Skip to content Skip to navigation

Collision in my new power chair

July 5, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
| Reprints

My new power chair arrived just as the batteries in the old one died. Since the new chair's joystick is set up differently, I am learning a different way to steadily move the joystick. I need to be comfortable with using the joystick in order to enjoy the new chair's power.

My first outing in the new chair was shopping at a big-box store. Because of the different hand placement and joystick position making continuous contact with the joystick was harder. My friend had to constantly reposition my hand. By the end of the day, I was worn out from pushing a firmer joystick from a weird angle. I was trying to fine-tune my ability to pick up speed in open spaces and yet be able to maneuver safely close to displays and shelves.

A few days later my friend Beth visited. She was apprehensive about taking me out in a new power chair. I assured her I had already had one outing that was tiring, but not dangerous. I convinced her to be adventurous and take me out. We enjoyed shopping at a strip mall store and then traversed the parking lot to have lunch.

So, I decided to go out to get a perm. My friend who took me out first with the new chair was up for it. However, the chair's armrest pads were not secured tightly. The technician was coming to fix them, but he did not get here before perm day.

As I entered the salon, I saw there would be a wait. When I was taken to the shampoo bowl, we discovered the new chair is higher off the ground and the controller box location (in the middle of the upper chair back) made it challenging to back up to the shampoo bowl. A plastic bag placed over the controller waterproofed it and a flue was made out of a couple of vinyl capes so my hair could be washed and rinsed.

When my perm was finished, it was 1 p.m. and I was thirsty and hungry. I turned up the aisle to leave and the chair's back caster got caught on a salon chair. When I turned away from it, the chair veered right and my hand slipped forward on the joystick and my shin collided with the salon chair. I could not reach the joystick to backup and was stuck with it engaged.

I told my friend to shut the chair off, freewheel it and back it up quickly. My leg felt like it was broken. I sat there with tears running down my face. My friend suggested calling the squad. But, I got some water, and had my friend bend and straighten my right leg. Since he could move it without me having excruciating pain, I did not think it was broken.

Several customers who saw my crash waited while I was pushed to the front and the manager filled out an incident report.

My friend and I got some lunch without my leg bothering me much. Back at the facility, the nurse gave me over-the-counter pain relievers and applied ice to my leg on and off all evening. But, when I tried to sleep, my leg began to throb. Since the night shift nurse would only let me use cold compresses, I only got a couple of hours sleep.

The next morning I got up as usual but my leg was swollen and killing me. I had to get back in bed for x-rays and to elevate and ice my leg. Luckily, the x-rays showed no fracture, but my leg is deeply bruised.

That afternoon the power chair technician stopped in to readjust the chair speed and to secure the arm rest covers. The joystick is no longer jerky and I can move it more easily. My leg is still achy—but is on the mend.


Kathleen Mears

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