Tuesday, 19 February 2008

What - No User's Manual for $18,000???

$18,000 For A Wheelchair and No User's Manual!

Gripes: What gives? You buy an $18,000 automobile and in the glove compartment you find a users manual and maintenance schedule. You buy a $20 toaster and you get a users manual in 2+ languages, instructions in proper use, safety warnings and a list of repair centers. You fork out $18,000 for a wheelchair and what do you get? Nada! No instruction manual, no parts list, no written warranty - Not even a scrap of paper! Nada!
The battery powering the motor - how long do I charge for? Some batteries last longer if they are almost fully drained of power before recharging. Is this one of them? Do I recharge nightly or only when empty? The fuse blew - what type, what amperage, where is it located? A part broke - Rather than phone up and tell the service department that I need a Part#10053a, I’m left telling them that the do-hickey fell off the thing-a-ma-jig and damaged the what-cha-ma-call-it - can I get another. Service department? Had to play phone tag searching for the appropriate phone number for service. Who do I call when I have trouble? What if I break down on the town? ….and just what does my warranty cover and when does it expire.

Just this company? No, ordered a manual wheelchair from another company and again, no manual - how do the leg supports come off? The brake levers poke up my ass when I transfer - oh, they come off for transferring?? How am I suppose to know??

Put in an order for a specific wheelchair model from a specific company and am told it will take 2 weeks to deliver. Two months later, no chair. When delivered it is the wrong chair model from the wrong manufacturer. Still have the wrong seat cushion even though the specific type of cushion is clearly written on the requisition. Do they care???

"Give me your money, then get lost!!!"

Critical medical equipment and they can’t throw in an owner’s manual. I guess if they have to be called out for a service call, they can justify in charging $$ for the service call. That is, once they deliver the correct model with correct accessories.

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Monday, 18 February 2008

Bodily Function Unpleasantries

Dealing With Bodily Function Unpleasantries

It had never occurred to me that when one has a spinal cord injury, muscles controlling bodily functions may be affected. Soon after being hospitalized I had an indwelling catheter inserted which, although changed periodically, basically remained with me for several months. Late in my stay at the rehab hospital a nurse enthusiastically informed me that I’d be going to “in & out” catheterization. Like somehow I’d be delighted in having to stick a plastic straw up my “wazoo” to allow urine to be drained out every few hours before it decided to release on it’s own. The prospect was not appealing to me at all! In a rush to get to an appointment one day, I was outfitted with an external condom catheter and leg bag. For whatever reason, I ended up using the external catheter on an ongoing basis, even after being discharged.

Prior to this injury I could hold urine like a camel holds water. Post injury, I found that I could hold for a reasonable length of time but when I felt that I HAD to go, I HAD to go!! The external catheter was preferable to manual insertions, which I felt could induce urinary tract infections (UTI) faster than the external catheter. In order to use the external condom catheter one needed to get a decent seal between skin and condom catheter. This required the use of a ‘skin prep’ which came as a small towelette in a pouch, much like the towelette wipes offered in restaurants after eating greasy finger foods. Trouble was that the fluid burned like hell each time it was applied. The seal did not always hold and a loose condom or detached hose certainly contributed to some embarrassing situations.

So much so that about a year post-injury, I became fed up and decided to go naturally whenever the need arose. At this point I could not yet stand effectively but around the house I would wear shorts, a pant leg of which could be hiked up to use a urinal bottle as the needed. Outside I might still have used the catheter/leg bag. Now, I can stand without difficulty allowing me to pull full length pants up and down so have stopped using the leg bag altogether, even when out in public. I still prefer to go in a container and then discard the urine rather than try to aim for the porcelain for hygienic reasons.

As for No.2, the bowel treatment concept was to have ‘treatment’ days to deal with evacuating the bowels at scheduled intervals. Stool softeners (Dulcolax) and a laxative (Senokot) were given the night before and the following morning you were given a suppository before being placed on a commode and being wheeled onto a toilet. There the suppository would trigger your bowels to evacuate and hopefully you were set for another couple of days without an accident. Disposable diapers were required for leakage.

