Thursday, 31 December 2015

Honking Hospital Granny (The Loss of Common Courtesy in a "Maturing" World)

I recently retired from my profession as a medical microbiology laboratory technologist within a community hospital.  Sadly, I will miss the pure science, but certainly not the business as healthcare has become a “cost before compassion” industry.

However, I do believe my retirement will provide more time to post my observations, struggles, progress and annoyances as I experience with my disability but also a platform to just plain gripe about the stupidity that I see invading our daily lives.

What is happening to people, to society, to the world in general?  We have lost our common sense, our manners and our humility.  We have replaced good behaviour towards others with an “it’s all about me” attitude.  We tell ourselves that we have matured – to show kindness is to show weakness.   We now walk with a swagger, talk with bravado.  Rules?  Nobody is going to tell me what to do!  We have become self-important!

It was what I observed waiting outside the hospital where I worked that had me think about all these changes that had occurred in my lifetime

It had been a re-occurrence I observed every several days over a period of a month or two as I waited for my bus to arrive.  An elderly woman driver rounded the crescent-shaped entrance to our ambulatory unit and while still a hundred meters away, started honking her horn repeatedly.  As she coasted to a stop, an equally ‘age challenged’ gentleman trudged through the hospital doors, obviously summoned by her prearranged sonic command.  Utilizing his walker, he unsteadily made his way towards her car, arriving out of breath in spite of his oxygen tank’s dangling tubes delivering vital gas to his nose. The woman finally exited the car to stow his walker in the trunk but offered little assistance in seating him within the vehicle.

I found myself increasingly annoyed listening to her summoning horn honks and watching the impatience directed at her husband.  A woman of her age should exhibit some public courtesy.

On this day I confronted her as she stepped from her car to summon her tardy companion.  “This is a hospital zone” I stated.  “Why do you disturb all those within earshot with your honking horn?”  Well, this granny-like figure lit into me without hesitation!  She told me where quite explicitly where to go with words that most hardened street thugs might not have rattled off so fluidly.  So I was told off.  And, she continued with her honking behaviour, glaring at me with each subsequent arrival.

It was then I realized how foolish I was.  How I heard her honking but not the cacophony of noise that had enveloped the immediate hospital environment.  It finally struck me why there was no 'Quiet -Hospital Zone' signs at our facility.

I listened to that ‘soup of sound’ in which I was immersed and started to decipher the elements that had invaded my daily world.  Perhaps it is a defense mechanism that pushes these sounds to the background so that we no longer hear them, that they no longer invade our consciousness and drive us to insanity.

I heard:
I heard honking horns.  Not just the woman’s honks summoning her husband, but honks as greetings, honks saying goodbye, impatient honks sonically telling the driver in front to “move it!”  Then there were the honks which occur when you remotely lock or unlock your car door.  There were honks all around but it was ‘grandma’s’ that irritated me.

I heard the ear-splitting screech of the back-up radar warning pedestrians of reversing vehicles.  A sound so intense I was afraid it would awaken the residents of our morgue.

I heard the teeth-rattling drone of multiple gas engine powered leaf blowers operating at 7:00 am outside the hospital cafeteria.  Patient wards were nearby yet this grounds crew was armed with miniature tornados rattled windows sent all sorts of dust and spores airborne.

I heard car stereos blaring and booming the latest Hip-Hop for all to hear while the occupant, head bobbing to the beat, was oblivious to those nearby.  I thought I could see the automobile’s side panels bulge outwards with each bass beat.  Cars frequently deposited a patient for their appointment and then plugged up the laneway in wait for their passenger’s return, thereby avoiding parking fees.

I heard a myriad of sounds and noises which now invade our lives without our knowing.  Like a cancer which is not recognized until it is too late –and then can no longer be ignored.  Cars idling or revving, cell phones chiming overlapping tones, truck tail-gates rolling down to a crashing stop, squeaking wheels….you get it.  It is now the norm.  Many no longer know the joy of true silence.

A ‘Quiet – Hospital Zone’ sign would make no sense in this new world of ours where all our ‘devices of both necessity and convenience’ speak to us with sound.  My world had departed.

*   *   *

Read further only if you wish to hear me both reminisce and bitch about the world that was, and the world that is!

My, how times have changes, even since I was a child.  World war two was certainly one of many “bookmarks” in the world timeline.  Post-war it was obvious that the world had its fill of war, conflict and killing.  Much of the world had entered a gentler phase which was reflected in the movies that were produced such as ‘An American in Paris’ (1951) or ‘The King & I’ (1956) as well the television shows we watched such as ‘I Love Lucy’ (1951 -1957) or ‘Leave It To Beaver’ (1957 – 1963).  Such shows would not sell in today’s market.  Music was also creative without spewing rabid anger or using offensive language.  Buddy Holly and the Crickets sang about ‘Peggy Sue’ and Chuck Berry had us rockin’ to Johnny B Goode. This was the world I was born into.

