Thanks to a Wheelchair Mishap, I Was ‘Busy Goin’ Nowhere’

John Connor avatar

by John Connor |

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I was tryin’ to find lots of things to do while being trapped at my desk because of a wheelchair mishap.

Apologies for my adaption of Bing Crosby’s rendition of that happy-go-lucky song “Busy Doing Nothing.” I was trapped because at 8 p.m. last Friday night, the wire that powers the controller on my electric wheelchair fell out again.

This next bit is boring exposition, so please forgive me. I’ll try to liven it up!

I’ve become quite good at sticking that wire back in when it falls out, just by feeling my way through. (Showoff!) But it’s a struggle for anyone else to do, because it’s located right under my armrest, which requires lying down, car mechanic style, but without the use of those wonderful sliding devices. (OK, this is a trope in TV and movies, but I’ve never actually seen one of those things myself.)

This time, though, an enormous spark erupted when I attempted to put it back in. I didn’t have the right glasses on to check properly, but as I was squinting, it looked like one of the small connectors had fused shut.

My infinitely suffering wife, Jane, burst into the room thinking I might have fallen over. She was cooking, and this happened at a crucial moment. I hadn’t fallen over, I’d merely been shocked by an enormous burst of electrical flame that had erupted from my hand. Somehow, though, I had suffered no actual shock or burn myself.

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Here in the U.K., we are provided with equipment to help the disabled not only live in their homes, but also attain better lives. The chairs (I also have a manual one) have a dedicated repair service. Luckily, their emergency service was working until 9 p.m. that day. Unluckily, the chair engineer had just fitted his last wire for my particular steed. It turns out that this is a regular occurrence.

He said he’d call around to see if he could get another one, but he thought it unlikely. Years ago, I lost the ability to move much in a manual chair — goodbye, wheelchair tennis. Only my left arm works now, and my left leg, partially. So, without my footplates on, I can move a bit backward and shuffle slowly forward.

Given all of this, I ended up spending last weekend at my desk catching up on bureaucracy, which I hate. Boredom by entrapment is a powerful tool. We’re missing a trick with our prison population: First teach them to read, then turn them into highly efficient civil servants.

My son Jack, who is dyslexic, tells me that putting off bureaucracy is a major dyslexic trait. I’d always thought it was due to being creative. But many artists are highly organized, he countered. Not the ones I’ve hung out with, I replied. I did always run with the wilder crowd. Hey-ho, another “creative” excuse gone.

The folks at the wheelchair service company phoned Jane when they opened at 8 a.m. on Monday and asked if I could wait until Wednesday to have it repaired. With schools reopening this week, they were incredibly busy. By now, I was actually in a lot of pain from being unable to change my leaning position in the chair. She pleaded my case. Years of business and now political involvement make her a really diplomatic advocate. Repairmen turned up within two hours!

I called the company yesterday to thank them. The woman who answered was flabbergasted.

“Nobody ever does that!” she exclaimed.

Think of the great karma. The next time something goes wrong, how much more inclined might they be to help me now?

Maybe I’d lost a touch of that ol’ karma!


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Chrissy Zamoyska avatar

Chrissy Zamoyska

Hi John
I look forward to the daily MS news and enjoy reading your articles.
I would like to ask a question if I may, what is the make of your wheelchair and is it generally reliable. I am at that awful time with my MS when I think I shall have to submit and purchase one after getting stuck down the garden with my 3 wheeler Walker today! It must have provided my neighbours a very comical sight with my husband and son trying to wheel me back on it as my legs would simply not do what I wanted them to. ?
Much obliged
Chrissy (PPMS sufferer)

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Hi Chrissy,
Ta for the kind words.
It's an Invacare Bora Series.
But remember I'm in the UK so have no idea if they're avail outside of it.
Cheers John

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Sorry - it's a good steed. The majority of it's knocks are my fault!
If u get a wheelchair recommend u spend hours going thru the manual though!

David Wynsen avatar

David Wynsen

I would love to help write a brief story for fellow MSers. As a retired biochemist I surely have the time! How might I help?

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Hi David,
Have no idea if we're looking for new writers. There's a link at the bottom of the main page.
As an ex-journo & comedy writer wrote a piece for my own amusement. Then bored one day sent it in on spec. It's the first col I had published here.
The majority of col's across the many rare disease sites that Bionews publish don't necessarily have a writing background however.
Good luck.

David wynsen avatar

David wynsen

Thanks, John. I have a question: might you give me a list of potential activities that other ms-er might do to keep busy or to help others? I am a retired biochemist (nerd). I used to be active in my wood shop, but no more since my big machinery is too dangerous now. I am a musician (of sorts). I play the guitar (6 and 12 string), the flute, sax, drums. I am expert at none of it. I like to write and have a novel I need to finish. I am married 50 years to a wonderful woman. We have 2 adult daughters who live nearby and visit us several times per week. Any suggestions you might have would be appreciated!

John Connor avatar

John Connor

Yes, well I wrote one of them novels years ago. In those days the only way of being published was via an agent or direct via a publisher. I realised I'd have to keep writing the things to get any good at it Life & a new son got in the way. Then there was the need to make mullah!!

Now with the internet u can self publish on line. Some writers actually make it that way! I cite 'The Martian' & '50 Shades of Grey'. One of them actually became a good film. The other needs a slap.

There's loads of podcasts about self publishing etc on line.

Writing is the one thing we can still do.


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