This is a true story.
Years ago, I drove a wheelchair van for a local hospital.
Mostly it was service for people that used a wheelchair, and were being discharged from the hospital, or it’s emergency room, to have a quick ride
Many of the people I drove were elderly.
As I would be taking them back to their nursing homes they would yell “Where are you taking me? Help! and “Who are you?” for the whole ride.
I would try to talk to them and explain the situation, but it rarely made a difference.
Sometimes I’d arrive at a persons home and find that it was not really designed to be wheelchair accessible.
They would have a walkway made of separate large flat stones or something worse.
The logical decision was to push them across the lawn.
Which worked well as long as the grass was dry.
Many a time I struggled with wheelchairs sinking into mud or just overly soggy ground.
Getting a patient into the wheelchair van was no piece of cake.
You must back the wheelchair onto the ramp. Then you tie it down securely.
Once the hydraulic lift raises them up, you release the security ties, and then from inside the van you back them into place.
This is not easy because as you turn them into the van, the wheel well of the vehicle is in the way.
So I usually have to physically lift the chair and muscle it into position.
Then I again secure the wheelchair into place and get in the driver seat to begin the journey full of
yelling at me for kidnapping.
All of this is a prelude to tell you a particular story that happened to me.
One afternoon I was was called the emergency room to drive a patient home.
I parked the van in front of the E.R. lowered the wheelchair and rolled it into the patients room.
Sitting there was a woman in her forties, that must of been five hundred pounds.
I looked at her, I looked at my wheelchair, and thought, “She’ll never fit.”
I told her I’ll be right back and that I was going to look for a more comfortable chair.
I’m very familiar with the workings of this hospital so I looked in various places until I found and extra large wheelchair.
I rolled it back to the the patients room and with assistance from a male nurse she got into the chair.
I pushed her down the hallway, using all of my strength to get the chair to move.
You could hear the wheels squeaking under the strain of the heavy load.
I pushed her through the doors out to the van and then noticed, the chair was too wide to fit on the lift ramp!
So I pushed her back to her room. Squeak, strain, squeak.
She then said she would use a regular wheelchair. So again with the help of a male nurse she squeezed into the chair.
Pushing this chair was even harder. The wheels seemed to buckle. My knees seemed to buckle.
Finally at the van I pulled her and the wheelchair and my back onto the ramp.
I secured the chair, got to the side of the van and started the hydraulic lift.
The van motor groaned.
The ramp was bending forward under the weight as it struggled to lift her.
I was worried it would snap or the chair and her, would fall off.
But it somehow made it up to the vans’ entry level.
So I proceeded to unbuckle the ties and pull her into the van.
Remember the wheel well? How I have to lift the chair to turn it into the van?
Well I did. I must have had every muscle in my body screaming in pain.
This was a Samson, Hercules, Schwarzenegger type of feat.
As I barely maintained consciousness, I began to secure her chair in the van for the ride to the nursing home where she was staying.
The first road we took as we left the hospital went downhill.
I could hear the straps holding her chair sound like they were ripping.
Her chair even began to move forward a little under the strain.
Fortunately the road leveled out in time, and except for the same thing happening in reverse as we climbed a hill near the home, we made it in one
I parked in front of the nursing home, and went through the whole process in reverse to get her out of the van,
including once again lifting her chair over the wheel well,
as choirs of angels were preparing to welcome me home.
Again the ramp bent as she was lowered to the ground.
It rested on a slight upgrade where the wheelchair path went from the home to the street.
So I would have to push her over a slight rise and then up an incline into the home.
As I pushed the wheelchair forward the front of the chair, which has two metal rods on either side of it,
got wedged into the soft blacktop of the road.
Did I mention this was a hot summer day?
I tried to back her chair up to release the rods, but her weight,
combined with the fact that the back of the chair was still on the vans’ ramp,
made it impossible to move her either way.
I didn’t know what to do.
Finally I told her, “
I’m sorry ma’am, but we’re stuck and I’m not sure how to get this out.”
She turned to me and said,
“That’s ok, I’ll walk in.”
And with that, she stood and casually walked into the home.