That gentler, peaceful, more courteous and respectful time was to be short-lived.   We began to lose our worldly innocence sometime in the 1960s.  Was it with Kennedy’s assassination, or the development of the ‘cold war’, Vietnam, further assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy?  Movies, television and music still resisted but the change was in the air.  Cinema still managed to sell ‘The Sound of Music’ (1965) however increasingly controversial topics were introduced ‘The Graduate’ (1967) and directors utilized the viewer’s own imagination to conjure up horror and violence such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ (1960).  Television had us watching ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ (1960 – 1968) or ‘My Three Sons’ (1960- 1972) and violence went space age with ‘Star Trek (1966 – 1969).  Music was ‘growing up’ as well with protest songs (‘Blown in the Wind’ Bob Dylan or ‘Fortunate Son’ Credence Clearwater Revival) about war, struggle or inequality.  The message came across clear and strong without rage or expletives.

I am not so naïve to believe all was beautiful and that the decades I mention did not produce any content which goes against my argument.  Yet, for the most part, I believe it to be so…

And as the intervening decades passed, our anger grew, our self-importance became first and foremost.  Independence and individuality outpaced society’s collective values.  Kindness became equated with weakness, manners with conformity and politeness with hindering free expression.  The “Me Generation” was born and was reflected in the cinema we watched, the television shows we tuned into and the music which blared from our speakers.

We now consider ourselves mature, and worldly.  We have become angry and aggressive.  We know our rights, and nobody is going to tread on them.  Nobody is to tell me what to do!!  Anything goes!  Only the strong survive!  Musicals and variety shows are out - Bad behaviour is in!  Crude and vulgar content rules.  The most successful movies have the highest body count and greatest gore.  The villain has now become the hero.  We worship the ‘bad boy’.  “Music” is often a monotone profanity laced rant against society, females and authority.  Video games exhibit engage in all sorts of bad behaviour, from graphic executions to car theft and rape.  They are the biggest sellers and of course greed and the all mighty dollar rule!  Language is crude, rude and explicit whether in the media or in public.  “Honourable” politicians are often the worst offenders.

Do the media ‘arts’ provide what audience wants….or does the audience learn to like what the media feeds them?  Does the media reflect who we are, or drive us to become what we are?

We no longer walk with humility but swagger with bravado!

Yet it still makes me laugh.  We have no problem watching, or permitting our children to watch graphic killings, whether it is real as on the daily news or simulated as in video games, movies or television shows.  I cannot flip the channel without seeing another person get shot.  Yet we recoil in disgust when two people, on the big screen or small, are engaged in lovemaking. Yes, depicting sex in any media makes many cringe in disgust.  Killing yes, Sex no!  I'm not talking graphic porn -even an uncovered boob makes us crazy!   Cover the children’s eyes – usher them quickly from the room – then call the broadcaster to lodge your complaint.  Make Love, Not War, has fallen on deaf ears…

 Those same serial television programs show people being killed every episode, in every conceivable gruesome fashion, yet they can’t do so while smoking a cigarette.  As we all know, cigarettes will kill you and we must protect our children from such behaviour (smoking, not killing) as it may indoctrinate them.  It may entice them to try smoking, but certainly won’t desensitize them from killing – don’t be silly!

Go Figure!

The world I grew up in had men removing their hats when entering a public building.  They opened car doors for the ladies and walked closest to the curb so to protect their dates from splashing cars.  They stood to acknowledge a woman entering a room. People opened doors for others and passed that door off to those following behind so as not to slam it in their face.  We allowed people to get off of buses and elevators before trying to clamber aboard ourselves and it was common courtesy to give a woman your seat on a crowded bus.   We watched our language in public and said ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’ as required.   It was truly felt, not just rhymed off automatically.  No, the world wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but there was a more extensive practice of what was common courtesy.

It would take so little effort to honour the requests made by the hospital (or civilized society) yet our combative nature has us flaunt those rules and lash out at anyone who objects.   Over the years, while waiting for my ride to arrive, I witnessed drivers park and snooze under ‘No Parking’ signs.  I watch people light up cigarettes under the ‘No Smoking’ sign.  No smoking means no outdoor ashtrays so butts are flicked to join discarded coffee cups, candy wrappers, Styrofoam containers and plastic pop bottles.  I’ve had doors slammed on me and witnessed the same on others. 

