Warning – written after 26 hours of not sleeping.

I heard a great story last night, it had my crewmate, my patient and myself in fits of laughter.

We were called to a patient I've been to previously, they are a nice family and the patient is lovely, unfortunately the patient has a long list of medical problems and needs an electric wheelchair to get around. He had been taken ill and, after a four hour wait, had finally got me to pick him up.

He was in his bed and we would use our carry chair to get him out of the house. First though we needed to move the patient's own electric wheelchair. Now I'm experienced enough to know that I really shouldn't touch these things because I'll only end up breaking them, so we called for the patient's son to come and move it.

He tried moving it by standing next to it, but the patient said something to him in his own language and the son climbed into the wheelchair and steered it away.

As he did this he told us the story of having to take the wheelchair to the hospital on his fathers previous visit.

You see it's hard to stand next to a wheelchair to steer it via the joystick, so he climbed in it a rode it to the bus stop.

The problem was that there was a load of people standing waiting for the bus watching him.

So he felt too embarrassed to climb out – it would look a bit…well…'funny'.

So the bus came and the bystanders helped him get on it, then they helped him get off at the other end of his journey. He even gave them a wave of thanks as the bus pulled away.

The son told this story so well we were nearly wetting ourselves with laughter, his animated demonstration of the wave at the end was a sheer brilliant flourish.

Even the father had a (slightly gaptoothed) smile.

The thing that was so funny was that we could all put ourselves in his place and we couldn't really say that we wouldn't do exactly the same thing. It's like a Basil Faulty sketch, a weird playing up of not wanting to offend people and so getting yourself into a silly situation.

As I say, the patient and his family are really nice people and his son was interested in talking to me while waiting for a nurse to take our handover of the patient at the hospital. He was one of the very few people who said 'thank you' at the end of the job.

For those that are interested, blogging of BarCampLondon2 is starting over at Mental Kipple.

21 thoughts on “Wheelchair”

  1. On a French study trip, one of our group usually got around fine on crutches, but for extended periods, would use a manual wheelchair. Hence on this trip, her chair came along.The Paris Metro is not very wheelchair friendly. No problem, it was negotiable by stairs on crutches. Due to the lurching of the Metro, she preferred to stand rather than risk being catapaulted out of her chair. So someone else sat down in the chair whilst we were in motion.

    On one of these trips, one of the prettiest girls in our party was sat in the chair when we got to our station. Before she could get up, two men leapt up from their seats to aid this attractive young lady who was apparently suffering with a long-term disability and lifted her, chair and all, from the Metro to the platform whilst we concealed our laughter.

    Thanking these two men profusely, she then had to sit in the chair until the train had pulled out of the staion and all the other passengers had left the platform before standing up and pushing the chair to the ticket barrier.

  2. I can so see myself doing exactly the same thing and feeling so dumb the whole time because I can't find a way out of the situation… Funny story.

  3. Some years ago, I went to a local attraction with my wife who was in a manual wheelchair, and another couple whose with wife was in an electric scooter. At some point in the afternoon we all took the park transport to another area, leaving the wheelchairs behind. Later the scooter user and I returned to collect the wheelchairs. I felt a bit stupid pushing an empty wheelchair, so sat in it, took hold of the scooter, and was towed through the park.All went well until we went round a corner a little too fast, tippng the wheelchair. I stood up very quickly before any helpful passers-by could come to the rescue of this “poor disabled man”. Though the fact that we were both laughing our heads off probaly indicated that I was not seriously hurt by the fall.

  4. Brilliant! My nan used to borrow my Grandad's mobility scooter to go to Asda! He used to ride up to the bookies, she'd walk behind, ride to Asda, get the shopping, back to the bookies, he'd take the shopping home on the scooter and she'd walk!!

  5. Nice story but it made me really sad to read that people don't thank you and if this doesn't sound sickenly sycophantic and sentimental I would like to thank you for what you do.

  6. Me too – brilliant! He could've founded a whole new religion and made Scientology-style megabucks if he'd leapt out as suggested above though!

  7. Nice one! Anyone monitoring the CCTV must've had a moment's wonder there – hope none of you lot were bearded & wearing sandals…. :o)Speaking of giving up your seat for people, am I alone in wishing those “I'm pregnant” stickers had been introduced long ago for public transport?

    So many ladies these days are a little “big boned” or have “water retention” and it's hard to know when to give up my seat for someone who's pregnant – and I'm female myself so can't pretend I'm just being old-fashioned if I accidentally give up my seat to a lass who just happens to like her pies, mistaking her for a mum-to-be….

    And, I have to ask this, knowing it's off topic and apologies in advance:

    what's the etiquette for (for example) me, having been working at home all day, with a generous workout period and thus feeling pretty fit and seeing someone (male or female) get on a crowded bus/tube who is so obviously obese and knackered that standing upright is a burden – and I want to give them my seat, without meaning any negative judgements AT ALL, but fear offending?

    Baffles me, I feel like a right selfish git sometimes watching someone struggling after a long day and they don't have the physique to enjoy “surfing” the bumps and twists and turns of public travel.

    Next best is when my usually fit young bod suffers a (naturally invisible) back pain attack and I'm hogging a seat sweating in pain while spry sixty-somethings glare at me.

