The Ramblings of 4WheelBob
America's premier wheelchair hiker speaks.
Wheelin' Downtime - Hating the "System!"

Back in November, it became clear that my beloved wheelchair was in need of replacement parts. The front wheels had begun to squeak and moan, chattering frequently as I pushed down a slope - a sign of bearing mischief. I got the requisite prescription for the parts from my doctor (in order for insurance to pay for the replacements), then got in touch with the chair's manufacturer.

"We can't send you the parts", said the customer service manager. "A company rep will have to call you and let you know where to take the chair for repairs." So I called the field rep in NorCal. And called again. I e-mailed the rep and the company. I got no response. Finally, I visited a venerable and respected wheelchair company, Wheelchairs of Berkeley. "Oh, sure," said the very personable and professional receptionist. "I'll take your prescription and get the parts ordered right away once we confirm your insurance." Cool, I thought. Confirmation was a simple phone call. I left the script and insurance info, anxiously awaiting a call that the parts were in and they could install the new stuff and get me back on the trail.

I waited...for a few days, and after being told there might be an "issue", for another 3 weeks. Gina called and was given a finger pointing runaround. Both the chair manufacturer and the parts orderer claimed a stalemate. And my front wheels as well as seat sling and gel pad were rapidly falling apart. I made a call to Wheelchairs of Berkeley. "OK", I said. "Help me out. What alternatives can you get me? How can it be that this process is taking this long?" The answer I received was not satisfactory. I was unhappy. With work and the pressure of simply avoiding layoffs becoming more intense each week, I lost concentration on my parts order.

Months passed. Calling Berkeley was little use. Calling the manufacturer left me without options. They now had no NorCal rep. They knew of no shops where my chair could be serviced. And my wheels had ground their little innards out - there is so much play in them I have to work just to keep it rolling in a straight line. It was simply dizzying - that here in the 21st century businesses in control of such critical things as a person's mobility could give me little more than a "I dunno" when asked for SOME way to get my parts.

So I guess I'll have to do it myself. That'll involve ordering from an on - line supplier. And hoping that because I, a novice chair mechanic, doing the work wouldn't void my warranty. Yes, it's that tightly controlled.

I guess this is a cry for you who walk to be careful and judicious in all that you do. Because if you get hurt and end up in a chair and become one of the most needy medical care recipients, you'll be in trouble. I placed the original order the first week of November, 2008. It's now April 18, 2009. You can't be serious....!

2009-04-19 07:26:11 GMT
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