 I observed an arriving driver grumbling about not being able to find a wheelchair – then once finished with the one he found, he kicked it into the snow covered flower beds for the next patient.  And of course whether on public roads or on hospital property, drivers speed through the parking lots, ignore signage and use speed bumps as launch platforms.

So in the end I suppose I am naïve.  The world has grown up and I still long for the kinder, gentler days.

I am too old to change.  Granny obviously wasn’t!

Sadly, I feel we need another world war to once again re-align our values and to realize what is truly important....That's if anyone would survive the next world conflict.....

A handicapped washroom in my hospital I found it one morning.

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Sunday, 27 December 2015

Yet More Permobil Problems

What a wonderful Christmas present!  More Permobil Wheelchair Problems.

A week before Christmas 2015, I hear a faint grinding noise coming from the right rear of my Permobil M300 electric wheelchair.  My first though was that it was caused by a damaged bearing in the rear caster wheel.  Over a day or so it progressively got worse as it now produced a ratcheting noise and the chair struggled to turn to the right and back up.

I call up my current service provider who send out a technician.  The problem was diagnosed as a damaged drive motor.

Damaged Drive Motor

Well, it is near Christmas and nothing moves quickly.  The part is not stocked and has to be acquired from Tennessee in the U.S.  Even placing a 'rush order' means it must be shipped and probably will not arrive until the new year.  Quite a time to wait without a chair that I am so dependent upon.

While the wheelchair still drives on one motor, I have to be alert to only making left turns. When a signal is sent to the damaged motor, it grinds and binds up.  My fear is that the added strain may damage the good motor but I persist in using it.  I have never acquired the skill of carrying a hot cup of coffee while wheeling a manual chair with two hands.

I get a phone call with the estimate.  Parts and labour will exceed $1100 CND.

I will continue to use the powerchair minimally and as gingerly as I possibly am able until the repairs can be carried out some time in the new year.  If it fails altogether, I will fall back on the manual chair.

So I have had this Permobil chair now for just about three full years.  In that time,
  • The battery has died
  • The arms have fallen off
  • The seat post broke off from the frame ($560+ CND)
  • The right side motor had died ($1100+ CND)
  • A myriad of other screws, clips, and end-caps falling off
Those who have followed my sad tale know this chair was used almost exclusively indoors so it doesn't receive any sort challenging use or mistreatment.  I can only wonder else can go wrong with it?

January 28th, 2016 - Update:  To see what the repair finally cost to to:

*   *   *

Atomic Spasms

It is what I’ve come to call “Atomic Spasms”

…And they started around March of this year (2015) while sitting one day after work and waiting for my bus to arrive.  Without notice my right leg lifted up off the ground, as if my kneecap wanted to hit my chin.  I was so startled and momentarily had such ‘eye watering’ pain that I let out a yelp, drawing attention from those nearby.  What the &%*# was that?  Another soon followed, and another.  

Sometimes every day, sometimes every few days, these intense spasms continued.  I realized that nature had added another horrific physiological device to my toolbox of torment.

These spasms were unlike the ones that I had experience in the eight plus years since a spinal cord infection had left me a paraplegic.  While previously I would experience spasms in my right leg or left back & hip, the suddenness and intensity with which they presented themselves was different.

Previously, the first sign that spasms were imminent was with a ‘creepy’ feeling in my leg, particularly in the calf, which, though hard to describe, felt something like an overall electrical buzzing.  The neurogenic burning was turned up several notches and my leg felt as if it was filled with sparkling hot soda water with the millions of bubbles bursting as they rose to touch the inner skin surface.  An imaginary coil spring in my leg would be wound to a point where it would slip and suddenly unfurl, only to start winding again.  That ‘spring-winding’ feeling gave a second or two warning of an inescapable leg-jerk.  The leg would raise, kick, and fall back to whatever surface it was resting on.  When in full spasm, the leg could not be pushed down using all my strength as the contraction was so powerful.  Spasms might last only a few minutes, but more likely they would torment for hours – the longest being about seven continuous hours of rhythmic  jerking, about once every five or six seconds.  Pure hell!

So I bring the issue of spasms up with my family doctor.  “Why, you’re already taking anti-spasm medication” (Baclofen).  That was that.  When I previously sought relief with Botox injections, the specialist who examined me checked for spasms by holding my calf and foot, then quickly flicking or rotating the foot –up and down.  He had a definition for spasms which was something like “tension through velocity”.  The foot may move with ease when moved slowly, but when done quickly, tends to hang up or offer resistance. (my memory could be quite wrong on this).  Baclofen reduces this sort of “spasm” but the “spasms” that were tormenting me, and those that athletes speak of, are totally another kind of affliction.  I don’t believe General Practitioners understand this distinction.

