Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lift - House Interior - Battery Hydraulic

The lift in my parents' home is the first that was installed on my behalf. It has been a reliable, safety certified, overpriced solution to allow me access to the basement. It is a very slow moving hydraulic, DC powered, mechanism that provides the lift or descent. The DC power comes from a battery that is constantly being charged by AC and is supposed to be the backup to a power outage. I've never needed to test the backup but I'm doubtful that a seventeen year old battery would have the capacity to complete a cycle, if necessary.

The door locks shut as soon as the lift is activated, but that won't happen until the tediously slow gas shock lets the door creep closed. Once you reach your destination that shock makes a very inconvenient resistance when opening the door. Add to that the significant lip the user needs to descend or climb when exiting or entering while the lift is in the basement and it's not exactly smooth to use. The lip would be non-existent if the lift descended into a recess, which would make room for the pressure-sensitive plate which prevents the crushing of anything that might be underneath. Safety first, I suppose, though I've come crashing out of there on an angle when the door caught my chair because of the safety of the gas shock. Not much hope of carrying anything on my lap with that thing. My current lift has no such safeties. We'll look at it in the near future.

You can likely determine from my tone that I'm not fond of this lift. Safety is important, but almost everything takes longer in our disabled lives. Does getting downstairs have to take the 78 seconds I've timed it at? My current lift is plenty safe and takes me 17 seconds. These times include time taken to enter the lift. My biggest complaint comes not from inconvenience, but from well being. Not a safety concern but a sanity concern. That and the difficulty of transporting anything in addition to the user.

As the thin metal panels that enclose the wall-mounted tracks and the carriage expand or contract with the temperature change in the house between every furnace or air conditioner cycle they snap, crackle and pop, loudly, right above my wife's and my head, as we try to sleep. This drives us nuts.

I do not know what other safety certified lift options are available but I recommend seeking them out. If a lift of this style is your only option have it installed in a closet or away from places you need quiet.

Source: Home adaptation and modification businesses.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lifts - Abilities Council Relic

My work here hasn't ended and my ideas have certainly not dried up. We've just been so happily enthralled with our wonderfully changed life and rapidly growing daughter. Now that we have some routine and rhythm back in our lives, and the busyness of the summer has passed for another year, I'm ready to resume work on Challenging Reality. If you are still with me, still checking for regular updates, thank you! If that's you please spread the word to anyone else you know has been visiting that I will be back with new photos, technology and updates. It may not be the 7 AM Monday morning every week posting that it was before but I won't leave you hanging as long as I did this last phase.

This was the first lift I ever owned. While waiting for the tedious bureaucratic process of planning and approval of renovations to make a home barrier free, in this case my parents' house which I returned to after my stay in rehab, my father decided he wasn't going to wait any longer. Seeing the lift pictured above for sale he purchased it to be temporarily installed at the front door of their home until a proper, modern lift would be approved and installed by insurance. Once that was done this one was handed down to make my access to their cabin virtually effortless.

So, why highlight such an archaic lift that you probably would have trouble finding today? Simply to prove the point that these lifts, which were so abundantly distributed by the Saskatchewan Abilities Council to anyone needing a lift to access their home due to a disability, may not be the most attractive but they are rocksolid reliable. They have their downfalls including having a significant portion of them made from plywood that will rot over time, not having the greatest weather sealing which means the cables inside may need replacing, they are very slow moving and they do not have a set stopping point.

Their operation is a bit finicky including that the lever to activate the lift moves in two directions, one moving the lift up and the other moving the lift down but if you should release the lever and switch to the other direction before the lift comes to a dead stop the platform will continue moving the same direction it was going. This may be a built-in safeguard to prevent any jerking or unnecessary pressure on the cables should the lift be accidentally jammed into the wrong direction. Not having a set stopping point, it's easy enough to determine when to let go of the lever once you have reached the ground but when being elevated to your higher destination the user has to make the decision when to release the lever, taking into account that it will continue to coast for an additional few centimeters, or so.

