to below my waist.  The downside to that is that the same pathways carry the sensory (pain) signals and I began experiencing the burning neurogenic pain.  Spasms became more pronounced at that time as well.

I was lucky as my employer’s benefit package included unlimited physiotherapy of which I took full advantage.  One hour sessions three times a week was recommended.  I received physiotherapy in a hospital setting for two full years and then for a number of months longer at a private physiotherapy clinic.  I believed that I had come as far as I was ever going to recover after some two to three years post injury.

Still, I joined a gym and utilized whatever equipment I could---about two hours at a time, twice a week for another two years in hopes of staying limber.  The gym I attended began changing out equipment to models my limited motion prevented me from using.  Also personal circumstances limited my attendance to the two years.

Okay---Twelve Years Post Injury:

Neurogenic burning: has been a constant companion ever since the inflammation subsided some eleven years ago.  No better but no worse either.  Gabapenin, Nortriptyline, Amitriptyline and Lyrica have done little if anything to reduce the pain.  Perhaps they reduce the number and intensity of zapping shocks that can spontaneously occur above the steady burn.  At best, the drugs may take the edge off the burning pain but if so, only by a few percent.

Spasms:  Spasms cause limbs to jerk or jump rhythmically---contracting every few seconds and then relaxing---on and on, often for hours until they ran their course.  I found it curious that spasms occur only in one limb at a time but can switch over to the other limb: what (shared) pathway?  Analogies: Is it some sort of feedback loop caused by a ‘dripping’ neurotransmitter---where each ‘overflowing drop’ causes a spasm? Or could is it some ‘electrical spark’ where each ‘zap’ causes the spasm?  Could it be a combination of the two?

What triggers spasms to start or to finally run their course and subside?  They seem to come from nowhere and seem unaffected by work or rest; leg position (sitting or lying), temperature, nor any other physical condition of note. While they could occur at any time of the day, they most certainly will start in the evening.  My spasms usually last no less than an hour but usually several hours at a time.  The longest stretch of continuous spasms was for eight hours.  Sometimes putting pressure on the limb (foot) can help eliminate the spasm---stand up if able or if sitting have your feet on the floor and lean forward.

Initially, once the spasms finished, they let me sleep in peace and did not appear again until the next day or evening.  Around nine years post-injury, the frequency of spasms increased. I began experiencing spasms throughout the night, often when lying too long on one side or the other---however these spasms were short-lived meaning, unlike the long-lived spasms of the day, they usually subsided on changing position.

Nine years post injury I began to experience what I called ‘Atomic Spasms’.  These spasms were so explosively violent that the one leg or the other would contract to the limit yet the muscles tried to go even further feeling as if the leg would be pulled from the hip socket.  ‘Atomic Spasms’ produced excruciating pain as the body felt as it was attempting to tear itself apart.  My ‘Atomic Spasms’ lasted for about a year and half or two years then disappeared.  (Regular rhythmic spasms still occurred throughout this time period)  I have no idea why the ‘Atomic Spasms’ began then disappeared except that they started shortly after I left the gym and perhaps there was some reaction to the cessation of strenuous exercise.

On discharge from the hospital I was placed on the maximum oral dosage of Baclofen with Valium added in an attempt to control my spasms.  I continue to take the Baclofen however the Valium was discontinued early on.  I feel the Baclofen has little effect on spasms if defined as the rhythmic contraction and relaxation (jerking) of a limb.  What it seems to do is reduce some tightness in the limbs.  I found when I attempted to wean myself off the Baclofen that my legs drew together and attempted to cross making it more difficult to separate the legs into a ‘jumping-jack’ position.

Defined as knowing where your limb is in space without looking at it.  Proprioception was lost with the injury but slowly began to return after the eighth month post-injury, however it did take longer to come back.  I feel I’ve regained most of that particular sense.

Tactile Sensitivity:  I can feel both sensations of touch and temperature in my feet but they are not as quick or as intense as previous to my injury.

