Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Permobil Facilities and My Thoughts on Quality

My Permobil M300 power wheelchair has been a DISASTER.  There is no other way to describe it.  I have had to replace just about every part on this chair which is now approaching only its fourth year of service.  With all the parts and repairs (excluding worn tires), this chair has cost me well over $4000.00 to repair since I purchased it.  That is just about my total cost of the chair after Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program (ADP) subsidization paid for three-quarters of the total price tag.  That is not a good deal for either me or ADP.

It does not matter if I had a big legal settlement for some wrongful injury case.  It does not matter if I am financially well off and can afford it.  It does not matter if I have insurance that covers the cost of repairs.  This poor quality in a product is inexcusable whether for the average citizen, or the most vulnerable in society, the disabled.

I have previously asked “why are wheelchair components not made from medical or military grade components?”  Would the cost be so high as to be prohibitive?  Would the costs exceed what it costs to constantly fix and replace wheelchair components?  

Is it in reality “built in obsolescence”?  Are products deliberately manufactured to fail after a certain point so that the product has to be continually serviced or replaced?  You bet they are!  Companies aren’t worried.  If I’m angry at company ‘A’ and now take my business to company ‘B’, there is someone who is equally mad at company ‘B’ and swears to take their business to company ‘A’.  Status Quo!  You can’t win!

Why does Permobil, and to my knowledge all other power wheelchair manufacturers, only offer one (1) year warranty on their products?  Do they really have so little confidence in their products?  Probably, knowingly, Yes!  Company 'A' would say "company 'B' only offers one year, why should we offer more"?  Collusion!  Why not be better than your competition and draw more clients?  Compete for excellence, not mediocrity!  No, stay the course as there is more money to be found in planned obsolescence and frequent repairs.  My repair service tells me that motors are not rewound;  $650 faulty circuit boards do not have the malfunctioning 1/100th of a penny resistor replaced -parts aren't repaired, they are scrapped -discarded as there is greater profit in selling the client a new part at full price!  So much for a green policy...

Companies will tell you that if they built a ‘widget’ that lasted 25 years, that the product would saturate the market and nobody would buy ‘widgets’ any longer until theirs broke.  The company would go out of business!!  So feel good about your broken ‘widget’.  By constantly fixing or replacing it, you are keeping your fellow man employed!  What an exemplary citizen you are!!

Why doesn't Permobil keep an inventory of parts for their wheelchairs here in Canada so that parts can be supplied in a timely manner?  Why?  Probably because the parts are outrageously expensive and they don't wish to have 'money' sitting on the repair shop shelf until needed. Idle parts on the shelf are parts not making money; siting on shelves where they take up more space (real estate) that translates into greater rent.  'Fulfillment on demand' is the current business strategy which benefits the supplier and rarely the consumer.  That's how MBAs earn their keep.

Not one proprietary part required for my many repairs was stocked in Canada.  I wonder how many Permobil powerchairs are in use in Canada?  (See bottom of post where Permobil has a Facebook page.  They had to have given themselves a '5 Stars' rating as at the writing of this post there was only one entry and that was from a fellow in P.E.I. asking why it takes so long to get parts!!)  Shame!

I’m cynical after my years on this planet.  I believe they think that their money is in my pocket and that they want it!!

Still, until this last time (motor power control module), the chair has always gotten me to where I was going.  It has never left me stranded in public (though some close calls).  Then why, some ask, are you complaining?  Well, if you bought a new car from the dealership and soon afterwards the doors fell off, the trunk wouldn’t close, the windshield popped off, hubcaps and trim were lost –would you still be happy if someone piped up and exclaimed “what’s the problem?  It still got you to your destination”.  Or would you just run them over with your chair?

If Permobil feels they produce a superior product, then how do you explain my experience with their product.  A chair used almost entirely indoors on flat even surfaces?  My service person suggested the chair may have been manufactured on a Monday or Friday – implying that workers are either still ‘hung over’ from the weekend, or eagerly awaiting the weekend to get drunk.  I might have bought this theory if every component of the chair was made by the same drunk on the same day.  I strongly suspect that different parts are made by different facilities by different drunks on different days.

