You find them at apartment complexes, places of education, office buildings, and elsewhere. Maintenance people keep things running. If something is off kilter, they adjust it. If it doesn’t function properly, they know how to correct it, figure out how to. If it can’t be fixed, they replace it.
Machines need maintenance. Being in a wheelchair and depending on machines that can so easily lose battery power or malfunction in any number of ways can be frustrating, and at times even frightening. Being the caregiver for someone in a wheelchair has its own extra set of challenges.
There are, at our house, a large number and wide variety of mobility aids. And there is, at our house, a maintenance man called Mr. Legs.
If any part of my wheelchair is crooked, broken, or needs adjusting, it’s Mr. Legs who gets out the bag of specialty tools and makes it right again. With its many adjustable parts-cushion, armrests, leg guides, footplate, headrest options and technical settings, there is often something that needs tweaking. I could make a service request to the Seating Specialist or Technician at the wheelchair company, which is two hours away; but I would need to wait until a trip here fit into the schedule. Instead, Mr. Legs acts quickly and restores function and my comfort. He ensures my wheelchair battery is charged every night so I start the next day with full power.
If the platform lift needs greasing, Mr. Legs does it. If I need a ramp to enter somewhere, Mr. Legs puts it in place for me. If the specialty van doesn’t work properly, Mr. Legs figures out how to get me in/out of it. He has become my mobility equipment jack-of-all-trades. This didn’t happen overnight though – each piece of equipment has been a new thing to learn.
The day we bought our wheelchair accessible van was challenging. We rode two hours to the store, went through all of the preparation and fitting necessary, did a lot of waiting while the van and my wheelchair were being worked on, and did our best to absorb all of the new technology and instructions. Then, tired from an expensive purchase, information overload and a long day, Mr. Legs drove the van two hours to our house. We pulled in the driveway, parked, took a deep breath, and were glad to be home. We pressed the button to release my wheelchair from the locking device, and nothing happened. Nothing. We pushed the button again. We pushed it multiple times, just as demonstrated and practiced at the shop, but the results were not the same. The door did not open.
It was nighttime and dark outside, and we didn’t know much about the van yet. I was stuck; and, as most people are after a trip, I was anxious to visit the bathroom. It was a situation full of stress from exhaustion and frustration. (There may have been tears.) Over the course of about an hour, we called the mechanic who helped Mr. Legs troubleshoot enough to get the ramp deployed and I was set free.
It rained cats and dogs the day of a wedding. At the end of the day, we were physically and emotionally spent from the pleasures and responsibilities of the event, and we headed for the hotel with only a few more things to do. Arriving there, Mr. Legs thoughtfully pulled up near a door to let me out where I would have a minimal time of being in the rain. The button that opens the back door and deploys the ramp was pushed….but the door would not fully open…which caused all of the van’s technical functions to lock. The car was stuck, and I was stuck again. Eventually, Mr. Legs and our son managed to free the car, and me.
There have been numerous times when we have been ready to leave to go somewhere, or ready to go home after being somewhere, when the ramp would not come out of the van or the van would not start at all. With all of the electronics and safety features in such a specialized vehicle, there are many things that can interfere with its functioning. It also means that there is a constant low draw on the battery. It doesn’t take much, especially in cold weather, for the battery to be totally drained. The vehicle does also have a backup battery for the ramp, but it can also be easily drained and depleted of power. We learned about the constant drain on the battery after it died a number of times, requiring jumping and ultimately replacing.
The hydraulic platform lift which I use to exit and enter our home, has, on more than one occasion, stopped while I have been halfway up or down. My wheelchair battery has, at times gotten dangerously low, leaving me stranded in one place until it is sufficiently recharged over time and I can move again. Our patience, our brain capacity and our fortitude have been tested. We have learned a lot of things under fire. The unfortunate and stressful situations we have encountered have always been overcome. Mr. Legs has come to the rescue each time.
My bed itself is electric and it has a specialty mattress with a motor and firmness settings to choose from. A dial on my heated blanket has options from 0 to 10. Transfer boards help me move my body from one place to another. We own a myriad of sizes and shapes of foam and fabric cushions and pillows, each bought or made with a purpose. The list of equipment and accessories we own seems endless. Mr. Legs keeps track of it all. If we travel, many items go with us, and Mr. Legs packs and carries them.
I live in our house with a lot of mobility aids and one very wonderful Maintenance Man. There aren’t many people in my position who have such thoughtful personal help, and I count myself among the most fortunate.