These Atomic spasms ignited without warning.  The range of motion the leg was driven was extreme.  Lying flat on my black, the extended leg would violently fly up, again with my kneecap reaching for my nose.  At the extreme contraction, the leg would freeze in place for two or three seconds then drop back down flat, only to be repeated again, and again.  There was a rhythmic repetition to these spasms as well, but not quite as uniform as the usual, “run of the mill paralytic spasms”.  They too may repeat, say, every three to seven seconds, but the Atomic spasms may miss a firing, or may double-up on firing with two closely spaced ones.

Try this.  Take any appendage of yours, be it your arm (elbow), hand (wrist), leg (hip/groin), finger (joint) and bend it as far as it can possibly go – until your eyes begin to water from the pain.  Now, move it another inch in the same direction!  That is how these ‘Atomic Spasms’ feel acting on the joint involved joint!  I am currently nursing a sprained groin from the repeated explosive spasms which have pulled against the ligaments anchoring my femur that I have sprained myself.  What makes it worse is that the following night, the spasms repeat and I re-injure myself.

These ‘Atomic Spasms’ as the previous ‘regular spasms’ are curious as they almost always come on in the evening or at night.  Just when the day is finished and you think you can relax, you find that nature will not let you.  Whether the painful or regular spasm, they are annoying, detract from your attention to other matters, rob you of rest, and just plain ruin any quality of life you may still have.

Now, the ‘regular spasms’ which I’ve experienced almost every night since my injury, almost always came on at night, ran their annoying course and then allowed me to sleep the night without wakening me.  These relatively new ‘Atomic Spasms’ start up anywhere from early to late evening.  What is worse is that they often come back several times in the evening and often right at bedtime.  You can well imagine that it is impossible to sleep with your leg pulling up and dropping down repeatedly for hours on end when you have to get up and go to work next morning.  These ‘Atomic Spasms’ can start back up by simply rolling over in bed.  Any movement may reactivate them!


 Launched by an 'Atomic Spasm'

It was August 14th, 2015, almost bang-on 2:00 am.  With a loud crash, I wake up and realize I am on the floor.  The first time ever!  I have fallen out of bed….no, more likely catapulted out of bed with a spasm!  I am currently using a single hospital-like bed but without any railings – because in about eight years, I had not needed them.  Well, what to do?  I rummage around in the dark and locate the switch to my bedside light.  The top of my mattress is only about two feet above the floor but it looks like Everest from my perspective.  I have strength, but the joints have all tightened – ligaments and tendons have shrunk from limited use.  I can get onto my knees but I cannot get my feet underneath to push up.  I try to lift myself up using my motorized wheelchair’s frame but it shifts and tips.  There is nothing around me that I can grab onto and hoist myself up.   Grabbing the mattress only shifts the bed.

What is worse –my wife is out of town for a few days and I am on my own.

Now it is around 2:20 am and my knees already have carpet burns from the friction.  I look around and near my stereo I see two metal ‘tradesman’ suitcases in which contain wires, cables, microphones, and various electronic paraphernalia.  That might be enough to bear my weight if I use it to bump up a step closer to the mattress surface.  So I pull out the suitcase and with it comes a small utility table spilling more electronics, a three-tier filing drawer filled with loose papers and a variety of pens, pencils, erasers and so forth.  Here I now sit amongst fanned out papers, desk utensils and wires.  I drag the suitcase next to the bed and try to climb up with my knees.  No luck – and the suitcase has that fine-diamond texture which further removes skin from my knees and shins.  Try as I might, I cannot get up!

At this point I am bathed in sweat and my heart is racing.  I thought of writing a note in case I have a heart attack and those who discover me think I was beaten and bloodied during  a home invasion.  I regroup and give it another `all or nothing’ effort.

I turn on my electric wheelchair and position it parallel, with myself between it and the bed.  I put my bare feet against the drive wheel and push up with feet and hands to bump my backside up onto the suitcase.  With a second identical suitcase beside the first I try to twist around to replace my butt with my knees, still trying to hold my feet to the drive wheel so as to not slip back onto the floor.   Struggling, I push with my feet and grab the far side of the mattress to slither aboard. 

 Somehow I make it...

I lay there for a few minutes to catch my breath and cool down.  Rolling my view to the damage, it looks like an Oklahoma tornado took a detour through my room.  Everything scattered about but what now catches my attention is that there is blood everywhere.  In the process of rescuing myself from the floor, I had abraded both my shins, skinned my knees and worst of all, I managed to tear out two toe-nails from my left foot.  My foot was still bleeding so I wrapped it up quickly and decided to try to get some sleep.  After my hour long ordeal, it was now just after 3:00 am.  I had to get up at 4:50 in order to get ready for work.