The safeguards to prevent a user from falling off are entirely manual. The hinged ramp folds up and hooks onto an eyebolt to prevent the user from rolling off. Of course, this is entirely optional and I don't know if I have used it more than a dozen times in 17 years. The lift move slow enough as it is I'm not willing to spend the additional time necessary to lift that gate. I've never fallen off. Ironically, right in front of the bench in the photo is where I fell out of my chair one time due to it being a wheelchair I was not accustomed to and a dip in the ground. It had nothing to do with the lift as it was at the front of the cabin at that time. I used the opportunity to play in the grass with my dog for awhile before getting help to get back into my chair.

So simple and reliable are the mechanisms for this lift that I have seen one converted to transport a user from the main floor of the house to the basement and back up. It required its own support system, much larger than the triangular vertical support that the lift was designed with, but the motors, gears and cables worked very well to safely get a person between floors without concern.

I understand the closed operating system of modern lifts and how the safety is not a bad thing. Sometimes, though, it's nice for someone who is skilled at adapting or modifying things to be able to take a solid piece of technology, like this lift, and tweak it to be well suited to function in a way or location other than originally intended.

If there is anything that Challenging Reality has shown, and this man has learned, it's that often the best solutions are not something you can find mass-produced.

Source: No longer made. Available used from adaptive equipment sellers' classifieds sources such as abilities council or Canadian Paraplegic Association. I would recommend a new lift for intended purposes or one made from scratch for custom purposes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nursing Pillow

My apologies for the length of time between posts. As you can see, I've been a little busy. :)

I've always had a hesitation to hold babies. There are a few factors such as shyness, inexperience, uncertainty and fear of not holding them safely or securely. Most of those still exist for me but my experience and confidence are growing, shyness is gone because it's our child and securely holding them is greatly improved thanks to the nursing pillow pictured above.

Many nursing pillows, like the one I use to hold our baby, are U-shaped so that it wraps around my waist. A form of that shape helps it stay in place and allows me an arm or two free if I need to maneuver a bit. The biggest improvement I learned about from the ever problem solving Heather. She told me of how she modified her pillow to tie in the back so that she could feel safe about having her baby on her lap while completing the tasks necessary to keep her family running well.

I don't feel the need for those ties and am fortunate that my time with our daughter is for enjoyment. I never need to hold her and try to complete the essential tasks at the same time. Though I do find my available time to do what I need to do, and what I want to do, quite stretched thin and I don't have the work load my wife does. More quality sleep would help in getting things done more easily, and I truly don't need to be told it will get better. We know it will, but that doesn't help on the days following a bad night.

Until she's climbing all over me I will appreciate this pillow that allows me to hold our bundle closer.

Source: Most baby supply stores and some department stores.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Root of All Our Troubles

Spinal cord injuries can be caused by trauma, disease, infection, a tumor or a number of other things. They can be complete or incomplete injuries, incomplete injuries leaving varying degrees of sensation or even movement below the level of the injury. My injury was incomplete, but the residual below-level function is limited to barely perceptible sensation in my kneecaps and soles of my feet, along with the tiniest flicker of inutile movement in my right ring finger.

Most traumatic injuries, where broken bones were the cause of the injury, requires surgical repair. Mine was performed after a week of traction that was increased to 55 pounds over that period of time. The crushing motion of my injury required the traction to stretch my neck out so the vertebrae would realign in preparation to be fused with the assistance of harvested bone fragments, two titanium plates, seven screws and about three feet of wire.

One of the worst parts of the recovery was the first few days after the surgery. The neck muscle spasms were fighting the realigned spine. Not so different than the discomfort faced by a person with bad posture sitting or walking straight after a long time of living the way that caused the poor posture, initially. Surprisingly, neither the surgical pain nor the installation of a halo in my skull without anesthetic were not as painful as those spasms. Those first days after surgery are one of the few memories I retain from my stay in neurology. It must have been intense.

