Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A Broken Powerchair and The Big Society

My powerchair has an intermittant fault.  It broke down Sunday last week and stranded me in the middle of Oxford. It was working again after a while so the next day I went to the pool in it.  It broke down again in the changing room at the pool.  Then it started working again and on the advice of the wheelchair engineers I kept using it (although I didn't go out for a few days) as it needed to happen again before it could be fixed.  This Monday it broke down again in CAB and we couldn't even freewheel it so I had to leave it there.  The repair guy went to CAB this morning (long story there) but it's not fixed. I've got it home now though it broke down again as soon as I got it in the door. Right in front of my dryer meaning I can't get to it.

I've needed a lot of help from a lot of different people to cope.  Here's a list:

Random man (he was waiting outside the loo and came in and helped me get moving and then pushed me over to my friends)
Two of my friends (moral support and assistance with getting me in to the taxi)
Autohome's control centre staff (made it very easy for the scared me to get home)
Taxi driver (pushed me up the ridiculous ramp into the minibus to get me home)
My Dad (came to help get me off the taxi and into my help - pretty much immediately after getting home from dealing with an elderly relative's own emergency situation)
My Dad again (picked me up and took me home again after family meal)
A Lifeguard (went and found my friend for me)
Another of my friends (helped me out of the building, went to fetch me a drink as I couldn't move, moved my powerchair
Another wheelchair user's carer (got my powerchair onto freewheel which required clambering all over it due to it's position)
The same lifeguard (helped to push my chair off of pool side and out of the building)
The manager of the pool (also helped to push my chair out of building)
The controller of a local taxi company (the only accessible taxi they had free was off the road with a broken meter being fixed. They called a driver off of their lunch break and stopped the repair to come get me home and told him what to charge me)
Another taxi driver (interrupted lunch break to come get me)
A CAB client (was in the room with me in the middle of an interview - I was going to get something - when chair broke and she went for help and then tried to help get me moving again)
Various CAB staff (took over with my client, tried to get me moving again, fetched me my bag and drink, offered me a magazine whilst waiting for rescue, agreed I could leave it there and have the engineer come there)
My Dad yet again (interrupted his day working from home and dropped everything to come rescue me)
My mum (picked me up and drove to cinema when normally we would walk/use my powerchair)
Two CAB staff members (One spoke to engineer about what was happening the other went in slightly early to be sure to be there for him.)
The same friend from the pool (picked me up and took me to the bureau to collect my chair today, dropped my library books back for me, brought manual chair back and helped with powerchair having died again)
my Dad again (he's coming round on his way home from work to move my chair if he can - probably doubtful - and take my washing back to his house if he can't).

This is a very long list but it doesn't include the many phone calls I've had to make, tweets I've had offering support or even the ridiculousness of the situation with getting it repaired today.  I've also not included the wheelchair repair people, one of whom spent a long time on the phone with me.  Nor have I made mention of the fact I've had to do two online food shops as I can't go myself.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  It feels like it takes much more than that to cope with a broken powerchair.  The Big Society definitely already exists!


Hannah Ensor said...

With so much negative press saying how uncaring society is, it is great hearing stories like this where not only friends and family but also random strangers help out. I am currently trying to find out who 2 young men on the 16:30 train bristol-london today were who helped relocate my dislocated wrist, had a great disability awareness chat with them, then they helped me when I choked seriously badly! How brilliant is that!

Joanna said...


Emma you inspire me to think more of my helpers even the slightly inempt ones. Long time reader. First time coming out of the shadows.

I mentioned you in my blog post, but I'm not sure if trackbacks work between blogger and wordpress. Thanks for the reminder.

Elizabeth McClung said...

thanks for showing not just how much wffort it takes, and risk in using equipment, and helpless without it - but also how many people it requires for function as an independent person (and thankfully all those who have acted, and not ignored) - also hurray for 21st century and online shopping. I think your power chair and you are back together again - huzzah.


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