Movement:  After my physiotherapy and the independent gym routines, I could walk short distances with a walker with a fairly normal gait.  Even with physiotherapy and the gym, the muscles in the back weaken and want to give out.  While I can stand and even let go of the walker, I cannot recover if I start to waver and drift to any side---front or back.  I describe my sensation as trying to balance a pencil on its eraser---pointed end to the ceiling; not easy to do.  I can stand if braced, reach high or bend to pick up off the floor.   I can just about do anything other than walk away from my wheelchair.

Stiffness: I have an overall stiffness which seems greater than what can be accounted for neurologically. By that I mean in twisting my trunk about my waist, I feel that neurologically I can twist further but that the tissues (muscles, ligaments, etc.) are restricting the movement.  If this is not a neurological deficiency then the muscles, tendons and ligaments have shortened or stiffened to limit the range of motion.  Further evidence is that Baclofen has no effect on this stiffness.  If this is the reason then why didn’t two years of physiotherapy and two years of independent gym activity stretch the connective tissues back to normal?  Perhaps I’ve developed “contractures” which roughly is the ‘gluing’ of one layer of tissue to another so that they essentially become fused and may require surgery to be separated.  The Achilles’ tendons also shortened while during my six-month hospital bed confinement.  Again, physiotherapy and gym routines plus day to day standing have not returned the Achilles tendons to their normal length.  While I can stand, the short Achilles point the toes downward and always want to push me backwards.

Other: body/bathroom functions are unaffected by the injury.  Because I can shift and move around independently, I have no skin issues.  I try to sleep on my sides or stomach to give the backside a break from pressure.

My injury weakened my left side differently than my right.  As a result of a change in muscle strength, I place more pressure on the left hip.  My injury resulted in sciatic nerve pain in my left hip which at times extends to my foot.  A blood vessel must run near the nerve (can’t find my Gray’s Anatomy book) as the pain pulses with every heartbeat.  Sciatic nerve pain is always present but intensifies to excruciating levels about once a week then subsides to a lower level of pain.  Exercise and other physical techniques have not lessened this pain.

Final Thoughts:  I truly feel I would have recovered further if the initial inflammation could have been reduced.  Six months of hospital rehabilitation with one hour physiotherapy five days a week is insufficient in keeping affected limbs limber.  Persistent movement after the initial injury is sufficiently healed would be extremely beneficial.  How can one keep the Achilles tendons from retracting if there is any hope of walking again---some kind of boot keeping the tendon extended?

Once the high-priest of medicine wearing his white lab-coat vestments; a stethoscope in place of a crucifix, and pronounces you a paraplegic, there is not much real effort extended in helping you recover.  Doctors don’t like to be proven wrong.

In the final analysis, my recovery is about the same as when I finished physiotherapy about two to three years post injury.  Spasms, burning, stiffness and, of course paralysis remain,  No other changes or improvements occurred other than the increase of spasms which now also occur during the night into early morning.

Prayers or positive attitude---use whatever means to keep motivated and keep moving.  Just remember, doctors are not always right.

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Pride's Quantum Motor Brushes

Pride's Quantum Motor Brushes and Repairs

Those who have followed the last few posts know that I spent the summer of 2018 a prisoner of my own home as my Quantum 6000 power wheelchair lost power in one motor.  As a result, the chair was unable to climb the ramp into my home.

The right motor being weaker than the left could not even climb the three-quarter inch raised transition leading to my washroom.  Both wheels would hit that lip but while the right wheel continued to climb over, the left wheel lacked power and subsequently the chair would swivel into, and crash into the right wall.  I needed someone to push the chair over the rise in order to enter.

When first diagnosed, I was told the joystick 'gimbal' was out of alignment so that power was not distributed evenly to the motors.  That didn't sound right to me but the technician told me he measured the motors and they were "bang-on" factory specifications.  So I laid out $900+ dollars for a new joystick.

After waiting a month for the parts and service the new joystick was installed yet the power issue remained.

It was a second technician who installed the joystick and as the problem remained the new assessment was that one motor was not operating properly.