So, I began to wonder why every component that was required to repair my chair (except tires), had to be ordered from the Permobil facility in Lebanon, Tennessee, U.S.A.?

I look up Permobil’s Canadian address and am surprised that they occupy only one small unit in a tiny strip mall in Aurora Ontario, north of Toronto.  And this is the only Canadian facility!  From Sea to Shining Sea!!  It is probably the size of your local convenience store.  I suspect there is no room for parts inventory, but more likely, it is too costly for Permobil (or my service company) keep a stock of these overly expensive parts in Canada. 

 Permobil Canada -75 Mary Street, Aurora, Ontario Canada

So whether you live in British Columbia on the west coast, or Prince Edward Island on the east coast, or like me in central Ontario, Unit #4 in Aurora is your Permobil source.  Coast to coast, if you need a Permobil part it will probably have to be shipped from the U.S. facility in Lebanon, Tennessee.

I thought I’d Google the Tennessee Permobil site to see if it is larger than a convenience kiosk.  Sure enough it does appear to be a ‘stand-alone’ dedicated plant. 

 Permobil U.S.A. - 300 Duke Drive, Lebanon, Tennessee, U.S.A.
I really do hope that next time, as I’m  sure there will be a next time with my chair, they get the paperwork correct and the desperately required part is not turned around at the border as my power control module was.

I never had considered contacting them directly for an explanation.  Maybe I should.. 

Permobil has a Facebook Page –one entry, a complaint, as of this blog post

Permobil Canada Website – very impressive, even if my Permobil M300 wheelchair is not.

*   *   *

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Yet More Permobil Problems

It just seems to be never ending! Permobil problem, after problem, after problem!!

Both left and right drive motors failed, one after the other,  in January of 2016 on this Permobil M300 power wheelchair which is not even four years old.  I have replaced just about everything except three castor wheels and the metal frame.

Today I pulled up to my desk to do some work at the computer.  I did not turn the chair off.  Some time later I tried to back away from the desk but the chair simply swiveled.  The left wheel turned but the right did not.  No sound from the chair, no 'problem' indicator lights on the joystick controller; the chair simply would not drive in anything but circles.

I first checked that there were no obstructions caught up in the wheel; a throw rug has rarely become entangled.  My wife checked with a flashlight and verified that the wheel was unobstructed.  Next, I toggled the motors to manual so that they would be disconnected from the  the drive gears.  The chair rolled perfectly fine when pushed - again, no obstructions.  Re-engaging the motors did not reset them; the Permobil still turned circles.  Wiring harness seems secure.  Nothing else that I can think of which I could do personally.

It is as if the right motor simply does not get any electrical power, so will not turn.

This chair has not left the house since both motors were changed. It is used gently on hard flooring and low pile carpeting. Still, something breaks, jams or falls off every three weeks to a month.  I am not eligible for a new powerchair for another two years.  I'm sure my repair shop thinks I'm lonely and break my chair so as to have the company of the serviceman.  I'm certain my insurance company thinks I'm sabotaging my chair.  Nothing of the sort!! It is just an damn crappy product!!!

Service call is booked for tomorrow,  8:00 am Thursday, April 7th.  Can they fix it on the spot?  Is it a bum motor which has to be ordered from Tennessee again?  Do I have to balance my cup of coffee on my forehead to bring it back to my room using the manual wheelchair?  We shall see....

April 7th, 2016
Service technician arrives and inspects Permobil wheelchair.  First impression is that the new motor was defective and short-circuited internally.  On further inspection with measuring instruments finds that the right motor is getting a fraction of the power of the left motor.  Suspects that it is the 'computer' board module located within the base of the wheelchair.  Service person takes wheelchair with him to the repair shop.