    Sorry for the digressions there, I just don't have my seat karma worked out yet and until I got started typing didn't realise what a biggie those hours of guilt were!

  8. Dangerous things wheelchairs!Last year i was on my way home when i noticed an elderley lady that i knew in her electric wheelchair “caught” on one of the new speedbumps on the drive of the gym (her front wheels had made it over, the back ones hadn't). All fired up on endorphins and feeling like wonder woman having just worked out I decided that I was able to get her over all by myself rather than do the sensible thing and go for help. After much huffing and puffing (terrified if i tipped it too much she'd fall out) i managed to dislodge the darn thing and get the back wheels over the bump. The lady thanked me and as she was running late went to speed off….. running my foot over in the process by way of gratitude.

  9. I agree with the person above – electric wheelchairs are very dangerous things. I remember when one of our residents electric wheelchair malfunctioned and ran into a wall. The wheels kept going and the damn thing tipped backwards leaving a steamingly drunk, 1 legged irishman on his back with his one leg waving in the air, coming out with the sort of language that would make a sailor blush and calling the manufacturers of said wheelchair some very cheeky names. Getting him the right way up was hampered by his efforts to knock out anyone who came within 2 feet of him and the fact the staff were trying not to laugh without much success.

  10. I find this one really tricky, too!I tend to say to people “I'm getting off soon, would you like my seat?” – tends to turn the trick.

    However, I've not worked out how to stop people glaring when my knee has given way (happens every couple of months or so), and I *can't* stand for the 15 minute rail journey. I just have to (slightly) exaggerate the limp as I get off the train in the hope that they will feel guilty for their glares!

  11. Fab post Tom!It's those sort of stories which make my job! I love the helping people and trying to make a difference, but its that sort of story which keeps me going. You are so right about the Basil Fawlty thing…can just see it now!!!

  12. You should try asking for a seat on the tube as a fit 20 year old who has just had a circumcision! Takes a bit of explaining!

  13. Too much information! Just say you've got a dodgy knee/back/miscellaneous war injury like the rest of us, eh? Joe Bloggs on the tube isn't going to go home, check your medical record, say “ere, that bloke told me a fib!” and hunt you down for it.

  14. We used to have a “regular” – severely disabled in the 1950s by a failure to understand the fundamentals of ballistics. For a drunken bet, he undertook to jump a Ford Prefect across the gap in the road bed of an uncompleted bridge over the new A74; with no ramp, the car had no vertical velocity component to counteract gravity, so it fell like a stone, and he met the other side at windscreen level.Forty years later, he plagued our lives – and those of the police – with his invalid carriage. This was a petrol-driven contraption on which he used to putter out to the pub (about 3 miles from his cottage), get plastered, and putter back again – often via ditches and down embankments, whence we were summoned to retrieve him. The police had given up on the breathalyser (a) Because he paid no attention, (b) Because the machine was not really dangerous (except to him), and (c) Because the Sheriff couldn't understand a word the man said (head injury).

    One night, we were summoned (again) to the familiar sight of the buggy lying on its side in the road alongside our man. He had caught his head a severe ding on the kerb, and clearly needed to go to hospital. He was hugely fat by this time, and festooned in a sort of supportive scaffolding of steel and leather calipers, braces, neck supports, ball joints etc. He also stank to high heaven – a fact which offended the delicate sensibilities of the constabulary when we dragooned them into helping us load him.

    Therafter, the sergeant turned to the problem of the buggy; fair's fair – we gave the police a hand to right it, and helped them try to push it to the kerb. However, this was not to be. It was a complicated machine ,with a tiller, and incomprehensible controls built specifically for our man's particular disabilities; it was also in gear, and we couldn't figure out how to knock it into neutral.

    There was no point in asking the patient how to work the thing; we could understand him no better than could the Sheriff, so the committee of males withdrew to the lights at the back of the ambulance to discuss the problem in a logical (of course!), masculine manner. Meanwhile, the one lady PC decided to hop on board, and turn the ignition key. Working as advertised, the machine started up and shot into the night, at full throttle, its little automatic gearbox changing up as it went. In hanging on, the policewoman was holding the throttle wide open, and she had no idea how to work the brakes (I believe that you had to push the tiller down). Furthermore, steering a vehicle with a tiller requires practice – and she hadn't had any.

    With her colleagues in hot pursuit, she travelled about 75 yards before encountering a convenient lamp-post, which the vehicle attempted to climb. This manoeuvre had the double effect of stalling the engine, and unseating the driver. Fortunately, all that was injured was her dignity.

    And the buggy had parked itself neatly on the pavement!

  15. Reminds me of a day a Wembley tain station. I was accompanied by my blind husband so we had requested assistance to get off the train. Two very nice railway employees found us in the carriage and promptly took my arm and led me off the train, I was a bit surprised, then remembered I was wearing sun glasses and carrying his spare cane…. I called his guide dog, who followed on, with my poor husband carrying all the bags.

  16. I used to live in North London, close to some sheltered housing specifically for blind people. In Colindale station one morning, I witnessed the interesting spectacle of two guide dogs fighting – whilst their owners screamed invective at one another about keeping dogs under control, and showing proper respect for guide dogs, and for the blind. A bystander who tried to intervene and to explain just got a load of abuse.You couldn't make it up!

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