The pic is a storyboard from an upcoming Will Vinton claymation movie, and it seemed particularly apropos considering what I’m doing this week: I’m on the road for the first time since I started riding the range in a wheelchair.

I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint-hearted, but (so far) I’m having fun. It’s part of the last-ditch effort to find alternatives that could save Elmo. If I can’t, distal-femoral implant on July 28.

On Friday night, Sept. 16, 2016, I fractured my left femur just above Elmo, my replacement knee. I lived in a wheelchair, facing hip-high amputation of my left leg, for about two years while I fought health care bureaucracy, cost-conscious HMOs, and myself to figure out a way to walk again. (Spoiler alert: Elmo won!)

I documented my adventures in remobilization in this blog. They’re awfully self-indulgent, occasionally icky, and probably only of interest to me, but on the off-chance that they help someone else with a catastrophic injury, I’m keeping them together here. If you don’t want to read them, that’s OK; I still love you. If you do, you might want to start from the beginning, on the archive page that lists all posts.

I’m in Redwood City right now, about to bed down for the night in a gen-u-wine wheelchair access room. Tomorrow I visit Stanford, hand them a CD-ful of x-rays and whatnot, and chat with the head honcho about options for saving my busted femur and knee replacement.

About 6 hours later, we’ll head back to the airport, flying to University of Utah to talk similar subjects on Thursday. Then, finally, we arrive back in Portland around midnight.

The “we” is me and my kid sister, Suzanne. I was planning to do this trip by myself until about two weeks ago, when a series of mishaps at a downtown glass conference convinced me that I’m not quite ready for fully wheeled independence…yet. Seemed prudent to have someone riding shotgun on my first air flights.

Turns out it’s MORE than prudent; it’s non-stupid, which is something I hope to be more of in future. 😉 And Suzi’s been a huge help, so I’m glad she’s here.

Anyway, tonight we’re staying at a rickety old motel, outrageously expensive (hey, it’s the SiliValley, after all), but actually fitted out for a wheelchair, which is very, very cool. I can even roll my chair into the shower, transfer to a little bench, and bathe!

At home, I stand on one foot, laboriously scooooch it over to the shower, turn and drop a towel on the toilet seat, brace on a grab bar and a tile ledge, and deadlift myself into the shower, balancing on my hands until the good foot is solid. Then I grab the walker and slooowly pivot until I’m showering, perched carefully between walker and wall.

Don’t even ASK about toilets. They’re upstairs. If I’m not upstairs, well…let’s just say I exert amazing self-control.

So, a bathroom I can roll right into, without transferring to a narrower chair, or getting stuck in a stall…pure heaven. Happy sigh.

I was worried about the whole airplane thing. How the heck would I get my wheelchair down the aisle? What would they do with it during the flight? What if I lost it?

Turns out it’s a piece of cake; you get to bypass all the lines, they wheel you wherever you want to go, point out the best places for dinner, and just basically bend over backwards to make sure you’re safe and comfortable.

I could get used to that…assuming the other three flights this week go the same way.

Spiffy, my new titanium wheelchair, shown with all his parts attached

Only one issue so far: Spiffy, my fancy new TiLite ZRA wheelchair that I adore, is NOT allowed in the cabin. Or at least not allowed in Southwest cabins.

Spiffy weighs about 20 pounds, and I’m getting better and better at getting him in and out of the car so I can drive to work or the doc’s or wherever. To do that, I put the car seat all the way down and back, get in, and begin the Spiffy Striptease.

(Cue stripper music)

  • First I grab the handle of his seat cushion, and slooowly peel it away, stowing the cushion in the back seat
  • I roll him around until he’s facing me, then I…oooh…unlock his brakes
  • I pull out his armrests and stow them in the passenger seat
  • Then I spin him 90 degrees, lift him up…and pop off his left wheel
  • Spin again, lift him up…and off comes the right wheel
  • Whirl him around again, so his back is to the audience (me), and…pull off his anti-tip wheels (my glasses are beginning to fog…)
  • Now I pop his backrest down, lie down on the car seat, and grab his underside struts
  • Then I pull him up and over me, turning him around so he’s facing front, and set him in the passenger seat

Miss on that last step, and Spiffy plonks down on some part of me, hard. I wear about as many bruises as hair follicles these days.

Anyway, Spiffy had to be checked at the gate, with his fragile parts removed, bagged, and stowed in the overhead bin. I spent some anxious moments at landing, wondering if he’d show up, or leave me to bottom-scoot my way down to the hospital. But he was there, all parts intact. (Whew)

So…tomorrow I’ll talk to the doc, and we’ll see.