Graphic Example -Not a Permobil Board
Later in the day I get a call from the service repair supervisor who knows my ongoing problems with this chair and commiserates.  He informs me that the controller is indeed damaged and has to be replaced.  Once again, the item is not stocked in this city, province or country, and has to be obtained from the state of Tennessee in the United States.  He places a rush order on the part, however, from previous experience, even with faxed orders and courier shipping, I will be wheeling manually for the next four to five days (as a weekend is near).

Then 'the second shoe drops' -the cost is about $650 Cnd.  My insurance company must love me...

With no on-board computer controlling the electrical distribution to the motors, I ain't going anywhere!

Update: April 20th, 2016

So, for the last two weeks I have been rolling around using my manual chair, patiently waiting for the part to arrive from Permobil in Lebanon Tennessee.  In the first four months of this new year of 2016,  the Permobil power wheelchair has been inoperative for one full month -One quarter of the time, it has not run this year!!

Motion specialties has been great in ordering parts and making the repairs - unlike Shoppers Home Healthcare (Shoppers We Don't Care).  I would expect that by faxing or e-mailing "rush" orders, and overnight courier shipping, that the part should arrive here in Ontario quite quickly.  Now approaching two weeks without and update, I call up Motion Specialties and find out that the part, the electronic controller module, was turned back at the border.

This is a controller board for a wheelchair!  I'm not purchasing computer modules for Syrian missile guidance systems!!

I hope that Permobil U.S. can fill out the paperwork properly this time.

I've been promised the wheelchair tomorrow, a full two weeks after calling for service.  The replacement controller module has been priced at $650.00 Cnd.  To repeat, in the first four months of this year, the Permobil has been nonoperational for one month or one quarter of the elapsed time.  The two replacement motors and now the controller module have added up to over $3250.00 in repairs for a wheelchair that is now only approaching four years of service.

I should have ordered a new joy stick at the same time as it, the steel frame and three of four castor wheels are all that remains unchanged from my original purchase!

What a piece of junk!!

Update -April 26th, 2016

The controller arrived from the U.S. and was installed by my repair service technician at their shop.  However, after the chair was returned to me, I discovered that the module hadn't been programmed properly.  Previously my chair had five power or speed settings however it was returned to me with only the first two speed options available.  This is fine around the house but not if I were to take this chair outside for a longer trip.  This was the fault of my service provider and not Permobil.  My wheelchair service provider, Motion Specialties, quickly sent another technician to adjust the computer program so as to deliver all five power/speed settings.

One issue that could not be adjusted was the automatic  power shut down. Previously I could leave my chair powered up all day.  Now the chair's power controller turns the chair's power off if the chair is not moved in 30 minutes.  While not a big deal, I do find this annoying.  I often work at my desk, working on the computer etc. where I may sit for a period of time and then adjust my position for other tasks or better accessibility.  I now reach for my joy stick and find the chair turned off.  I have to start the chair up again and wait for some 5 seconds for it to go through its self check before being able to move.

Perhaps Permobil believes the shut-down feature is for safety. I really can't see how.  As for power consumption -when left on, all the battery powers is a small LED indicator light showing that the chair is on.  This LED light could not drain the battery if the chair was left on for a full year!

Just annoying as your car might be if it shut off after a certain period of time stuck in motionless traffic jam or at a slowly moving drive-thru service.  The 5 second self check is also annoying.  While that time does subtract much from my day, it is nevertheless annoying.  Just imagine if every time you wanted to stand up you had to wait five seconds from initial thought to action.  That would piss you off too...

So, another $650.00 Cnd spent to keep this jalopy running.  For how long is yet to be seen... 

*   *   *

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Marijuana: Recreational Drug or Serious Medicine?

Just think if Aspirin gave a buzz in addition to relieving headaches.  You might be accused of wanting a high rather than just trying to stop you head from pounding.  You may never have seen it  in your medicine cabinet.

Why are governments, health advocates and doctors so reluctant to accept marijuana/cannabis as a potent legitimate medicine which just happens to have pleasurable side effects?  High-browed officials exhibit shortsightedness and prejudice simply because the substance may have first used recreationally.  Governments and much of the medical establishment see tie-dyed draped, head band wearing, long haired hippies toking away on a giant doobie whenever they hear the word “marijuana”.   “Far-out, man!”