Bingo!  That was my initial thought, yet the first technician said motors were within factory specifications.

The second technician then brought my attention to a damaged 'cap', for lack of a better term, which held one of four motor brushes against the motor armature.  If the first technician did not report this damage, I figure it was he who damaged it.  Regardless, only the slot was broken which is used to unscrew the 'cap' from the motor housing.  The brush still made contact and could not account for the power loss.

So, after initially being told the motors were working fine (though I doubted that), I was told I needed a new motor.  I was advised that if I replaced one, I might as well replace both to be safe---which I chose to do.

Another month passed: up to a week to place the order, two weeks to ship and receive the order and then a week to ten days to wait in queue until a technician is free to install the items.

I spent two months---the 21st of June until the 30th of August unable to leave my house with my powerchair.  Repairs, both unnecessary and necessary amounted to over $3000.00 Cnd.

 Broken brush 'plug' can be see at the end of the top red arrow.  The brush assembly is seen below.  The 4 per motor carbon/metal composite (?) brushes conduct electrical current to the motor.  The brush is sandwiched between a spring which presses it against the armature, and the cap which secures it to the motor.

While it turned out the brushes were not the source of my motor power issue, they are not stocked by the company and as far as I was able to determine from my technician, Pride does not offer replacement brushes.  If they fail, you buy a new motor.

My technician confirmed that motors are not interchangeable so you can't change the housing and swap a left motor for a right if you had a spare.  Damaged motors are not rebuilt or repaired but are trashed.  Some 'Green' world we live in!

A closer view of the cap and spring-brush assembly which fits into the port/hole in the motor above.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Repair Timetable -Is this Acceptable?

The Summer of 2018:  The summer I spent indoors, a prisoner of my failing powerchair and my wheelchair repair service.

Again I ask --- what length of time would you be willing to wait to get your only pair of shoes repaired or replaced?  Hmmmmm?

Prisoner:  Summer of 2018 spent indoors.

My last two posts (1) & (2) have outlined my frustration in having my Quantum 6000 wheelchair's power issues resolved in a timely manner.  My frustration continues...

My wheelchair repair service is by all accounts a reputable company and franchise.  I understand their own dilemma, having acquired most, if not all of Shopper's Home Healthcare services when they divested their company of wheelchair sales and service.  Retaining qualified technicians also appears to be a challenge.  Sick days and summer vacations have also been offered as excuses.
Unfortunately they are the only service in 'town' covering a very large part of southern Ontario.

1. Thursday June 21st, 2018 - call Service Provider requesting service on loss of power from my Quantum 6000.  Got lucky as it usually takes a week or so to get a technician to make a house call.  They promise to send one next day.

2. Friday, June 22nd, 2018 - Service Technician promptly calls in the A.M. and searches for cause of the power issues with my powerchair.  Chair runs fairly well on a flat surface.  Powerchair can no longer climb the ramp.  Have to compensate loss of power by pushing joystick to the left.  Chair struggles in left-hand turns (where right wheel pushes).  Climbing the smallest bump or ledge, the left wheel has power and climbs; the right wheel hits and stalls --- which pivots me around the stalled tire --- into walls if nearby.

Technician measures motors and tells me they are within factory specification.  Doesn't have the meter to plug into joystick to measure stored parameters.  Technician leaves after almost two hours --- for another job.  Problem unresolved.

3. Call Service Provider --- send technician with 16 years experience to complete diagnosis; has meter to diagnose parameters stored in joystick.  Technician states that problem is the joystick controller.  Doesn't provide full power on an incline when pushed to max,  (then why does it run reasonably well on a flat surface?)  Service technician orders new joystick.  Asked him if he could place a "rush" request on that order.

4. Monday July 2nd, 2018 - Service Provider calls asking if I want to go through with this pricey order ($921.00 Cnd.).  "What choice do I have?", I asked politely - this chair is 'my legs'.  I thought they were calling to tell me the parts were in,  It took a week for them to call to verify if I wished to proceed with the "rush" order.  Secretary tells me it usually takes two weeks for the parts to arrive.  I again plead if a request to "rush" can be requested.