You can imagine how unpalatable that treatment was.

Soon after discharge I decided to try to go naturally and found that I could. After discontinuing the artificial regime, my system returned to normal and now I just go when and as necessary.

I find I can clean myself up while on the commode and wheel myself in for a shower to completely clean up after each and every movement.

So, in summary, I “take a leak” naturally whenever I feel the urge, however I still cannot hold it too long and have to make for a washroom soon after the first sensations arrive. I do use a container rather than drive up to a toilet and try to aim directly as positioning may not be optimal and I don’t wish to irrigate my pants nor the public facilities. I “take a dump” naturally, without the aid of stimulants etc. whenever the need arises. I suspect I probably go less often than when I was ambulatory because of not being upright. Continuous walking, bending and moving probably helps the bowels move contents along.

On discharge from the rehab hospital, no mention was made of changes that I might expect or alternatives I might try to make these unpleasantries a bit easier. My methods of coping were developed on my own.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

January 2008 Update - Walking With Braces

Update: January 2008 - Braces With Walker

Much of the summer months of 2007 were spent using the ‘sit-to-stand’ frame which, with the help of counterweights helped me stand. Leg muscles were strengthened by repeatedly sitting and standing for ever increasing periods of time. As muscles strengthened and balance improved, the counterweights were reduced until I was standing unassisted-hoisting my full weight under my own power.

September 2007: An orthotics specialist met with my physio and myself in order to fit me with leg braces. In spite of my being able to stand under my own power within the frame, muscles still did not work in unison and in the proper sequence . Ligaments did not hold the joints in proper position due to the year of inactivity. My legs could raise me but couldn’t hold me upright unassisted as my knee joints would hyperextend and I would begin to topple over. Braces were cast using a fast setting compound on a cloth like material wrapped around my legs. Once set, they were removed and used as a mould in which high density plastic would form a sleeve like brace extending from the sole of the foot almost to the crotch. Stainless steel locking hinges joined the upper thigh section to the calf section. Once in the standing position the hinges would lock and walking resembled “waddling” like a duck or like Frankenstein in the movies. The braces could be unlocked using a lever behind the knee. Once the knee joints strengthened and muscle “memory” returned to hold the leg in proper alignment, it is my understanding that the braces would be “cut down” to below the knee cap.

September 2007 to January 2008: There was some difficulty in just standing in the braces for any length of time as the braces held me in the proper upright posture. My Achilles tendon had shortened from non-use and as a result I was unable to stand flat. With my feet flat on the ground, I wouldn’t manage to stand perpendicular to the floor. I would lean backwards. I’m finding it difficult to stretch out the tendon so that the foot is flexible and that the feet don’t make me fall over backwards. The same year long activity has tightened my lower back muscles - causing them to resist my efforts to straighten upright and they ache when standing for any length of time. Over this time period I progressed from needing assistance in getting upright in the braces, to getting up with relative ease and walking the parallel bars back and forth repeatedly. The length of the parallel bars is about 10-12 feet and I would walk the length, turn and come back - repeating about 4 to 6 times before resting.

January 2008: Graduated from the parallel bars to the walker. The walker is an alluminum frame with Teflon sliders on the rear posts and wheels on the front posts. Because the walker isn’t attached to the floor as the parallel bars are, it was more difficult to stand up as the there was nothing ‘anchored’ from which to haul myself up. Once up I would walk up and down the hospital hallway about 100 meters at a time, and return - usually twice per session.

Walking with the braces and walker is now done three times a week within my hour session. A slow process - trying to undo a year’s inactivity an hour at a time, less than 3 hours per week. Fatigue sets in quickly and endurance has to be regained.

February 2008: My physiotherapist thought that massage therapy on my tight ham-strings, quads, calves and Achilles tendons would help in loosening them up. After an hour assessment session, a half hour weekly session was decided upon - for as long as the insurance coverage lasted.
I continue to walk weekly with the braces and walker, receive massage therapy on the lower limbs once a week and have a pool session once a week.