Currently being annoyed by how difficult it is to sort out a proper wheelchair. The one I have is heavy, off-the-rack, and not fit for purpose. Not fit for pushing, or sitting in, or going where I want to go, like on basic country trails. It’s great for maybe an older person or less adventurous one who doesn’t want to walk the dog around a country park or Snowdonia lake… but it’s no longer for me. I need a proper active one… before I break the one I’ve got now. It’s already tried to break me… Now it’s time for a proper one.
Someone came to fit me for one… Privately, because I’ve been in this horrific mess for the last 3 ½ years and I’m done waiting. God knows how long the NHS would take… if I’m not dead of old age by then. It’s going to take long enough privately, I’d hate to think how much longer it would take waiting for the NHS to do it. I’m still waiting for everything else, so I’m not hopeful. Hence the private request for a quote.
The experience itself was good – I got to test the chair and talk through the options with the sales advisor… However, what that person did not do was tell me what the options cost. They made it sound like most of it was part of the package, like choosing the frame colour. But… no. Very, very, definitely… No.
Be very careful if you do this yourself, they’ll get you into things you don’t realise cost you a huge amount, but are unnecessary. Like Black wheels for nearly £450… I mean, seriously?? Identical ones in Silver are part of the deal – but they didn’t tell me that, and I don’t think I would have noticed if I hadn’t been an anal Aspie data analyst who noticed one mistake (no, not the price! – an actual mistake in the order list) and realised there was probably something larger afoot.
Thus, I downloaded their “Prescription Form” from the internet, printed it out, then did a cost analysis from what she had added to the list and what I really wanted and really needed. I went full me – data analysis mayhem and data analyst extraordinaire… and I did not like what I found. And I was dumbfounded by how much I didn‘t need. Or even want.
The difference was nearly a grand… over £800 was added to the “prescription” and bill when it wasn’t needed at all. Like the black wheels previously mentioned. Stuff that for £450! – Silver wheels (included), with a cool Spoke Guards for “just” £113, is a much better deal and use of the money. If you’re going to pay an inordinate amount of money for something – it better be what you really want and need… not frivolous trinkets that are unnecessary. I didn’t need fancy wheels, or “compact” breaks, or a fancy Sideguard with a logo sticker (well, OK, that one might be needed, I need to find out more about this “Cold-Resistant” part of it, given where I live…), nor a lapbelt, or fancy footplate of carbonfibre. None of it was necessary – and if I was going to pay nearly £500 for fancy wheels, it was going to be the damned mountain bike ones, not for having them in sodding black!
When I was finished re-evaluating what I needed and hacking apart what she had written down, I got a chair originally billed to me at £3,227 down to £2,422 (including the pretty spoke guards) – or £2,309 without them. The base price (this was for a Quickie Neon²) was £1,645… meaning they had managed to double the price for the first bill sent, which – given you’re dealing with vulnerable and disabled people with probably little income – is terrible. When I added up only the things I really wanted it was only approximately £600 more – a lot, but not double the original price.
Of course, this would be better paid by the NHS – and given the amount of money I’m saving them by paying for my own treatment in home-based Ayurvedic medicine, and how much NI I’ve paid over the years – they should be damned well paying for it. But how long will it take, leaving me stuck the way I am, struggling and feeling like a worthless sack of shite in a wheeled cage?
The Sales Assistant even pointed out that I would be eligible for the chair under NHS Wales, but after so long, I’m reluctant to even ask… PIP utterly refuse to believe I need one (I’m wheelchair reliant outside and barely walk indoors, but only get Standard mobility even after they sent me a re-assessment form back in late January… and that was only after an Tribunal appeal!), why should they be any different? I don’t trust any of them anymore… they all want to save money, not actually help people.
I admit that right now… I feel genuinely utterly worthless. I can barely walk. I have to use walkers to get around the house, and a wheelchair to go outside. When I’m in the wheelchair I feel like a little old biddy, all curled up and caged in. I feel pointless. Stupid. Old. Unnecessary. The walkers make me feel like I’m 105 – despite covering them with nerdy stickers. I can hardly do anything myself and I need virtually 24/7 physical and psychological care (which comes from my parents). I need help for everything I used to do myself… and I just wanted to be at least able to get myself around by myself. It wasn’t too bad… but then everything went even more wrong. Again.
Since my conditioned changed to Paraesthesia [Fibro/Hemiplegic] instead of normal unabating agony, I can’t sit in it nor push my chair. I had to buy a backrest for £45 for it, to use along with a sacrum cushion I already had, so I could just sit in it without having to endure 4 hours of spasms just from sitting in it a few minutes. My hands become numbed and extensive Paraesthesia starts in because it’s difficult to push the chair now. I can’t do what I used to do. It’s just soul-destroying.
I need this new chair so I can have some dignity and independence outside. When I sat in that prototype I felt like I was just me. Just me. No illness, no cage, do disability. Just some cool wheels for legs and the ability to push myself without much difficulty at all. I pushed myself outside all the way down the road here – something very difficult and I’d never done it before. I could have even gone further than I did and come back without much problems. The wheels just went. It pegged it with so little effort from me. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t stop smiling at how much fun it suddenly was to go for a “walk” again! I did it all by myself and I was elated.
So… you can see how important this is to me. Getting it right is important – and the only way I would have those optional extras would be if I wasn’t paying for it. Even then… some of them are entirely unnecessary… I absolutely prefer the Spoke Guards over pretty black wheels…!
The fact of the matter is that if we have to buy this ourselves, my parents will be putting themselves hugely out of pocket, and that kills me with guilt. On the other hand we all have to consider my psychological and physical well-being… it’s not good for anyone to be housebound and inactive when there is theoretically no need for it. I’m getting bigger because I can’t go out and burn energy – and the few exercises I can do at home aren’t really going to make me happy, whilst I’m busy missing practising proper, full yoga and Pilates. I want to walk my own dog, so visit places, maybe go on a small holiday to the Lake District or Glastonbury (where all the cool Wiccan stuff is). I want the confidence to go out with friends – and my parents – without feel like a burden. I want to feel like this thing doesn’t own me. Doesn’t keep me in a cage or in pain/Paraesthesia.
I want my freedom. That just shouldn’t be optional.
But just try telling Jeremy [H]unt that… and his other Tory numbnuts colleagues…
Disfranchised… It isn’t a fun place to be at all. I had so much… and now I have nothing. Not even my freedom.
But maybe… One day… Well, you never know.