5. Tuesday July 10th, 2018,  I subsequently receive the invoice for the parts ordered dated July 10th.  Stapled to it is a printed cashier's tape receipt of the stated amount having been made on my charge card.  It appears the service department actually put the charge through on my credit card one week before calling to ask my okay to do so.  I'm confused.

6. Monday July 16th, 2018 - Two weeks have passed.  I call my Service Provider asking if the parts requested have arrived.  The confirm that the parts are in but inform me that I cannot get a technician for over a week.  Book the appointment

7. Friday July 27th, 2018 - Service technician with 16 years experience arrives to replace joystick (and connecting cable).  Repairs made; problem remains $921.00 later.  Technician notices right motor has damage to the 'plug' (for lack of a better name) which holds the brush contact for the motor.  (Why was this not noticed by the first tech (or the second for that matter) who measured the motors and found them within factory specification.)  Did the techs damage the brushes when examining them?  This brush plug or housing is protected by the tire on one side and the motor engagement lever on the other.  It would be difficult if not impossible for the wheelchair user to damage.

Technician with 16 years experience suggests I get a new motor.  Then it is my call; do I wish to replace the other motor at the same time because "when one goes, the other may not be far behind."  While that may be true, this was not wear and tear but rather physical damage.  What choice do I have?  Well, I don't want to spend the summer of 2019 waiting to replace the other motor so I okay the deal.  Please, please, PLEASE - can you put a rush order on the parts as I want to salvage some of this summer.

8. Thursday August 8th, 2018 - Service Provider calls me to ask if I still wish to go through with the pricey purchase; $2120.00.  Again I ask "what choice do I have?  These are my legs!"  So, one week after the 2nd diagnosis is made and my "rush" plea is made, I'm called to ask if I still want to go through with the order.   "Yes, I do" I whimper and again, futility request the make it a 'rush' order.  I try to guess when the parts may arrive based on their previous timetable - two weeks would be the 16th of August, three on the 23rd of August.

9. Monday August 20th, 2018 - I call service provider to ask if ordered parts have arrived at their facility.  "Yes" I'm told "they are in and we have you scheduled for a service call on August 30th" --- TEN days from today!  I wonder when the parts actually arrived and was the wait for a service call longer than ten days.  My pathetic request for a "Rush" order had me waiting three weeks!

10.  Thursday August 30th, 2018 - Service provider arrives on-time and installs the two motors necessitating taking almost all of the chair apart.
   -2 Motors = $980.00 each
   -2 Wheel Assembly Hubs =  $40.00 each
   -1 Hour labour = $80.00
   -Total = $2120.00

Thankfully the correct parts were shipped and the chair does now run to my satisfaction.

One-Sixth of a Year has Passed
Since I first Called for Service
and my Wheelchair was Repaired!

Add that charge to my needless Joystick replacement (and labour) and you have a total of $3041.00.   Urgh@$&**!  And summer is gone...

So if it takes two weeks to get delivery of the parts (as nobody stocks the most common parts for the most common of wheelchairs any longer);  and if my "rush" request is laughed away ---  then I might expect delivery around August 16th of this year and perhaps another week, August 23rd to have a technician install them.

June 21st to perhaps August 23rd to (hopefully) get this chair running again.  How long is too long to get timely service for a disabled member of society?

I spent $921.00 needlessly as it was not the source of the problem I had called about.  Several years ago I had pinched the joystick-cable connector in a doorway and cracked the locking tab.  I had taped up the connector and it worked flawlessly ever since.  It may have still done so until I retired this chair but now I'll never know.

I live in a rather rural area and am fairly able bodied so I do work around the property.  I wish to keep this Quantum running as long as possible to be used outdoors and around my shop.  I also want that second powerchair so that I never again am held prisoner by my chair, nor my Service Provider.

