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Battery blues

June 9, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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I no longer have the resources to hire a driver to take me on outings in my accessible 12-year-old van. Activity staff does some of my shopping. My sister Janice, however, visits once a month or so and takes me shopping and to lunch.

I look forward to her visits and being able to get out into the community. I like making my own purchases and getting a break from facility food.

It was raining hard with the temperature in the high 50s the day Janice visited last month. Lightning flashed and thunder boomed intermittently. We went out the back door and headed quickly to my van in the front parking lot.

The engine has to be off for me to roll into my power chair's lockdown unit. My sister folded down the ramp and I rolled in.

Janice got in the driver's seat, turned the key, and nothing happened—not even a click. She tried another van key, but the engine would not start. Consequently, I was stuck in the lockdown unit. We knew that at least the battery was dead. My van had only been started one time since my sister's last visit, and that was just to move it to a different parking spot.

I apologized to Janice for not having the van started regularly. I have no emergency roadside service because I decided years ago to put money in savings for van emergencies. I told Janice that my battery was three years into a five-year warranty. If someone would use my cables to jump my van, we could purchase another battery with a 20 percent discount.

Janice feared someone could be injured while helping us. She preferred to call her emergency road service, get the van running and go from there.

So she called and told them the battery was dead and I was trapped in the van. They said someone would be there soon.

Janice walked to the street to flag down the "roadside service guy." It was still raining and she was soaked. The van was parked on a hilly spot, and I was leaning toward the left, which was causing my neck to hurt. Since I could not do anything to help, I sat in the van and cried.

Thirty-five minutes later a red truck rolled in. Janice and "road service guy" talked in the rain. Then she got in and turned the key, while he jumped the van. That seemed to do the trick until Janice began to back up to move to a level parking spot. The rear brakes rumbled and the van hesitated. Janice asked "road service guy" move the van. He said the brakes locked temporarily because they were so wet.

The "road service guy" suggested the battery be put on a charger. But Janice wanted it replaced so she would not have to worry about it going dead again. "Road service guy" installed the battery and the van started.

By this time, we were both starving and headed to lunch. The street was full of potholes and the rain made driving difficult. We were following the road service truck when the battery light came on. Janice followed him to the garage. He checked the alternator, which was all right and told us the battery light might have come on because the battery was wet.

We parked in the restaurant lot and hurried in between lightning bolts. We were soaked and used a towel from my van to dry off. After lunch, we made one shopping stop and came back to the facility. I apologized to Janice again because the van broke down and she had to rescue me. She said she was pleased that she could help me get the van going again.



Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...