I grew up in the 1960s and many of my idols were of that generation indulging in ‘free love’, psychedelic music, and ‘high times’.  Jim Morrison of the Doors was notorious for always being high.  Paul McCartney of the Beatles was arrested for carrying ‘pot’.  Jimi Hendrix smoked marijuana and died the victim of harder drugs.  My immediate friends all smoked dope and peer pressure was always there to join in.  Yet I resisted and got through the ‘60’s (and to the present) without sampling the wicked weed!

As a victim of a spinal cord injury in 2006, I have lived every day since with severe neurogenic nerve pain, a sensation almost impossible to describe with any accuracy or degree of severity.  Along with the intense and constant nerve pain are the paralytic spasms causing limbs to rhythmically contract and relax, sometime violently, often for hours on end.  There is also the rigidity or tightness (tone) in the affected muscles impedes motion and restricts flexibility.  Marijuana’s primary active ingredient of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and perhaps other constituents has been shown to have a positive effect, reducing all these symptoms significantly.

While I survived the 1960s without trying marijuana,  I would light up immediately if I could get relief from the extreme pain and extensive discomfort I have lived with every second of every hour of every day for the last ten years!!!  Yet how do I approach my doctor for a script, a prescription when many do not wish to get involved or become “pushers”.  How do you shop around for an open-minded doctor when so few physicians are taking on new patients during the doctor drought in my province?  I too have listened too intently to the negative hype and feel embarrassed to ask?  Yet if I could only get some relief!!!!

A National Post article[i] of October 30th, 2011 reports on a Canadian Medical Association Journal study from 2011 that involved 21 patients with neuropathic pain — a common and dreaded condition that causes electric, stabbing pain found that smoked cannabis at low doses reduces pain, improves mood and helps sleep, without making people high. All had “refractory” pain, meaning pain that had defied all traditional treatments.  For patients for whom the treatment works, cannabis can achieve about 30 per cent reduction in pain intensity.

A Toronto Star Article[ii] of May 14th, 2012 relates a University of California study which found that marijuana helps relieve pain and muscle tightness in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) sufferers.  Smoking marijuana can relieve muscle tightness, spasticity (contractions) and pain often experienced by those with multiple sclerosis, says research out of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

As you can see, paralysis victims suffer many of the same neurological symptoms as MS sufferers.

Continuing: Rather than rely on self-reporting by patients regarding their muscle spasticity — a subjective measure — health professionals rated each patient’s joints on the modified Ashworth scale, a common objective tool to evaluate intensity of muscle tone.

The researchers found that the individuals in the group that smoked cannabis experienced an almost one-third decrease on the Ashworth scale — 2.74 points from a baseline score of 9.3 — meaning spasticity improved, compared to the placebo group. As well, pain scores decreased by about 50 per cent.

A Daily Mail Online U.K. article[iii] reports of a study published in ‘The Journal of Pain’ suggesting medical marijuana reduces the use of prescription opioids (up to 64%) in those patients battling chronic pain. The findings suggest that prescribing medical marijuana instead of painkillers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, may help tackle the opioid epidemic that’s currently sweeping the United States (and other countries).  In addition to lower consumption of opioids, the patients in the study also reported fewer side effects from their medications. Furthermore, they reported an overall 45 per cent improvement in quality of life since using marijuana to manage their pain. 

Numerous additional sources and credible studies suggest similar benefits however I know of no large scale national evaluation of marijuana as a serious medicine which has been performed and recognized by government regulating agencies.  Perhaps the negative stigma is to blame.
The previously cited National Post article states that “No drug company wants to evaluate smoked marijuana as a medicine because there’s no money in it for them.”

Other problems remain even after medical and/or recreational usage is legalized.  Who will be eligible? Standardization -what dosage? Who can prescribe?  Can doctors opt out if dissenting? Who will be authorized to dispense the drug – drug stores or possibly liquor stores?  Medical or recreational –Taxation?  Will home grown plants be legal and allowed?

