Friends and family have known that Namine needs a new wheelchair for quite some time. We’ve had a request in the works for a while now. I’ve been telling people that it took two years since we initially started the process, but I was wrong. It has been three.
We knew Namine was outgrowing her chair. Strike that: she had outgrown it. What really struck home this point was when Namine tipped her chair, lacerating her foot in the process, and spending days in the hospital afterwards. She would never have tipped her wheelchair if it weren’t off-balance; it was off-balance because she was too tall for it. Both feet extended past the cushion, even her right foot whose knee she cannot straighten.
Namine’s injury was the tipping point for us, too. No longer was the too-small (and getting smaller, relatively) wheelchair just something she had to deal with. She needed — it was literally a medical necessity — a new chair. So we called people. We never shouted, though we wanted to. Fortunately, all of the Complex Care staff at Children’s Hospital who follow Namine’s progress were on our side. It wasn’t just the say-so of the parents; we had the backing of the professional opinion of medical staff.
Unfortunately, insurance companies care little for that sort of thing. They have their own medical professionals who review equipment requests, and they seem to do all in their power to shoot down reasonable requests like so many clay pigeons. Our initial request was denied. We appealed the denial. That was also denied. We submitted a new, modified request, which was approved. Explaining it takes moments; living it took months.
However, fast forward to now and here we are: Namine now has her new chair. It is taller, but not much wider. But because Namine is taller, it is significantly longer, which in turn enlarges its turn radius. So much so, in fact, that Namine cannot turn her chair in the bathroom in order to take a shower. And so one new piece of equipment changes other needs. The process which we’ve already begun to remodel the bathroom, in order to make it more accessible for Namine, will make it 100% usable in her new chair. For the time being, she still has to use her old chair a little bit.
The new wheelchair, being larger, is also heavier. This actually doesn’t affect Namine’s mobility on flat surfaces. She’s just as fast, if not faster, because the proportion of her growing arms to the larger chair and wheels makes it more comfortable for her. The difficulty lies in navigating ramps, since the increased weight makes her work harder.
The ramp in our garage is a prime example of this. It is steeper than the typical ADA-compliant ramp you’d find at a store, for example. It was originally built for an individual in a power chair, who didn’t care about the steepness of ramps. Namine, having a manual chair, does. The side railing along the ramp helps in this regard.
We are also in talks to have the ramp replaced with one more beneficial to Namine, but that must wait until after the bathroom’s work has been completed. One thing at a time.