A fitful sleep followed but I got up.  Picked up what items I could to quickly straighten up.  My science background came in handy.  With a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from the cabinet, I poured generous quantities onto the bloodiest spots and watched red bubbles foam upwards.  Dabbing with a wet sponge made the destruction I had inflicted on the room almost disappear.  I do wonder what surprise hides in the underlayment when carpet is taken up during the next renovation.

So, I made my bus ride to work.  The driver asked me if I had run over a small animal as I had forgotten to clean off the wheelchair tire I had pushed against with by bleeding feet.  It was a bloody mess – but a lab always has some H2O2 around and I was able to retreat to the washroom to clean it off.

With summer shorts, it was hard to hide my scrapped knees from my wife.  I mumbled something to satisfy everyone’s curiosity.  Feet were easier to hide.  No need to worry my wife with my expedition to the nether reaches of the floor.  No need for her concern if I was ever to be left along again.  So Sssshhhhhh!

A couple of more times I woke with a start thinking I was about to take that trip to the floor again.  Perhaps I was, perhaps not.   A physiotherapist once told me that a person’s leg consists of about 17% of their total body weight.  Well, when lying on your side and the leg closest to the sheet suddenly explodes with a spasm shooting it off edge of the bed – the momentum just about takes the rest of you along!
*   *   *
So what has changed some eight years post injury to cause these ‘Atomic spasms’ to start now?
And why do spasms of any kind occur much more frequently in the evening or at night?  Does the body physiology change that much?

What I believe doesn’t affect my spasms:

-Position:  Legs, whether hanging down all day as if sitting or up all day as if in bed does not seem to have any effect.  Calves do feel harder at night – due to muscle contraction or fluid accumulation?

-Exercise:  Whether spending a quiet day, having lots of activity or even exercising at the gym, seems to have no effect on the occurrence of spasms.

-Circulation:  Some days the legs are warm to the touch, other days cold to the touch – with the same amount of activity.  Regardless of perceived temperature, it doesn’t seem to affect spasms.

-Weather:  whether, cold or hot, rainy or dry, etc.  spasms occur at about the same rate and severity

-Hydration:  drinking lots of fluids or remaining somewhat dehydrated seems not to affect spasms

-Pressure:  whether there is pressure against my legs or my back at the site of the injury, there seems to be no correlation to the amount or severity of spasms.

So what, if anything, am I missing?  Is it related to anything at all, or just one of nature’s little jokes on paraplegics?

Seriously, they are so devastating that I have lost it altogether and cursed my God for creating such and affliction.  There is no quality of life...only torment!

Life really Sucks!

 *   *   *

Monday, 21 December 2015

If you want service like this, I recommend.....

If this is the kind of service you expect, let me recommend...

If this is the kind of service you expect from a company which supplies and “services” medical equipment, then I suggest you give all you future business to Shoppers Home Healthcare –Bartley Drive Division.  (I've been meaning to post this for quite some time.)

Here is my experience which finally forced me to change sales & service providers for my wheelchair needs.  While this final ‘straw which broke this paraplegic’s back’ occurred over a year ago, I still fume at the lack of concern repeatedly exhibited over my concerns regarding their poor service.  I can only conclude that Shoppers Home Healthcare –Bartley unit found the sales of wheelchairs profitable but had no interest (profit) in servicing the products they sell.  The only positive comment I can offer to Shoppers Home Health Care is that their field technicians were excellent once I could obtain a service call, and sadly, they had the same negative view of their employer.

Those who follow this blog may be familiar with the problems I experienced with my Permobil M300 wheelchair purchased through Shoppers Home Health Care –Bartley Drive Division.  A major annoyance with the powerchair began approximately a year after purchase.  A major squeaking developed when shifting weight or change of momentum (speeding, slowing, turning in the chair alone or when in a vehicle doing so).  This can be seen and heard in a previous video post entitled 'Squeak!!'.

This is a good place to start with my continuing problems with Shoppers Home Health Care –Bartley Street.