A London (Ontario) Free Press article[iv] from February 24th of 2016 relates: A staffer at the Organic Traveller store in London, Oakes said customers tell him they pay $12 to $16 a gram for approved, greenhouse-grown, poor-quality marijuana, when the street value of home grown is $10 a gram or less.  If people have the capability of producing their own medicine, and more cheaply, he said, “Why, in a free and democratic society, can’t we do that?” 

The article goes on to say that Shoppers Drug Mart has shown interest in dispensing medical (and recreational?) marijuana when finally legalized and dispensing guidelines established.  I truly hope it will not be Shoppers Drug Mart as the total incompetence they exhibited in providing service for the wheelchairs they sold under Shoppers Home Healthcare has me cringe.  You can read about my problems in a previous blog post entitled ‘If You WantService Like This, I Recommend…’

How many people are we speaking of?  The previous National Post articles states that as of Sept. 30, 2011, 12,216 people in Canada held authorization to possess marijuana for medical purposes.  The above 2016 London Free Press article states that as many as 40,000 Canadians have prescriptions for medicinal marijuana.

I have a hard time accepting these figures as that would mean that the number of people who have obtained prescriptions for medical marijuana in Canada has increased by 28,000 people in the last five years.

Could we really be such a laid back, mellow nation with a bad case of the munchies?

One final note; in adults, marijuana has no serious direct side effects.  It is difficult to overdose on marijuana.  There has never been a proven overdose death directly caused by marijuana in humans.  (Stupidity yes, marijuana No)  You don’t necessarily have to get ‘high’ to reap the benefits.  Low doses of the active ingredient may be all that is required to substantially improve the quality of some patients.  Some have suggested that the drug might eventually be taken orally as a pill rather than through smoking.  As a lifelong non-smoker, that would be fine with me.

I’m stiff, I spasm, I hurt badly.  Where do I sign up for relief?

 *   *   *

A Decade Has Passed

A decade has passed.  It was around this time…late March and early April of 2006 when I went to bed with a backache and woke up a paraplegic.

The dates aren’t exact, whether though pain or feverish fogginess.  I don’t wish to remember details.
I thought it was just another severe backache, the third of such that I’ve experienced over the years.  What caused the backache is also uncertain as I had no recollection of having strained my back through any exertion.   As with the two previous episodes, the pain was so severe that it was excruciatingly difficult to lift my legs to step into my vehicle or into the shower.  It was so incapacitating that I literally had to hold onto the wall to inch my way along.  I thought this episode would pass as the other two had.

My doctor had recently given up his practice and I had yet to find another so I had obtained ‘pain killers’ and a muscle relaxant from a walk-in clinic.  No tests were performed.
Still, I had made it to work that ‘last’ morning to complete a task started the previous day - then left early.  I recall painfully stepping out of my van, not realizing it would be the last time I would exit from the driver’s side.  I made it home and collapsed in bed.

Time passed, I’m not sure how many days….all blurred through my fogginess.  I was so painful to even make a trip to the washroom that I had my wife bring me a container so that I wouldn’t have to make the fifteen foot excursion.   My aim wasn’t always accurate and the bed became additionally damp through sweat.  I recall one attempt to make it to the bath tub for a shower, yet unable to lift my leg high enough to climb in, I returned to my bed in defeat.  I now wonder if taking what shower would have resulted in a different outcome…

Sometime in early April I awoke with the realization that my legs would no longer move.   In disbelief I tried again.  Nothing!   I had my wife call for an ambulance and with that trip, my life changed forever.

Approximate Timeline of Significant Events: 
(for a more accurate timeline, individual previous posts can be followed)

Late May – Early April 2006:  Backache resulted in paralysis.  Diagnosis was a Staphylococcus aureus infection at the T-5 (?) and (?) T-7 spinal vertebrae.  (I’ve heard both anatomical locations mentioned)

April 2006; Spinal surgery to drain abscess followed by six weeks of intravenous antibiotics.