Without question, it was not pleasant. However, to preserve my remaining function, and restore strength to my neck, it was a necessary surgery and a critical early step in my recovery.

One last note, from a photography perspective, out of focus x-rays can only have so much made out of them. Making a photo out of a two dimensional image was not the easiest thing I've done and wish I would've had a better creative spark for these but at least you got a glimpse of the inside of many of our necks.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Deadly Curb Cuts

In the past we have looked at what a proper, well-maintained, curb cut looks like and how it can make crossing the street simple and uneventful. However, there are exceptions to the rules that are beyond ridiculous. Last week we looked at the consequences of using a combined variety of construction materials, such as concrete, asphalt and paving stones, to build a sidewalk and what one winter in our climate can do to the usefulness of those sidewalks.

This week we look at the consequences of some of the extreme, but far too common, examples of when those materials shift over a few winters.

I know that scale is often difficult to perceive in a photograph so let me give you a hard number. The lip you see in the photo above is located just down the street from our house and is nearly 10 cm or 4 inches tall. This is dangerous on its own to come down off the road to a drop that significant but it's more than that. You're coming down into a gutter that immediately begins sloping upward, making the perfect grove for the front wheels of a wheelchair to dig in and jolt the user with more than enough force to compromise balance which could easily send them out of their chair, or tip the chair over.

Traveling the opposite direction, you're coming down a rutted slope (I understand the importance of those ruts for the visually impaired) which introduces vibrations to begin with just before slamming into a solid wall of asphalt. The perfect example of this is downtown by Citizen Café. Descending the concrete sidewalk, the roadway has crumbled with numerous holes in the asphalt at the bottom of a very steep curb cut. Seeing what I was about to run into, I was able to stop my chair, after a bit of uncontrolled sliding down the steep curb cut, and climb back up. Thankfully the driveway to an automotive shop was close by and the street was quiet enough that I did not feel in danger jaywalking to get across to the café. This was downtown, just a few blocks away from the ideal curb cut shown in the post linked to above.

Under ideal circumstances I could, as a C5-C6 quadriplegic, very slowly navigate this lip to descend with a degree of safety but to climb up that lip would be a challenge because of the difficulty of popping a wheelie while rolling down a hill. Because of that it would need to be done by climbing it from a nearly stopped position, eliminating the much needed momentum to make the climb doable. In this instance I had not only a camera bag but some lighting equipment with me in order to make the photo. I had to find far less dangerous transitions to safely get to the location, make the photo and get home safely.

Rounded curbs with reasonable gutters would be safer than these curb cuts with terrible transitions. What I cannot understand is why the annual pothole repair crews cannot be instructed to either fill in these transitions with asphalt or cold mix when they are in the area or to smooth them out out with the equipment they have for preparing potholes for repair. I understand that either option has its problems but how can this not be a priority?

The problem with filling it in is that it could affect drainage and curb cuts like these are already notorious for filling up with sand and debris, carried to them by rain and other water draining as it should in the gutters of the street. The problem with shaving down the asphalt is that the integrity of the road in those places may be compromised. My argument to that is if it is an annual task appropriate small repairs should be able to be made easily, regularly, and without long-term damage to the road.

I know that it's difficult to predict how land will settle over time, and the soil in our neighborhood is very sandy, but when this happens it simply should be the city's duty to fix these shiftings. I would expect the amount of taxes we pay in these new areas of the city to at least provide us a safe place to go for a stroll.

I still insist that the CPA wheelchair relay take place outside in places like this. Get our Mayor and other "celebrities" wheeling across this, falling face first in the concrete and maybe that would bring a little bit of action in our city's accessibility instead of just the lip service we receive every year from them.

Solution: I'm thinking that we should be reporting these as potholes but I do not feel we are a large enough proportion of the population to garner any action from those who have the power and the money.