Friday, April 13, 2007

A wheelchair accident: or how TubThumping lost me my virginity

Yesterday, I lost my wheelchair virginity, only yards from the front door of my apartment too. No, I wasn’t having sex in a public place again. I mean I got thrown from my chair. Actually spectacularly thrown out of my chair by the laws of physics (I think your “first accident” in a wheelchair only counts if you are “in control” instead of the two times this week I have nearly been run over by cars leaving parking lots – “hello, look down here you stupid SUV!”).

I blame the entire episode on the song, TubThumping by Chumbawamba. That and everyone’s concern that I wouldn’t do something stupid while Linda was in Vancouver for three days (Just because I wheeled up this gigantic hill on Tuesday and was having a problem breathing later doesn’t mean I do that EVERY day – I was too weak to do it again on Wednesday for example). See, everyone including myself was a little worried that I would pass out, or do something stupid or have a heart attack so I carried this phone with me everywhere. But by Thursday that got boring and I kept listening to the song, TubThumping, “I get knocked down but I get up again, you ain’t never going to keep me down.” And was like, “Yeah, that’s me!” (I ignore all that stuff about drinking) Knock me down, I get up again. So I started thinking about that time I went to library over the big hill 12 days ago and afterward I was tired I had big neurological problems and thought: “I wonder if it easier in my new rigid crappy R2 wheelchair” So you can guess what happened next. (here’s the TubThumping video which is full of drag kings and drag queens – never noticed that as a kid)

So there is break of sunshine and I am rolling toward the curb cuts on our intersection to start up the big two block hill leading up to the library. With my newish rented rigid, the footplate is higher so a lot of the curb cuts I would hit before I roll right over now. I thought the one on the other side of the road was one of those. So I fly over the first curb cut, just getting out of the apartment, full of energy and pumping like crazy gathering energy for this hill and I hit the curb cut on the opposite side of the road. Chair stops dead. I however go flying, and somehow land in a perfect “doggie” position on my gloved hands and knees. The wheelchair, now relieved of my weight and with lots of potential energy, flips up from the back and flies upside down through the air. I have just landed and am saying something that sounds a lot like “Shit!” when a half second later, the chair arrives, landing on top of me, and we both crash sideways.

I must have lost a little bit of time because by the time I am “with it” there are three people there, one who apparently had time to park their car and come over. They have put my chair upright, and put the bum cushion back on (who know where that went) and I am saying, “I still have limited mobility” – meaning, I can move my legs generally, when I am not in shock so please don’t beat me up if you see them moving. Well, actually I am a little too shocky to get back up in the chair; I just can’t make those last five inches up after a few tries two of the people help me in. In a odd tradition of being in pain, I break into spontaneous laughter (really, the more pain, the more I laugh). I thank everyone, I am mortified and full of adrenaline and thus pump to the top of the hill with one short break. Because apparently one stupid thing needs to be followed by another.

I forget that the next block that looks level is somewhat uphill too and I am struggling along that as this mother is actually grabbing her child's hand and RUNNING away from me. I know my rigid makes as much noise as a bad grocery cart on those pebbly pavements but come on – I’m not a monster? Anyway, by the time I get to the library, I am so tired I can't use my fingers properly and have to lift books with both mitts. (Later when I tell Linda on the phone she says, that she would have used the disability pass credits to get a taxi home – I tell her that makes sense, I don’t tell her that the thought never even entered my mind.) I have to go up another block and a half to go back home, and I somehow make it and getting back I stop and talk to one of the women in the building who actually asks what has happened to me. She actually “gets it” and want to know what counseling I am getting to deal with this life change. Haha, none. So I pop a wheelie to show her my new skills and control – only instead of holding the wheelie, I start falling over backwards – just like I told my physiotherapist I would never do when I rejected the “training bar” on the back to stop you from going over backwards. Luckily the woman catches the back of my head just before it was going to slam into the ground. I think maybe she is not quite so impressed with my skills.

