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an inTeRlink feature article

“Tag, you’re it”

by Charles A. Sourby

I am driving fast. My wheels squeal, the under carriage is rocking back and forth. It is dusk. I spin out. I approach a narrow straight ramp; a sharp curve ahead worries me. My right hand does a forward motion with the shifter. I lurch forward. Suddenly, I am sideways, on the ground, covered with debris.

“ You are still it,” my five-year-old daughter says grinning.

“ Call Mommy” I reply brushing stuff off my arm

“ Are you hurt?” She asked.

“ I’m stuck, not hurt.”

“ Mommy” she calls, her voice trailing off. My senses are aware of evergreen branches, I assess the situation and panic sets in. Ensuing darkness enshrouds me. I need help. My $7,000.00 Jazzy 1105 powered wheelchair lays beside me upended. I wait patiently on the ground, embarrassed, hoping my chair is OK.

My wife walks around to the front of the house.” What happened?”

“ I was playing tag.”

“ Playing tag, with your wheelchair?”

“ Yes, I was having fun playing. It’s been a while you know.”

“ Are you hurt?”

“ No, I’m fine but I hope the chair is OK.” She looks at me. I am on my right side. The shifter on the armrest is in the garden bed, covered with mulch. Two large drive wheels are spinning slowly, horizontal in the air. A copper solar lantern bent over under my weight. A wheelchair ramp, 10’x 34”, perpendicular to me, gradually rises toward the front door. My leg and arm are beneath me. I am using my right elbow to prop myself up. “We need help, call our neighbors from across the street,” I suggest.

“No, we need to figure out how to get you up, get the Jazzy in the house and get you cleaned up.” She looked around. “I’ll get the old fashioned wheelchair and we’ll do it, on our own. We can’t call our neighbors for every mishap.”

Within minutes, my posterior is gradually inching itself toward the seat of the manual wheelchair. I struggle to find enough strength to elevate my backside into the chair. It is completely dark. A final backwards motion and I find myself sitting upright, in my manual wheelchair, under a Japanese maple, Acer japonica. My Jazzy weighs over 100 pounds. It needs to be set upright. I nudge close and assist my wife. It takes us three attempts to upright the Jazzy. The battery hangs precariously, dislodged from its bracket. The armrests, askew, appear slightly out of alignment. Regardless, the chair still operates. Slowly it rolls up the ramp.

I go into the living room using the manual chair. I hear my wife laughing. “What are you laughing about?” I ask her incredulously.

“ The whole business with you and the chair, after all, nobody got hurt.”

“ Well I think the Jazzy is OK, just a little discombobulated, a little out of whack,” I said hopefully.

“Tell me again what you were doing,’ she asked.

“Just playing a game of tag,” I replied. “Just a game of tag for fun, I felt as though I figured out a way to be a typical dad, despite the wheelchair and Multiple Sclerosis. You see where it got me. It’s the recreation therapist inside who is striving for typical play with my kid?”

“I understand but next time, try to be more careful.”

“OK” I said. When are we going canoeing?”

The next day, a friend comes over. He takes the seat off the chair. He adjusts the arms. He sets the batteries on the rack. Everything is OK. I missed springtime this year because of a prolonged hospital stay. I like playing with my daughter, what could be better then a game of tag, on this summer evening.

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