The house in which I now reside is a ranch style built in the early 1960's.  The doorways are narrow (and now scarred by my strikes -another post).  My manual chair with canted-wheels cannot make it through the openings.  At present, this Quantum 6000 is my only option.

By the way, I have put in a request for an evaluation for a new powerchair.  I did so over a month ago when I was told I would be added to a waiting list a month long.

I Spent the Summer of 2018
A Prisoner of my House!

*   *   *

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Greed, Engineering Stupidity? - Your Call...

Greed, Engineering Stupidity? - Your Call...

A day after having my Quantum 6000's joystick controller replaced, I'm still fuming that the diagnosis of my chair's power issue was incorrect and that I was stuck with a $921.00 bill for a component that was well used but entirely functional.

The new $921.00 joystick control unit,

My previous tech informed me that the Permobil control unit was built in China.  I imagine the Quantum is also a Chinese product.  Why China?  Well, for one reason alone - to save money for the manufacturer; not the client!

I suspect that the unit costs in the neighbourhood of $10.00 to mass produce and I'm probably overestimating.  Three film pressure switches; a row of LED lights; the gimbal joystick and a few chips and microprocessors within housing of recycled plastic.  Tack on the cost of shipping in overseas containers (literally a slow boat from China) and mark the product up 100%.  Stockholders and investors will be pleased.  The CEO can buy another Mercedes.

I can purchase an audiophile quality stereo component for about the same price as my joystick controller --- and it has a significantly greater number of electronic chips, components and circuitry than does the joystick.  Market size for these exotic components are probably smaller as well --- a poor excuse.

How can the cost be justified when many of the disabled relying on these products are destitute, unemployed, have no private insurance coverage and no huge wrongful injury settlement.  Well, the government will pay --- so jack up the price.  Remember it is not the government, but the taxpayer that pays and that means most of us.

So after they misdiagnosed my power issue, I was told I needed a new motor to replace the damaged one (the one which measured "bang-on" company specs a month ago)

The problem is that the small round housing holding one of the motor's brushes is cracked.  But you cannot replace the brush --- individual motor brushes are not marketed so you have to replace the whole motor.

'Can you imagine having to replace your car engine because you need new spark plugs?'

As I lamented in my previous post --- can you imagine needing a new spark-plug for your car and you're told the only way to get a new spark-plug is to install a new engine!

Technicians tell me that the motors are not repaired but are scrapped.  Crushed, ground up and melted to recover the metals.

A throw-away society that congratulates itself on being environmentally green!  Yeah, I'll light a candle for that during Earth Hour!

The engineering geniuses also designed motors that are not reversible; left can not be swapped for right or vice-versa.  Why?  As I understand it, they are attached to a frame or housing which only fits one side. Twice the needed inventory space makes no sense. (more on that further below). 

The Dual Quantum motors are indicated by the red arrows.  The also point to the lever which engages or disengages the motor from the wheelchair (so it can be manually pushed).  Simply flipping the motor over to the opposite side would put the leaver facing inward.  Can the black cap on the rear of the motor be unscrewed and flipped around to make the motor interchangeable?  Can a left motor be mounted in the right motor's housing?  I never received a clear answer from my tech.  I suspect it is not that easy,

When the motor(s) failed on my Permobil, they specifically ordered a left (or right) motor.  Is it different for the Quantum?

My issues are not with the Quantum chair, nor Pride which is the parent company.  This Quantum was given to me free of charge by a sympathetic friend and the chair was old with worn parts that would last an unknown duration.  It is well past its life expectancy but I wish to keep it going for heavy use outside around the garden and garage.

My final gripe is that nobody stocks parts any longer because of the cost of storage of a variety of parts that may or may not at some time be needed.  Very little is kept at the shop.  Everything seems to be ordered by carrier pigeon and shipped by that 'slow boat from China'.  No faxing orders --- no overnight courier shipping.  The client can wait --- they're disabled and have no life anyway.

You can't sell what you don't stock!  Unfortunately, with Shopper's Home Healthcare out of the wheelchair business (though they were incompetent), there is no alternative to turn to and therefore no competition,  Companies competing for clients would keep each other on their toes and serve their clients better.

