The end of the day
This is Friday's one token photo, at the end of a very long and trying day: a very welcome plate of pasta (Thursday's leftovers) and bottle of beer.
We drove to London for J's hospital appointment. I was up at 5:30 and got J up at 6. We arrived in good time, and were lucky to find a parking space close to the hospital, which has no car park. I went to open the rear door of our WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) and fold down the wheelchair ramp... and couldn't. I tried a few times. P tried. We tried everything we could think of. P made phone calls, but no-one had any advice he hadn't already tried. J was trapped in the car. We waited for the AA. I decided to give J her lunch early, sitting on the little seat beside her in the back of the car. A phone call told us the arrival of the AA roadside repair person would be further delayed. P wondered if we should try to unstrap her from her wheelchair and lift her out through the side door - but she can't weight bear, has no sitting balance, her arms are likely to move uncontrollably, and she recently had spinal surgery on her neck, so the prospect of somehow picking her up while standing outside the car and lifting her down and out diagonally seemed very undesirable. Even if I got her out and sat and held her, I was not at all confident that the wheelchair, which does not fold up or come apart, could exit through the same door. I went into the hospital to leave a message regarding her appointment, and returned to find the AA man inspecting the car. He confirmed our suspicion that there is an emergency release mechanism, but that it was impossible to reach as it was behind the upright ramp, which can only be folded down when the door is open. We were horrified to hear that the wheelchair conversion of the car (by a well-known DoT approved converter) had made it impossible to open the rear door in an emergency, should the locking system fail.
Our options were limited. We could drive back home, or try to find some kind of repair business, but we were reluctant to set out on another journey knowing that in an emergency we could not get J out of the car. The AA contacted the emergency services, but they refused to attend as she was not in immediate danger (though by now she had been in the car for over five hours). The AA man thought he might be able to resolve the problem if he could get into the back of the car, and the two therapists J had come to see, having received my message, kindly came to find us in their lunch break to see if they could help in any way. We reluctantly decided we would have to try to get her out. It was horribly difficult, but I somehow got J out of her wheelchair and, with the occupational therapist supporting her arms and head, managed to lift her through the doorway without injury and collapse onto the front seat with her. The chair followed, to my surprise a little more easily.
J and I went to her appointment, though we were not concentrating very well. Partway through, P joined us with the news that the AA man had not been able to open the door: we would have find another way to get J home. The OT told us we should be able to book NHS patient transport home, and set this in motion for us. We knew it was likely to involve a long wait, and although the staff trying to organise things were supportive and helpful, information was infrequent and vague. Then, suddenly, at around five o'clock, our transport was at the door. J and I were driven through the City of London in very slow Friday teatime traffic. We enjoyed the spectacle of the high, modern buildings with their lines, curves and spaces brightly illuminated; I wished I could get out and take photos, but was simultaneously horrified at both the ostentatious luxury of these corporate headquarters and the energy being expended in the lighting of every exterior and, it seemed, inside every window. We eventually emerged from the rush hour queues, and arrived home just after eight; we were grateful for the service, as it would not have been at all easy to manage the journey with J by public transport. P had driven the car home by a different route, and was there before us.
It's now Sunday evening and the car has been mended today, the door opened, the electrical fault located and resolved. J is understandably not enthusiastic to get back into it and is hoping we will think about a different car; but we don't know how many other wheelchair conversions may similarly obstruct emergency mechanisms.
Thank you to everyone who has left comments and stars recently; I will try to catch up with them, as well as sharing my weekend photos and browsing your journals, over the next few days.
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