September 4th, 2013 – Call Shoppers Home Health Care –Bartley Street repeatedly, only to reach automated answering service voicemail.  No option to speak with live person so leave initial message explaining problem and subsequently messages requesting callback.  Call-back requests are NOT returned.  In frustration, I call Shoppers Home Healthcare, Central Equipment Pool’s service department.  This was the Shoppers facility I dealt with when problems arose with my first chair.  While I had some issues with them, I was always able to obtain service.  So, I explain my situation and request service to which they happily agree.  Service technician arrives, tightens bolts, squeak remains, says nothing more he can do, and charges me $65.00 for the service call.  Now this Shoppers powerchair was still under warranty, but Shoppers Home Health Care –Central Equipment Pool and Shoppers Home Healthcare – Bartley Drive Division, are two different entities and so in spite of the wheelchair being sold to me by Shoppers Home Healthcare, the warranty would not be honoured by the other branch, unit, division or whatever.  Who knew?  One Shoppers Home Healthcare, Is not the other Shoppers Home Healthcare.  Apparently within Shoppers, different wheelchair makes are handled by different wheelchair department, and only those departments. I got dinged $65.00 and protests fell on deaf ears. 

…and so, it cost me $65.00 to learn that Shoppers Home Healthcare’s Bartley Drive unit deals with the Permobil wheelchairs and that I should be calling them for all future needs.

November 7th, 2013 – Annoying squeak has returned. Repeated calls to Shoppers Home Healthcare -Bartley Drive’s service department only reach voicemail.  Messages requesting a callback to obtain service are ignored.  Call-back requests are NOT returned.  No option to speak with live person.  In frustration, I e-mail the sales representative who sold me the chair.  Told, that this is not how to obtain service, the sales representative’s assistant books a service appointment for me “just this onetime”.  I am also given the name and number of the Permobil wheelchair Service Coordinator, which afterwards realize is the same service number I had been calling without success
Service technician arrives, tightens nuts and bolts, but this time annoying squeak remains.  Nothing more can be done.

January 15, 2014 – The batteries appear to be failing on my year and half old Permobil wheelchair.  Carry 30 pound electrical charger with me at work so that I can recharge my power periodically through the day.  Call Shoppers Home Healthcare –Bartley Street unit’s Service Coordinator to request a service call.  Reach voicemail.  Leave messages requesting a call-back to arrange service.  Call-back requests are NOT returned.   By some fluke, I finally reached some other employee who manages to book a service call for me.

January 16th, 2914 – Service call arrives and finds what they think is a loose battery cable.  Tighten cable and believe problem is solved.

January 17th through 20th, 2014 – Permobil continues to lose power rapidly throughout weekend.

January 21st, 2014 – Once again, phoned Shoppers Home Healthcare’s Permobil Service Coordinator at the Bartley Drive unit, as instructed, only to reach voicemail.   Left message requesting callback.  Call-back requests are NOT returned.  Try a different approach – call their 1-888 long distance toll-free line hoping to reach a live person.  I may have reached their U.S. site, however, after explaining my situation and frustration, I am transferred to someone who informs me that they are not the appropriate person to book service calls through and that in the future I should call the Service Coordinator at the Shoppers Home Healthcare –Bartley drive unit,  (&#@%!!).  Out of “courtesy”, they book a service call for me “just this one time” for the following day between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm.

January 22nd, 2014 – waited all day, No Service Technician Arrived!!  (Later discovered that service technician never received the booking!)

January 23rd, 2014 – Called Shoppers Home Healthcare –Bartley Drive unit’s Service Coordinator to once again reach voicemail.  Message stated “Out of office for the day”.  No instructions as to how to obtain service when Service Coordinator not on-site.  Once again phone local and 1-888 phone numbers and somehow reach a live person.  They cannot book a service call, but transfer me to the Service Coordinator’s manager only to reach her voicemail.  I leave the Service Coordinator’s manager a message outlining my need for a service call and my frustrations with not being able to reach anyone in charge of service!  I request she call me back. Call-back requests are NOT returned.     However, as service technician did call and come that day to replace my wheelchair’s batteries.  I had to haul that heavy battery charger around with me for over a week!

April 9th, 2014 – Bolts holding arm assembly repeatedly sheared off after numerous transfers, the last time with parts being lost.  Chair needs servicing.

April 10th, 2014:
-10:00 am Call Permobil Service Coordinator.  Reach voicemail – leave message.  No Call-back.
-11:00 am – confirm she is in her office.  Call Service Coordinator and leave second message.  No Call-back.
-12:08 pm - Informed that Service Coordinator is in a meeting.  Transferred to her supervisor – reach voicemail.  Leave message – No Call-back.
12:09 pm - leave second message on Service Coordinator’s manager’s voicemail.  No Call-back!