Am I bitter?  Hell yes!  The franchise in this city is not run as efficiently as the previous one of the same name in my previous town.  Now that Shopper's Home Healthcare has divested itself of wheelchairs they are the only game in town.  There is no competition.  Service lags, long wait times for service and technicians are stressed.  It's a formula for disaster.

This chair will no longer climb my ramp and I was advised not to "push it" as it may fail altogether before replacement motors are available.

2018 may be the summer I spend indoors.

*   *   *

Friday, 27 July 2018

Summer Still Keeps Slipping Away

Summer Still Keeps Slipping Away
After waiting for One-Twelfth of a year I'm
Still A Prisoner of my Broken Powerchair

In my previous post I wrote about the power issues which suddenly developed in my Quantum 6000 power wheelchair.

Today marks a month to the day since the power issue was supposedly diagnosed and solution (replacement parts) recommended.  The technician arrived and replaced the suspect parts yet the problem remains.

 Will I also be a prisoner of Autumn?
I was a prisoner of summer from June 27th through to today, July 27th.
After waiting one-twelfth of a year (one month) for repairs --- and after a $921.00 replacement joystick (plus labour), the original problem remains.

To quickly review:  My Quantum suddenly developed power issues most noticeable when climbing the ramp to my home.  Where before it barely slowed when on the incline, suddenly it struggled and I had to compensate by pushing the joystick to the left.

The tech(s) (it took two) who diagnosed the problem inspected and measured the motors and said they were within factory specifications.  I was told the problem was the joystick which may not have been telling the motors to apply full power when pushed forward to the max.  I may have had to push the joystick to the left because the joystick's gimbal was no longer centered --- or such explanation.

I had once crunched the cord connector linking the joystick to the electronic control module at the rear of the powerchair.  Still, I had taped it up securely and it never failed to provide an electrical connection.

I had my doubts as to the joystick causing the power issue as the Quantum had plenty of speed and power when not on an incline.

 New $921.00 Cnd. (plus labour) joystick did not solve the power issue as the technician's diagnosis suggested.  A month later, back to Square One!

As the Quantum powerchair was being returned for my assessment, the technician noticed some damage to a motor brush housing which had not been noted by either technician, a month ago when one of the fellows tested the motors.  How this damage could have occurred is puzzling as the motor brushes are virtually flush with the motor itself and protected by the tire on one side and the lever which engages the motor on the other side.

 After completing repairs which did not solve my power issue, the technician noticed that one of the motor brush housings was damaged --- not noticed a month ago when they examined and measured the motors,  The red arrow at the bottom shows the damaged brush housing or plug which holds one of the brushes against the motor thereby providing power.  At the upper right of the photo is an enlarged view of the damage (arrow -half broken away).  The remaining arrow, pointing left, shows what an undamaged brush housing looks like.  The logical and sane solution would be to unscrew and replace all (4?) brushes per motor with new ones.  The repair would cost a few dollars (before mark-up by the greedy health care and manufacturing system!

So, the only recourse I was offered was to purchase a new motor to replace the damaged brush housing (for lack of a better description).  I was told the brush could not be replaced as they don't make replacements.  (how about an old discarded motor?)  To replace the brush --- you replace the whole motor.

Can you imagine having to replace your car's motor because you need new spark-plugs???  Urgh%#@*!

Not only that, but if one motor is worn --- or is failing, the other probably is reaching the end of its useful life.

This chair is my legs!  I have no choice but to order two new motors (about $!K each) after paying $921.00 for a joystick which I may or may not have needed.  Will it take yet another month (up to September) to get the motors?

So I remain a prisoner of my legs; of a malfunctioning wheelchair; of technicians who could not properly diagnose the problem; of the wheelchair repair franchise that cannot stock common parts nor order them in a timely manner; of the greedy manufacturers of medical devices; and remain a prisoner of my home while the summer of 2017 slips away outdoors.

*   *   *