By the time I call Linda in a hour my entire neural system seems to be in a puddle on the floor since it takes me a long time to type her a note telling her my “adventure” because I can’t hit the right keys and then on the phone, I am slurring so badly she can’t understand what I am saying. And she’s like, “Do you want to hang up?” and I’m going, “Naaaaaaaa, Haaaaaaaarrrr uuuuuuuuuuu” Which is how, “No! So how are you?” comes out. Actually after about five minutes she picks up what I am saying pretty well except for “I love you” which she thinks is “I gotta go” Sigh! I expected her to yell at me....a lot. But she just sort of laughed at me and wasn’t worried at all. I think that if I didn’t do something incredibly stupid to “prove” whatever a couple times a week she would get worried and think I was depressed or something. Anyway, it is not often you leave in a wheelchair and come back with scuff marks on your knees.

Am I in pain today.....oh yeah! As one of the people putting me back in the chair said, “doesn’t this have a seat belt?” Hmmm, well not sure if I wanted to do a fast face plant with a seatbelt or the slow sailing through the air. I have to say, having the wheelchair land on me AFTER I thought I had finally made touchdown was a bit of insult to injury. So, not really moving a lot today.

As for tomorrow, well I keep hearing something in my head, how does it go? “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you ain’t never going to keep me down!”


Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

I laugh when I'm in pain, or nervous. But nobody else can laugh when I'm in pain! I never laugh at anyone elses pain, only mine. I fell down a flight of steel and concrete stairs and every bone in my body was hurting. People got scared of me because I was laughing about it.

kathz said...

Sounds a bit like the time I had just got a moped and wanted to try it out. Somehow I turned it on and accelerated while standing beside it and was dragged all over the car park. It took me ages to realise I was accelerating but I wouldn't let go of my new (well, second-hand) machine that was going to give me independence and freedom. By the time I stopped I was covered in grazes and gravel. But then I got on and rode it and felt great. (Mind you, I was probably always a danger to myself and others, particularly when I started going as fast as I could - which was 37 miles per hour - down steep hills.)

I hope you're recovering now.

By the way, I've been know to tell really bad jokes as a sign of distress - laughter might be better.

Jeannette said...

I couldn't help but laugh my behind off the first time I flew out of my chair. I think, actually, that it was the only time I flew out. But regardless!

The story is here: :)

KateJ said...

Ow! Sounds seriously painful. Glad you can laugh about it, though. It doesn't sound as if the wheelchair is quite right for you if it tips that easily...? Hope you're feeling less bruised by now.

Anonymous said...

hi I am Joy,
on feb 9th 07 I was sitting in my power chair writing. I got cold so got a cardigan type sweater, sat back down.
All of a sudden my hand was lashed down , the wheel had part of the sweater, and the chair was taking me all over my kitchen, and I could not stop, was being bumped back and forth all over the place. Oh for a kill switch on the other side, NONE!! I just wanted off this crazy chair. So I put my left leg to the floor, and the wheel took the inside of my leg. I was alone and terrified, with diabetes, and on coumadin, flesh and blood every where.
All of a sudden the monster through me out face down on the floor, glasses were broken, and large bump on head, and a black eye. Because of my dissability, unable to get up from the floor had to shuffle around to reach my phone. called my husband and grandaughter. they got me to ER the wound was 13.5cm x4.5cm ER Doc saw it it looked like someone had taken an ice cream scoop, and all that was gone.It took the Doc 1/12 hours to suture, was sent home on antibiotics. Within 3 days leg was black like leather sutures breaking down. I spent 12 days in hospital on iv antibiotics, my bone marrow quit making red blood cells, so had to have blood transfusion, followed by procrit. The surgeon went in and cleaned it all out said I narrowly missed a tendon, and he would have to graft it in a few months, thankfully after 5 months the skin is growing back, and I will not have to be grafted.I still see the Doc at the wound care center for painful debriding. and home health still comes out to dress it every other day.
I have called the manufacturer, two months ago, someone was supposed to call back. Still waiting!! Lawyers do not want to deal with it, as would be about $100,000 to get it filed etc.Say it would be like suing Ford or something. So if I did not prevail, they would be out all that money.I understand the reluctance,
On their part.
I wonder how many other people have had similar accidents? A safety switch would have avoided all this.
Thanks for allowing me to tell my story.If there is an attorney out there that can help. Please e-mail me at
Thanks Joy.