April 14th, 2014 – (four days later!!)  Service Coordinator calls and says they well send a technician to pick up my chair for repairs and deliver a loaner chair for use in the interim.  This is the first time I’ve actually spoken with her.  Politely explain my frustration with the lack of service I’ve received through her.  Listens quietly – no apology.  (Service Coordinator voice sounds child-like, a very young woman)

April 15th, 2014 – Wheelchair picked up for side arm repairs and left loaner chair.  In a previous post 'Permobil Arm Problems -Continued'. I showed the ‘Rube Goldberg’ like mechanism Permobil has for the side arm assembly.  In my opinion, the arm hinge assembly appears overly complicated for what it is to do as well as built with inferior materials which lead to breakage.

May 5th, 2014 – some 20 days later, spoke with the Service Coordinator regarding the status of my chair’s repairs.  Stated that she would find out and have someone call me on May 6th.  No Call-back!

May 26th, 2014 – some 40 days later, called Service Coordinator after taking possession of my wheelchair for information on the status of my repairs.  After all, it was just a broken plastic spacer and sheared bolt on my sidearm assembly.  With overnight courier express, how hard could it be to get parts from anywhere in the world and then to install them?  Reach voicemail – leave message.  No Call-back!

May 27th, 2014 – call Permobil Service Coordinator once again. Reach voicemail.  Yet again ask for information on the status of my wheelchair repairs.  In frustration, state that my next call will be to the Technical Service Manager, to whom a year previously outlined my frustrations their lack of service.  Mistakenly, I thought that taking my concerns to the head boss would instil some fear and action.  Again, I foolishly requested a call-back.  No Call-back!

May 30th, 2014 – Call Shoppers Home Healthcare – Bartley Drive unit and somehow get a phone receptionist.  Ask her to page the Service Coordinator.  Finally get Service Coordinator on-line and once again relay my frustration in her lack of concern about my service requests.  No response, no apology.  I ask for the status of my chair’s repairs, now after being in their possession for over six weeks.  “Will look into it and have a service technician call me later in the day”.

May 30th, 2014 – Mid-afternoon. Receive phone call from Shoppers Service Technician.  States that Permobil wheelchair arms are not strong enough to be used for transfer.  The flimsy arms were a concern when I was considering the purchase; however, I was reassured by a Permobil company representative, that they were strong enough.  At that time the Permobil company representative stated that were willing to exchange them for a new model available shortly (I should have gotten this in writing).  Subsequently, the Service Technician told me that there were only two models of arms for this chair and I already have the sturdiest ones – (I was lied to in order to make the sale)
On this day, however, I was informed that “the Permobil company representative was too busy to come down to the shop and see the problem for himself”.  (no interest once the sale is made!) To remedy the problem, Shoppers took it upon themselves to install some sort of ‘transfer bar’ for that purpose.  I questioned why it took nearly six weeks to replace the bolt and spacer plus install this transfer bar which I had not asked for nor agreed upon.

May 30th, 2014 – Late afternoon.  Service Technician called back.  Tried to get bracket (?) from Central Equipment Pool, but his contact had gone for the day.  Saw parts on ‘donor’ wheelchair a couple of weeks ago but now the chair is gone. (why was this not taken care of at that time??)  “Will try to get parts by Monday of the following week and give me a call back then”.  He will find out when the chair can be returned to me “so that I can try out the transfer bar to see if it works”.

June 2nd, 2014 – Spoke with Service Technician (gave me his personal cell phone number).  Obtained parts and will install on my wheelchair.

June 3rd, 2014 - Parts scavenged from another Permobil wheelchair and they had mismatched some round tubular part for a square tubular part…???  Won’t fit.  Will try to fix the problem.  Urhhggh!

June 6th, 2014 – Service technician phoned to arrange delivery of wheelchair.

June 9th, 2014 – Wheelchair returned to me with but with seat back cushion left back at the shop.  Unusable as it stands.

June 10th, 2014 – Wheelchair seat back cushion returned.  Field Technician knows nothing about missing motor cover.  Asked what I what I owe, Field Technician responds “nothing”. 

July 2nd, 2014 – Noticed that one motor mount cover which had a crack and I had also asked them to replace was now missing. Cover is same colour and contour as the motor and base so part not immediately obvious.  Purpose appears to keep weather off of the motor and mechanism used to disengage the motor gears (for manual pushing).  I call Shoppers Home Healthcare –Bartley Drive Permobil Service Coordinator yet again regarding the missing wheelchair motor cover.  Reach voicemail – request call-back.  No call-back!

July 4th, 2014 - In frustration, call the Service Technician who worked on my wheelchair regarding missing motor cover Technician says he will find out and call the following week.

