04 June 2010

Watch It!

Some years before Scarecrow's dad died, he suffered a closed-head injury that left him with a variety of cognitive problems, including severely impaired short-term memory, and social skills that were rudimentary on a good day. I have a vivid mental image of this retired Air Force pilot careening down a grocery store aisle in an electric cart, grumbling at all the little old ladies (this would be Tampa/St. Pete, so, statistically speaking, most of the other shoppers would be little old ladies) to "Watch it!!"

Yesterday afternoon, the wheelchair guy brought a loaner chair outfitted with a head array control for me to try for a couple of days. It has proximity switches in the headrest that control all of the chair's functions -- forward, reverse, direction, tilt, recline, everything. The loaner even goes up and down, which my own chair does not. I realize that, at this point, my options for self-propulsion might be this, or nothing. I realize it will take a while to learn to use, although it's looking like my surroundings could take quite a beating in the interim. I'm sure the controls on my own chair could all be customized to work better for me. While I imagine it would all become second nature after a while, I'm not finding this... ah... intuitive. I'm trying not to be in too much of a hurry to decide I hate it.

Unlike the proportional control of a joystick, with a switch you're either moving, or you're not. If the speed is set so you have a chance of safely negotiating corners and turns, you won't live long enough to get where you're going. Selecting a different speed involves stopping, performing an arcane sequence of taps and bumps to bring up a menu on the display, selecting Speed, choosing a different option, tapping and bumping your way back to the menu, and then proceeding on your way. Wasn't that easy? At least, I think that's the procedure. I wouldn't really know, because banana-slug-speed is still way more than I can safely manage. Although as Patrick at Caregiving Yours pointed out, "Freedom is always fashionable," the additional hardware makes my power chair look even more like a robo-monster than it did before. And, while I'm whining, my neck really hurts!

OK, I admit that one of the less attractive aspects of my personality is that my first response to any new idea, unless of course it's my own, is probably No. I need to keep an open mind. I'll use this contraption until the wheelchair guy comes to reclaim it. I may even get crazy and take it somewhere. You've been warned.

Watch it!


  1. Thanks for the warning Zoom. Honestly, it sounds daunting. Hopefully as you get into it there will be a few tricks especially on that changing speed bit. Good luck!

  2. Um, now where do you live? Which open space or parking lot will you be practicing in? I want to watch you -- from a safe distance, that is.

  3. OH my I guess I now appreciate how well our friend managed not to run us over LOL!

    Let's see umm SciFi gear, warp drive . ...

    Freedom, the locomotion frontier. These are the voyages of Zoomdoggies. Her mission: to explore strange new devices, to seek out new horizons and new possibilities, to boldly go where she wants as never before.

  4. Can't wait to see it. Try not to mow down the 80yr olds...PS, Patrick is right.