But yesterday I got to do something that is only allowed every five years. Yesterday I got evaluated and measured for a new wheelchair. That may seem like a small thing. It isn’t. Not to me at least.
I have used a wheelchair for as long as I can remember. Although I also walked with canes when I was younger, a wheelchair has always been part of my daily life. In my wheelchair, I can move faster, navigate rough terrain better, and be more comfortable than almost anywhere else. That is the theory anyway.
In my case, however, that hasn’t rung true. In the last several years my scoliosis has gotten significantly worse, the spasm in my body has been a nightmare, and my lack of back support in my current wheelchair has meant that my posture resembles that of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I have needed a new chair for what seems like an eternity. The powers that be who regulate my insurance coverage don’t seem to see it my way. Medicare guidelines say that unless there is a significant change in someone’s health status, they can only get a new wheelchair every five years.
In many ways, I understand. “Durable Medical Equipment” is expensive. It stands to reason that the people covered can not get a new chair on a whim. But when I discussed problems I was having with a physical therapist and the guy from a medical supply company, and I asked what could be changed, I was stunned at the length of the list.
- The frame needs to be longer so that when I sit, the seat will hit me in the back of the knees
- The seat needs to be set back a bit so that I have an easier time reaching the wheels to push myself
- I need to have a strap on the front of the chair that will easily hold me feet in place
- The back needs to have more support towards the bottom so that I can sit up straighter
- The frame needs to be rigid so that the chair is lighter and easier to control
- A seat belt on my hips would mean better balance.
On and on we went. Countless features could be changed, adjusted, or improved. How did I feel when all was said and done? Validated. And relieved. No wonder my back has been hurting so much. No wonder, in my current set up, I cannot move very well. I have been sitting in the “wrong” chair for up to 16 hours a day. For years.
But now I see a light at the end of the tunnel. When my new chair comes in, I will sit better, I will be able to reach for things without fear of losing my balance, and I will actually be able to push myself without exerting so much energy to do so. And because I will look so much better when I sit, I will probably project much more confidence than I do now. I even got to pick out the color of the frame. Metallic green. One of my favorites. Who knew that a wheelchair could be an accessory? Grin!
I asked the guy from the medical supply place how long it would take for all the paperwork to go through. Three months. So I started a countdown. In 89 days, my wheelchair will work for me, not against me.
Heck, in 89 days, I just might be able to conquer the world!