May 2006; wait for admission to Rehabilitation Hospital.

June 2006; admitted to Rehabilitation facility specializing in neurological illnesses and related treatment.

June to November 2006; Begin to receive physiotherapy for one hour daily, weekends excluded.

November 2006; notice the slightest movement in my legs.  Discharged from hospital.

January 2007; Inflammation recedes, and motion from core to legs begins to return.

March 2007 to summer 2010; receive physiotherapy about three times a week at my local community hospital. 
2010; Return to work, part time for two weeks, then full time (8 hour day).  Hospital physiotherapy department no longer accepts outpatients do to downsizing, therefore approach a private physiotherapy clinic for additional treatment.

October 2015; Retire from my employment.

Timeline of “Recovery” or at least changes in mobility, flexibility, pain and other medical sequelae of spinal cord injury.  (may seem somewhat redundant)

Late March or Early April of 2006; Spinal Cord abscess  due to Staphylococcus aureus infection at the T-5 and/or T-7 spinal vertebrae results in paralysis.

November 2006; just before discharge, notice slight motion when trying to draw knees together

January (early) 2007; Inflammation from injury recedes and motion dramatically increases in core and somewhat in legs.

January to March 2007; home therapy by visiting nurse comprised of basic exercises.

Sometime in 2007?;  I was discharged from the hospital with both urinary catheters and laxative 'magic bullets' as the belief was that these functions were lost to the injury.  On discharge, no instructions or expectations were offered.  I soon found that I needed neither of these as I could go fairly normally "on both accounts".  While I may no longer be able to hold it "until my teeth float", all plumbing has returned to normal.

March 2007 to Summer 2010; Physiotherapy at community hospital physiotherapy department strengthens legs and balance.  Improve from basic motion to walking with a walker.

2010; Physiotherapy department no longer accepts outpatients due to downsizing so I approach a nearby private clinic to continue therapy after work.  They can only offer simple therapy (stretching, massage, a crowded room to walk in).  Discontinue professional physiotherapy in spring of 2011 as I can do as much on my own in private.

2010; return to work which consumes a great part of my day.  Difficult to find time and energy for any sustained outside exercise or therapy.

2013; join a private gym to try to maintain and improve on flexibility and mobility.  Some improvement is noted.  Discontinue after two years due to time constraint and other obligations.

October 2015 to present; retired.

So Where Do I ‘Stand’ (?no pun intended?) a Decade Post Injury?

Like all others faced with such a catastrophic injury, my first thought was that “with hard work, I can beat this!”

Well, the bottom line is this; I went from total paralysis from my chest downward to now being able to stand upright unsupported if I first stabilize myself.  I can walk short distances with a walker.  ‘Short’ is hard to define as I really don’t have a longer clear, flat and unobstructed stretch where I can walk.  I have walked with the walker when necessary and climbed steps when I can utilize a handrail.

I can move some toes on each foot.  I have fairly good flexibility, but cannot sit back on my heels.  While I can lift my legs up and down while sitting in my wheelchair, I cannot bend them back while sitting in the same chair – I would have to lie on my stomach in bed to make this motion and I am in that position much less daily.  Those muscles, the ones which also would allow me to stand up naturally, without holding on to anything, remain weak.  This also translates into overall stability.

Core Stability and Tone; Muscles run along your entire frame from feet to shoulders and work in conjunction with each other.  When some are not working normally (normal range), other unaffected muscles will try to compensate but simply cannot work to their full capacity.  When I stand, my core stability is such that I always feel that if I tilt slightly off absolute vertical, that I would find it difficult, if not impossible to correct and would topple over in that direction if not for gripping the walker.  That tautness has not returned to hold me absolutely vertical without a struggle.  My core is tight and it there is a good deal of resistance as I try to twist at my waist.  I can however, bend without any difficulty and am able to pick up a sheet of paper dropped to the floor from my chair.

Proprioception returned slower than my basic mobility but it has returned.  I know where my feet are ‘in space’ although the senses may not be quite as precise as before.  Sensations of pressure and temperature have also returned but again may be somewhat muted or slower in being realized when changed.

