The day started out as devastating. Mid-morning or so, my manual wheelchair broke. Completely. The screws that hold the back upright were stripped or missing, and that meant the back would not or could not stay in place. Almost at will, the back of the chair would crash down on top of the seat, making it totally unsafe to use. Most people who know me understand that in my life, my wheelchair is like my second skin. As much as it might appear so to some, this was not a first world problem.
Yes, I still had my power chair and it was in working order, so I wasn’t exactly up a creek without a paddle. The thing is, I do not have a custom van with a wheelchair lift, so whenever I leave my house to go to various appointments, I have to take my manual chair because that is the one that folds and can be put in other people’s cars. So when my chair broke that morning and all of the appointments that I had in the following few days popped in my mind, I felt like Charlie Brown when Lucy took away the football. To complicate matters even further, a few weeks back I had decided to use my manual chair more than I had been, to get some exercise and burn more calories than I do moving about in my power chair. In fact, the day before my manual chair broke I was feeling quite proud of Levi and I. We had made a habit of going for a walk on the bike trail most days, and we had worked up to a distance of about a mile and a half. The walk helped him to get rid of some puppy energy, and it helped me to feel like I was doing what I could to get back in shape.
The first thing I did when I realized my chair was on the outs was to call the wheelchair company I work through. When I told them the issue, it wasn’t that they were in any way unsympathetic. They just couldn’t get a service technician to me before December 11th. Given how much my nerves were fried that day, it felt like they were telling me that my wheelchair wouldn’t be fixed for centuries. That afternoon my occupational therapist called the same office with the same message. And she got the same results.
Lee Twombly is part of the same company and he has been my “wheelchair guy” for many years. He has always been supportive, patient and kind. And he also knows how much my manual chair means to me. Over the years I have taken up lots of Lee’s time, as several of my chairs have needed numerous adjustments and such. Therefore, I try not to call him directly too much these days. I know he is busy and I want to respect the fact that he has many clients besides me. In the situation I was in, I made an exception. Trying to keep what was left of my control intact but not being very successful, I left him a voicemail explaining my plight.
Inside half an hour he called me back. In his gentle and reassuring way, he said “Hey Lorraine, I would ask how you are doing but I just listened to your message. I happen to be in Lawrence today, (he is based in Kansas City) do you want me to come by after my last appointment?” It was more than I hoped.
Within the hour Lee was at my house with a bunch of tools and about 500 screws fixing my manual wheelchair, while making delightful conversation the whole time. To further put me at ease, he told me to call his secretary approximately every six months and ask her to schedule a visit to my house if he had time in his day when he was in Lawrence. “I would rather maintain your wheelchair and keep it working for you than for you to have any more days like the one you had today.” Will do, Lee. You have no idea what that gesture means to me.
By the time he left, the significant stress I had experienced that day was completely gone. My manual chair was also in working order. And it was all because Lee chose to create some time in his schedule to fix a problem that was huge in my life and make me feel better. It was not the first time he had done so.
Thank you, Lee. You are a lifesaver, and you take care of me “perfectlee!”