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Monday, April 21, 2014

A Doozy of a Day

This last week end, we had a day that was a real doozy (Saturday, April 19th). We thought that bad things came in threes, but we proved that wrong. Before I describe the events of the day, the following info will be helpful.

I now use a power wheel chair, so we needed to find and purchase a van equipped for wheel chair access. Besides the sliding door and automatic ramp, vans of that type have straps that hook on to the chair to secure it to the floor of the van. It is a pain in the butt for the person strapping you in and out, so somebody invented an automatic locking system. The way it works is that you wheel your chair so that a part on the bottom of the chair moves into a funnel shaped opening that narrows into the locking system. You wheel forward and, click, you are locked. To get out, you push a button and it releases the lock allowing you to wheel out. This all sounds great, but you have to know exactly whether the motor should be running or not, if the doors should be open or not, if the ramp should be out or in. There are lots of possible combinations and when we bought the van we either weren't very well instructed on how to make this easy, or we were very poor students, or they messed up the installation.

One other thing - I now have oxygen tanks to make my breathing easier. The oxygen is delivered through those attractive plastic tubes that stick up your nostrils.

As we were getting ready to go to the REAL Salt Lake, Major League Soccer game, we were trying to figure out how to attach one of the larger oxygen tanks to the wheel chair. As Gerri' started to put the regulator on the tank, WHOOSH, we had oxygen blowing out of the tank - full force. We didn't know why. We didn't know whether to run away or try to close or fix it. Pure oxygen is highly flammable and a spark from the chair could have been a very bad thing. So we sat there, frozen in a state of indecision, until after a minute or so passed and the tank was empty. We figured out that the tank came with a piece of plastic tape which, if not removed, prevents a good seal for the regulator. That piece of tape lets you know if the tank has not been used. We now had no choice but to bring two smaller tanks, one hanging on the back of my wheel chair, and the other in a gym bag for later use.  Problem solved.

This thing is possessed by Satan.
Now it was time to get into the van. The door slid open and the ramp came out.  I slowly wheeled up the ramp and positioned myself to move the chair into the automatic locking system. I moved forward. No lock. I backed up and tried it again. No lock. We closed the van doors, retracted the ramp, turned the car on, and tried again. Nothing. This went on for at least 30 minutes. Were we frustrated? Yes. Did we want to punch the noses of the folks who installed this thing? YES! After trying every combination I moved forward and, click, I was locked. We noted that the motor was running and the doors were closed. We thought we had figured it out.

We arrived at the stadium. We pushed the little green button to unlock the thingy. Nothing. We tried again. Nothing. We spent another 30 minutes trying to get me out. Finally, we must have done something right because, CLICK, it released me.

Now we were at the game. It was very exciting even though the score was 0 - 0 at the half. There were some fantastic plays and saves at the goal.  Really cool.

Now it was half time. I didn't feel like I needed a potty break (big mistake). The wheel chair accessible potty is quite a distance from our seats. I heard a voice behind me calling my name. I looked over my shoulder and there was Phil Palmer, one of my friends from the U of U. I was going to back up and turn the chair so that I could visit with Phil, but for some reason I couldn't move. I tried a couple of times and then heard the scary sound of an oxygen tank emptying. I had backed over the bag that the reserve tank was in. Everyone around us was holding their ears and looking at us with alarm on their faces. About a minute later, the tank was empty. Losing the second tank meant I would use all of my oxygen before getting home, but that is not a big deal.  I can live without it. So I had a short visit with my pal Phil.

The second half of the game was exciting. There were a lot of amazing saves by the goal keeper, but RSL kicked in the only goal of the game. Final score RSL 1, Portland 0. Time to go home.

