It’s been a while now since Roch and I have been out together in the Berlingo (I can’t get him in or out on my own) and it’s been a while since he has been able to get out of his riser/recliner on his own. Most evenings he will sit in his wheelchair to watch TV as he feels trapped in the recliner and very much dislikes my having to use the hoist for him. But the wheelchair isn’t so comfortable for him to sit in all day long. That’s why we were so delighted when the new power chair was delivered two weeks ago. The new chair should have been the solution to several problems at once.
I had the last two weeks off work and we had planned that last week would be spent test driving new WAVs (wheelchair accessible vehicles). Something we couldn’t do until we had the new chair. Just the thought of being able to get out and about together, without having to rely on taxis, really cheered us up. Lately it’s felt like a long hard winter and Roch has just recovered from a heavy cold, which left him feeling pretty low.
The new chair also has several new features including a head rest, also the back can recline, the footrests can be elevated (this will help with circulation, as his poor feet get icy cold) and it will be so much more comfortable for him to relax in in the evenings, until the new riser/recliner chair arrives. Most of all, it is the key to a new freedom of movement – new wheelchair = new WAV, and in my mind was connected to thoughts of Spring and a feeling of renewed optimism – which is why it came as such a crashing disappointment when, fully charged, it came to a halt in the middle of the High Street the first time he rolled out in it. Thankfully he was with one of his brothers at the time. I certainly couldn’t have pushed it two inches, never mind to the nearest pub! But Paudie managed with some difficulty to do just that and Tom got the distress call and headed off from home with the charger. Back they came, having charged the chair in the pub (no great hardship there) and we just assumed that it hadn’t charged properly in the first place. No harm done. So we left it charging overnight and next day Roch, this time accompanied by two brothers (Mairt had arrived in the meantime) – headed off down the road to enjoy lunch out together. Five minutes later Paudie was back. This time the chair had stopped at the end of the road! So Paudie brought the manual chair back, they transferred Roch to this and came back, one pushing Roch and the other with the power chair (no easy task to push this). Again, how lucky that his brothers were with him?
This all happened 12 days ago. The day after the second breakdown, Serco sent someone round. At the time I felt like I was deserting the sinking ship, as I was on my way out the door to catch a train for a weekend away. But I knew that Roch and his brother would be able to manage and secretly I was pleased that I wouldn’t have to deal with this particular Serco guy as in the past I had found him at best uncommunicative and at worst downright rude. So as I sped away in my taxi (!) I took a deep breath, and let go…
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Roch was trying to explain the problem to Serco man. The experience was frustrating to say the least – Roch told me that he felt that he wasn’t being listened to and that this guy had no appreciation of what it meant to Roch to be without a reliable motorised chair – not to mention having been stranded twice. It is an essential piece of equipment and he has to be able to rely on it. Serco man was unable to say what was wrong with it, he was unable to get it out to his van – so in the end he left it with Roch and told him it would be collected on Monday and a substitute chair provided until it was fixed. This left Roch with the unreliable chair for the weekend. It worked intermittently and brought him round the house, had to be constantly charged – but he could not trust it to the great outdoors. Serco did bring the old chair back the following Tuesday and they took the new chair away again for repair – but here we are with all the same problems – our purchase of a WAV has been put on hold, we are back to taxis and we still don’t have the riser/recliner either, so he is trapped in the old recliner for the evening or has to sit in the old wheelchair all day and all evening too. It would have been nice to go out somewhere over the last weekend before I go back to work, as the weather was lovely. I guess at least we have the garden, which is delightful to sit in when it’s sunny and warm, so it could be worse.
Roch has made a complaint to Serco and they have responded by apologising profusely for their operative’s attitude and behaviour, which is good.
But we still don’t have the new wheelchair and frankly I am fed up with it.