July 11th, 2014 – Service Technician calls to say that their Permobil company representative stated “no cover was available and that it would have to be ordered from the United States.  Urhhhgh!!  It was one of the issues I asked them to take care of months ago when they first took possession of the wheelchair.  I decide to forget about the cover but was now told that I would be charged for the parts and labour for the transfer bar.  I informed them at it was of little use and if I am to be charged after this length of time, for a modification I had not signed off on, that they could come and remove it from my chair.
I now knew that my original cover was gone for good, and in my frustration, I decided to cut my losses.  Not being a critical item I decided to forget about ever seeing the cover again, and asked that a replacement not be ordered.  The Service Technician said he would look into the work order and charges and get back to be.

August 11th, 2014 No Call-back from Service Technician as of this date, one month later.  I assume I am not being billed for the work.  I continue to operate my wheelchair with a structural part missing.

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That’s it!  I’m done dealing with an incompetent company run by equally incompetent personnel.  But I have to let them know what has driven me to this point of exasperation where I will no longer be doing future business with Shoppers Home Healthcare, be it service or purchasing my next chair.

So I decide to send a polite, yet strongly worded letter, including the above timeline (with names included), cc’d to all concerned.  Those people would be, first and foremost, the Shoppers Home Healthcare, -Bartley Drive Service (non-)coordinator, her immediate supervisor, and the Technical Services Operations Manager under whom they all operate.  I had written to, and spoken by phone with the Technical Services Operations Manager previously on two occasions, expressing my dissatisfaction with what they consider service –obviously to no avail.  Finally, I included a copy of the letter and timeline to ‘Customer Service’ at Shoppers Home Healthcare’s corporate headquarters suggesting that this incompetence at one facility taints the entire brand of Shoppers Home Healthcare and their products.

I was also going to write to the Better Business Bureau of Canada, however, I discovered that they are not a member……..and for good reason.

It was early September of 2014 (Letter not dated and I didn’t keep the envelope) when I finally received one reply – only from the Shoppers Home Healthcare Bartley Drive unit Technical Service Manager.  The depth of his concern is evident in his response below.

Click on letter to read contents hidden by right margin.

Shoppers Home Healthcare, Bartley Drive facility knows how to purchase 'voicemail' services, but have know idea what to do with the incoming messages.  Count up the number of times I received no Call-back on voicemail requests.  I believe if I remembered to document all, there are 21 un-returned calls. How do you run any business like that, particularly one where the most dependent of societies citizens may find themselves broken down, stuck in the middle of a crosswalk, in the rain, with a full bladder.   And when in despiration they call their wheelchair service provider, they reach voicemail and receive................... No Call-Back!

I was particularly disappointed that I did not receive a reply from the Shoppers Corporate Office.  I explained in my letter that poor service in their Bartley Drive wheelchair facility reflects badly on their entire operation.  The poor service I receive in one Shoppers operation taints my view on all their operations.  Shoppers Corporate Office was obviously unconcerned about my opinion as I never did hear back from them.  I now take all my pharmaceutical and health care needs to their competitor, Rexall.

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 Since last episode, where a minor repair took up the entire summer of 2014 and resulted in missing parts, I have found a new Healthcare & Wheelchair Sales & Service company ‘Motion Specialties’.  Let me just give one example as to the type of service they have provided for me to date.

Experiencing a problem with my same Permobil M300 chair, I called up Motion Specialties Service Department and was directed to voicemail.  I left a message on their machine detailing my problems and requested a call-back in order to schedule a service call.  I received a call-back within about 45 minutes and was informed that the technician was already on his way over.  Now that is service.
Having dealt with them several times now, from flat tires to major repairs on this rolling disaster of a Permobil, they have always been timely, competent and personable.  So far it has been a joy to work with them and I have no reason to believe it won’t continue.

So, if you want the quality of service which Shoppers Home Healthcare –Bartley Drive unit has, as outlined above, provided for me, I suggest you do business with them.

Until my recent retirement, I worked at a large local hospital and had frequent encounters with various health care providers as well as disabled patients and the public.  I had asked the Technical Service Operations Manager for Shoppers, Bartley Drive "what would you have me tell these people that I meet about your products and service?"  I had no reply.  They just don't care!

Update: April 2016

As of March 22nd, 2016, Shoppers "We Don't Care" is divesting itself of the mobility device aspect of their business apparently to focus on pharmaceutical sales.  Many others have had similar experiences to my own and have had to wait months and even a year for assessment and repairs with phone calls inquiries going unanswered.

I truly believe this is not just lazy incompetence as you would have to make a concerted effort to be this bad and uncaring towards the disabled -the most vulnerable in our society!!  Way to go Shoppers!

To read more on the Shoppers Home Healthcare closing, visit my blog post by clicking here.

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