We got to our van, which was parked facing a fence. There was no car next to us - we were somewhat secluded. I wheeled slowly into the van and positioned the chair so I could lock myself in again. Again no success after several tries. Suddenly I felt the urgent need to pee. We had to get home fast but we couldn't get me locked down in the van. I was desperate. There was no way I could hold it any longer so I asked Gerri' to open the door and let the ramp out. I anxiously wheeled out and to the front of the van where I thought that I could pee discretely. My pants were unzipped and ready to go. All I had to do was stand and hold onto the fence while I let loose. A perfect plan, except my legs were weak and my knees buckled. Gerri' was there to keep me from going all the way to the ground but now we had to get me back into the chair. When my legs go out, I am mostly dead weight. Little Gerri' was lifting with all of her might, mind and strength. She was able to back me onto the edge of the chair where I was in a position to grab the arms of the chair and pull myself up. I had just enough strength to keep myself from falling again but not enough to scoot back so that I could get all the way into the chair. Gerri' huffed and puffed and pushed my knees slowly back into the chair. After all of the excitement, I no longer had the urge to pee, so, we got back into the van, and after multiple tries I was able lock down the chair. We got out of there and headed home.

When we got home, you'll never guess what happened. We could not unlock that chair AGAIN. While we tried all of the secret combinations, the urge to pee started to grow again. By the time the chair was finally unlocked, I was sure I was going to pee my pants - that is - if my pants were not already unzipped and down around my hips from our efforts at the stadium. We opened the door and out came the ramp. I was in such bad shape, I grabbed "myself" with my left hand which took on the functions of a tourniquet. Now I just had to wheel down the ramp and go inside and take the leak that I desperately needed to take.

I must have been distracted by my critical biological emergency, because near the bottom of the ramp, my right wheel went over the edge of the ramp. The chair didn't fall, but it moved enough to buck me off. Now I was lying on the concrete with scraped knees and elbows and my left hand tucked into my underwear. Gerri' screamed like I have never heard her scream before. She ran to my side. After we checked to determine whether or not I was dead, we sat on the concrete together to figure out how we were going to get out of this mess. I became aware of the fact that the urge to pee had mysteriously disappeared! We knew that there was no way that I was going to get into that chair, so Gerri' decided to run into the house and get the scooter, which is supposedly easier to mount. When she returned with the scooter she said, "These pants are in the way," and then pulled off my shoes and my pants.

Now we began the onerous task of getting my dead butt on to the seat of that scooter. She tugged and lifted while I exerted whatever strength I had left. It wasn't enough. I was afraid that Gerri' was going to permanently injure her back. A thought came to both of us. I could not express what I was thinking but Gerri' said, "I'm going to get a neighbor." She called Jeff and Angie Lillywhite and found Jeff home. While we waited just a moment while Jeff came over, I sat on the sidewalk in my underwear wondering who might drive by and see this unusual sight. As Jeff walked up to us Gerri' said, "Why Kevin is in his underwear is a long story that can wait." With that, Jeff stood behind me, grabbed me under the arm pits, and put me on the scooter. That was the easiest thing we had experienced all day. Thank you Jeff! If it weren't for you I would have spent the night sleeping on concrete in a puddle of pee.

It was definitely not a usual day for us. It was a day that will not soon be forgotten. We laughed, cried, got angry, felt hopeless and desperate, and then laughed some more. We learned or relearned some important lessons.

First:  If you have to pee, do it before you get in the car. In fact whether you think you need to pee or not, go to the potty anyway.

Second: Make sure you get the operating instructions for any device that you buy. Don't leave the dealer until you are sure how the device works and you have tried it more than once.

Third:  If you have an extremely urgent need to pee, take your mind off of the need by suffering some other trauma. You could (a) hit your thumb with a hammer, (b) close the car door on your fingers, (c) get your foot stuck in a conveyer belt, (d) break some ribs by falling out of a tree you just climbed. Use your imagination to come up with some trauma that is worse than peeing your pants. (I have done (c) and (d) and I'm pretty sure those would take your mind off of the urgent need to pee.)

You don't have to go what we went through last Saturday. Just follow these lessons and you will be OK.

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