Achilles’ Tendons; as mentioned in other posts, the Achilles’ are tight and keep my toes pointing downward towards the floor.  I blame the hospital stay for much of this.  Six months lying in a bed with no pressure on the feet allows the Achilles’ to shorten and retract.  Once they have done so, it is almost impossible to stretch them back out if you are not back on your feet constantly.  It’s a ‘catch-22’ as a recovering paraplegic you cannot be on your feet constantly.  Perhaps if they put your feet in some sort of rigid boot which applies a force preventing this from occurring, recovery would be faster.  However, the hospital had already written me off as to never walking again, so limited therapy was offered.  So, I have tremendous plantar flexion (rotating at the ankle to push down) and can stand on my toes, but while I do have dorsi-fexion (rotating my foot at my ankle upwards), it is not nearly as strong as downwards and toes cannot be raised as high off the floor.

Pain; Pain remains one of my greatest problems.  It is an unseen disability and is therefore hard to impress upon others, even doctors.  Pain so severe that it robs you of your concentration, and steals any remaining quality of life which remains post injury.  Anyone who has followed my posts knows I have severe neurogenic leg pain as well as sciatic nerve pain in my left hip –from both there is no escape.  Medication has little if any effect.

Spasms; what changed in my ninth year of paralysis?  Suddenly a second type of spasm manifested itself which I’ve called “atomic spasms”.  The spasms I endured for the first nine years would make their appearance at any time, however, much more frequently in the evening hours.  One leg or the other would repeatedly contract and relax, over and over, sometimes for a few minutes but more often for hours on end.  Once asleep, they would leave me alone until the next day.  In March of 2015, in addition to the regular spasms, I suddenly experienced these ‘Atomic Spasms’ which explode without warning and hold at the extreme displacement of the limb.  They may even sprain the joint!  They have thrown me from my bed and the limb cannot even be forced down pushing with both hands.  You cannot read, sleep or do any meaningful task while you limb is involuntarily bouncing around on the floor or bed during either spasm.  If I awake at night, I’m afraid to move as they may trigger these atomic spasms to start or resume.

Muscle Memory; a term used to explain your muscles recovering from injury.  It is a fallacy with spinal cord injury.  I couldn’t figure out how to turn over in bed and had to teach myself all over again.  Nothing came back ‘automatically’.

So, the bottom line is this; I am fairly self-sufficient in that I can look after myself without much outside input.  I get up in the morning, make my bed,  take a shower, cook and carry out most other functions independently and without any specialized equipment other than my powerchair.  I returned to work for almost six more years, enduring eight hour days not including travel.  I have yet to re-obtain my driver’s licence and purchase an accessible vehicle (van), primarily due to the costs involved.   I regret that my wife has to take over other duties which used to be mine.  She now does the laundry (yes, I used to do my own), we shop together where I often stopped off after work to pick up necessities.  She mows the lawn and takes out the garbage.  I try to step in and help where I can.

What’s to come?
Who knows?  Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be spending my last days in life bound to a wheelchair.  I am stubborn and thought if I fought the good fight, I would overcome this disability.  I will continue to try to walk more, each and every day.  I should get to a pool where the buoyancy would assist my attempts to walk.  I am hoping to put together a home gym.

Final Note;
I own a two story house with bedrooms on the second floor.  Since coming home from the hospital, I’ve lived in our living room as my bed room.  I have command of three main floor rooms (not counting the washroom). The house was in the midst of repainting and redecoration when I became disabled.  Sadly it remains in that same state today.   Not much for the dreams and rewards of a lifetime of work.  I assembled a terrific woodworking shop in my basement where I intended to spend my retirement.  Not having been downstairs in a decade, my plans mock me.
Regrettably, one of the rooms that is still accessible to me is the kitchen.  Confined to the wheel chair, boredom is always hiding around the corner, and the most vigorous exercise I have is using a joy stick.  That fridge always beckons.