Stuck in the Middle
Author: Sheri Denkensohn-Trott
For those that have been following Happy on Wheels on Facebook or through our blogs, you have probably read about my wheelchair dramas. The biggest one was trying to get the powerchair that I now use. It took almost a year and a half. Subsequently, Tony’s manual chair took almost a year. We both have had significant barriers getting repairs and ultimately had to switch durable medical equipment (DME) providers. With all of these DME frustrations, along with day-to-day household repairs, and other medical needs, sometimes I want to just blow up. But that does not solve the problem (although truthfully, venting to my wheelchair user friends does make me feel better to know that I’m not alone). The best thing to do is put your head down, keep trudging forward, and hopefully it will work out.
But what do you do when you can’t change a factor in the equation? When you are stuck in the middle? That is where I found myself this week. The joystick on my power wheelchair (that is the part of the chair that I use to drive) lost the screws that held it on so it was falling off, making it hard to drive and also dangerous. I had it connected with black electrical tape (yes, sometimes there are substitutes for duct tape and bungee cords) and that was good enough, but rather precarious. I decided to call my wheelchair repair company to see if I could make an appointment to get it fixed. At the same time, I asked them about the new wheels that I ordered back in October, 2019. When I was there in October to get my battery fixed, they noticed that my front and back tires were bald. I put a lot of miles on my chair! We started the paperwork to get a letter of medical necessity from my doctor, submission to my insurance company, and ultimate approval.
With a lot of other things going on, inquiring about the status of my wheels was forgotten. But when my joystick was about to fall off, I called to make an appointment to go and fix it. I also asked about the status of my wheels. I was told that the insurance company approved them, but that they were on backorder. I said, “But I ordered them in October? Why are they still on backorder?” I was expecting the usual excuses that I received from other DME companies that I no longer deal with. Answers like; we didn’t get the information that we needed from your doctor; the insurance company still has the paperwork; they are in transit; and the list goes on. No, this time the answer was completely surprising, although in hindsight I should have figured it out. The wheels are made in China. Bingo! Original delay was because of tariffs. And now, the second delay is because of the corona virus. Luckily the parts are available for my rusting joystick (why it is rusting is another issue because the chair is only two years old), but I have no idea when I will get my new wheels. It is not a crisis, but because they are so worn, I need to be very careful if I am on any ramp or other surface that is wet or slippery. They will not be able to grab and hold.
I’m sure this is not the first thing that is going to be impacted by the tariffs and more importantly the corona virus. I don’t even want to think about generic drugs, and other items of necessity that may not be available for those that have significant medical needs, like me. I’m tempted to go through my most important medical supplies (including prescriptions) and figure out what comes from China so I can stockpile, but right now I would bet that advance supplies will not be approved by insurance. Along with many others, I will have to do my due diligence and just wait it out. In the meantime, I’m stuck in the middle.