Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Worry

Let's just say right up front here that I am not a worrier by nature. I expect positive outcomes and I rarely worry about the bad things that could happen. All this in spite of Skip's 20+ years of progressive MS.
But now I worry about one thing in particular ... breaking down when Skip's in the car. I've mused here and there about it ever since our vacation in Maine in August 2009. I spent a good amount of time in the 3 hour drive to Maine worrying about what would happen if we broke down. The car contained Skip, two dogs and me along with an unbelievable amount of stuff, such as a 5' ramp and a hoyer lift. Of course, we didn't break down on the way up or the way home.

In fact, we have only broken down once in the last 25 years of driving and it happened in summer 2010 (so does this mean I shouldn't worry about this?). Ironically, it happened a day after I spent way too much money having tons and tons of preventive maintenance done on our car. Some kind of cable moved out of position and I couldn't put the car into drive. Turns out it was caused by that preventive maintenance. The car had to be towed, and we had quite a time finding a handicapped-accessible cab to get us home.

But our Honda Element with wheelchair mods (aka the Toaster) isn't brand new anymore. Right now, it's only 6 years old with a bit less than 60,000 miles on it. My plan is to keep it for as long as possible, ideally for another 100,000 miles.

I think I worry because it would be so difficult to get Skip home safely and easily from a breakdown.

What would happen if we did indeed break down? Let's say the wrecker dispatched by AAA comes and he needs to tow us somewhere. We can't hop into the front seat of the wrecker and drive with him. Skip can't stay in the Element while it's towed. So where does she go? How does she get home? So far, I've thought of using a handicapped cab (not available everywhere), an ambulance (big expense, and I don't see how we get the wheelchair into it), and lifting her out of her wheelchair and into a regular car, but that would require leaving behind the wheelchair in the car and at least 3 or 4 folks to make the transfer both into and out of the car.

I'm sure there's other options I haven't thought of. Any ideas? I'd love to have some solutions in my pocket in advance of any traveling.


Josie said...

Wow, that's a burden to have on your mind. I was going to suggest lifting her into a car/taxi, but I see how difficult and problematic that would be. Imma gonna think about this and if I have any great brain storms I'll let you know.

Of course the odds of this actually happening are slim, especially if the vehicle is in good working order before you set out.

Wishing you and Skip a very Merry Christmas!


Webster said...

I know how worries, warranted or not, can eat away at your peace of mind, so having a plan for this situation is important. I would go (with Skip) to your local Fire Station and pose these questions. Ditto to the local police station. These people are the experts at this sort of thing. I also might call your Crisis Line to see what kinds of resources they can suggest for you.

Being stuck on the side of the road is such a vulnerable place to be. Egad!

Cranky said...

VJ - you are so right that this is unlikely to happen, but I worry because it will be very difficult to recover from. Thanks for the Xmas wishes. Merry Christmas to you and your son as well!

Webster - I was thinking about calling some kind of public safety resource. But, your idea of going in person to have a conversation is a good idea. And bringing Skip so they can see her 325 lb power wheelchair will probably help bring the issue home to them all the better.

Patrick said...

Excellent worry and question and believe it or not this has happened to us. Calling AAA I mentioned both that our van was a wheelchair accessible vehicle and that Patti was a non-ambulatory passenger. In addition to arranging for a tow truck AAA contacted appropriate local police. While I at first thought that seemed an over reaction, AAA pointed out that local police were best equipped and trained to deal with transferring and/or transporting a non-ambulatory passenger from either an accident or disabled vehicle. Plus it was freezing out and of course our van heater was no longer working ... Long story made short while all the help with a single call was unquestionably reassuring, tow truck driver was able to get our van going again and off we went without needing the tow or police/EMS assisted transfer. It's great to know help was only a single cell phone call away and not unlike an 'on-Star' commercial AAA kept checking back with us to make sure assistance was arriving.

Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

Cranky said...

Patrick - it's great to hear that AAA helped out with a call to the local police. When we broke down and got AAA for the tow, I don't think I mentioned the wheelchair issue because I was going to contact the local taxicab with handicapped service immediately after the AAA call. Good to know that they can be called on for additional assistance.

kmilyun said...

Our friend Barbara totally non ambulatory and with a heavy power wheelchair - oh any way long story short when they broke down up in the Sierras in the snowy cold triple A sent a flat bed and let her and her caregiver (son) ride in the van till they reached the nearest civilization. The roadways were keeping the CHP etc ETA's longer than the trip would take as it happened during a major freak snow storm.

Not sure if that is "allowed" but the driver added extra chains etc to secure the van atop the hauler and went real slow. He even lent them extra blankets and a couple of those hand warmer packets so her son could keep her warm.

Cranky said...

Jan - thanks for that story. I'm sure it wasn't "allowed," what the tow guy did, but it was the right thing to do.

Patrick said...

To follow follow up our AAA driver made a similar offer if he could not get it started. He told us that dispatchers have to say "it isn't allowed" but he never knew a driver that wasn't a human being first. If dispatchers are informed it's a wheelchair accessible vehicle they not only always send a flat bed, just in case, but can contact appropriate local police, EMS, who in turn can arrange for other alternative accessible transportation since you may not always be near your home turf and as in 'kmilyun' comment even weather related necessities.

Cranky said...

Patrick - that is excellent to know. If we ever need to call AAA again, I will make a point of letting them know we have a wheelchair accessible vehicle. Thanks!

Diane J Standiford said...

I am so happy to read all the suggestions. This was once a worry for me too. When I was off by myself to work downtown or a Dr. appt., what if I broke down? So, I did call the police and Fire Dept. and BOTH said they would pick me up and take me home. I AM a worrier by nature, ergo a huge planner. Now I worry about getting OUT in an earthquake or fire. My caregivers hired at the asst living home I'm now in, seem inept. The bldg is a logistical nightmare. All wood. I'm on 2nd floor, but on a hill which makes it 4 stories high. My plan is to lay down and pretend try to sleep, breath the smoke in deep b4 the flames reach me. That works for me. (I figured it out just last night.)

Cranky said...

Diane - did I read that you were on the resident board of your community? What about working with the board and the management to determine good escape plans for all apartments? One thing you could do in this plan is identify all the mobility-impaired resident apartments and earmark staff whose responsibility it is to help those folks escape. Just a thought. Oh, and I'm really glad you've already taken the step in calling fire/police to hear what they'd do. That provides an additional easing of my mind.