Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sickness and Wheelchairs

I'm sick today.  Not "I'm gonna die" sick or "Keep away contageous sick" just my digestive system being pissed off sick.  It's actually overdue.

I get sick when my sleep is significantly disrupted and since I rise with dawn on account of the cursed day star flooding the world with too much light for my sleep to endure, I have to go to bed early.  Small children whose age is measured in single digits stay up later than me.

I got out of the ER at about 1:20-1:30 AM, which was naturally on the day after I got in because getting out of the ER isn't something you can do in an hour and a half.  Likely the reason I wasn't sick immediately after was that I was basically empty (remember, it's a digestive system thing) on account of it being very difficult to prepare food with a recently broken ankle.  I'm still trying to get the hang of this.  I still have spectacular failures.

We'll get back to spectacular failures in a paragraph, but first what changed is that yesterday my dad bought and brought me a bunch of microwavable stuff so that I could deal with the food preparation problem the easy way.  No longer -- a few days isn't enough to call it starving, I've been starving and I know what it feels like.  What do you call it?  I'll go with "fasting".  No longer fasting myself, have stuff in me and am eating like someone who can afford microwavable food.

Yesterday I was positioning myself to get on the couch when I lost my balance, dropped at least one of my crutches, and landed pretty much exactly where I'd wanted to end up, but with way too much force.  My ankle was jarred like "OH MY FUCKING GOD!  KILLER DEATH PAIN!  IT GODDAMN HURTS," but the story doesn't end there because the crutch that I know for sure I dropped managed to hit the couch before me, my butt landed right on top of it, leverage and what not made the other end shoot straight up into my broken ankle which was still in all-caps mode from the force with which I'd landed.

Good fucking God is this harder than a sprain.

So that's not fun.  But I said, "and Wheelchairs" so it's time for a topic change.

* * *

The absolutely essential areas of my house are now crutch-safe because of the massive amounts of work I did on Friday.  (After I'd caught a few hours sleep.)  They are not remotely wheelchair accessible.

I want a narrow gauge wheelchair.  I could build a narrow gauge wheelchair if not for the fact that I have a broken ankle.  (I.e. if I didn't need it, I could make it.)  It would be simple.  Take your basic no-nonsense no-frills minimalist dining chair (seat just barely big enough to hold a butt, legs go straight down from there, no arm rests for they add width and everyone puts their elbows on the table anyway) and add a basic swivel wheel to the bottom of each leg.

The lack of connection between wheels and arms makes this a specialty device, but I could power and steer it with my good foot or pole it along using crutches.  The small size would allow it to move in smaller places than a standard wheelchair, and being swivel wheels would give a certain maneuverability.


When all this is over and I no longer have use for one, I'm going to build a full size wheelchair to the specifications I've always wanted.

Why not do it now when it would be useful?  I cannot sit cross legged, I cannot get off the ground easily.  I cannot pace.  I cannot wander like someone whose muse is coming and going faster and more often than a cat at an open door.

Also I'm broke until next month (use the donation button, become my patron; wow that was a shameless "give me money" plug) and in no shape to deal with construction materials.  It'll probably involve walking to home depot, buying materials (likely wood because I don't have the equipment to work with metal) and . . . wait.

It'll probably involve walking to Toys Я Us, buying a fucking wagon, walking back, waiting until I have more money, walking to Home Depot (anti-union bastards; did you know they force their employees to watch anti-union indoctrination films?), buying construction materials, putting them in the wagon, and walking home.

A that point there will be sitting, standing, cutting, doubt, despair, despondency, giving up, restarting, and so forth.

Hopefully at the end of it all I get a wheelchair with these properties:

Via the cunning use of gears, the push-pull dynamic is reversed.  Whenever I'm using a wheelchair I want it to be the pull that moves me forward because the pull in question comes more naturally to me (and with more strength and endurance) than the push in question.

Linking - I want to be able to use it one handed.  This requires an axle that can be made to engage and disengage.  When engaged turning either wheel turns both wheels, when disengaged the wheels are independent like normal.

Reversed linking - With the wheels linked as above it is impossible to turn the chair.  The addition of a single gear on one of the wheel's axle engagement point changes this so that when one wheel goes forward the other goes backwards thus turning the chair.

One could expand this to allow speeds of turns by having gears of various sizes be the enagement points (steal them from a bike) thus having gradations between "straight forward" and "turn in place" but that is not something for a prototype and would likely be a luxury item.

That almost entirely covers one handed use.  The last thing for one handed:

Break linking - I'm sure this already exists, but it didn't on one of the chairs I was in at the ER which caused me to wonder why I was moving when the break was supposed to be on.  Turned out that only one of the breaks had engaged properly.

Foot rest angling - This never would have occurred to me, but before my ankle was splinted the only position that didn't cause unendurable pain was with the foot pointed straight down in line with the leg.  You can't tilt the foot rest to accommodate that.  At least not on the chairs they had at the hospital.  The foot rest is 90 degrees or swiveled out of the way.  The solution we had to use was get the thing out of the way (leaving my injury unsupported) and count on the leg rest to keep it elevated.  This seems sub-optimal.

I've probably had other ideas, but they don't come to mind.


While I was in the hospital I imagined a tread chair that could climb stairs.  But I want to make a wheel chair so that invitation to disaster isn't going to happen.  Much of what I'm thinking comes from a certain comfort with gears gained as a result of being on the South Portland High School Robotics Team (Riot Crew).

The FIRST Robotics competition in which we participated was founded by Dean Kamen.  He invented a wheelchair that can go up stairs (all terrain in fact) using the same balancing technology to be found on the Segway (the Segway was actually more of an afterthought along the lines of "what else can we do with this tech?"), but it was just way too expensive.  And was only on the market for six years.

The idea is great: Yes, places should be wheelchair accessible by default, but that doesn't change the fact that some aren't yet and (I'm guessing this based on the "all terrain" bit) some can't be.  Those who need chairs shouldn't be limited by the inability (or bigoted refusal) of others to make places accessible.

The problem is that while being able to use stairs, traverse difficult curbs, travel sand, gravel, three foot deep water, and even psuedo-stand (it can make rider 'round about six feet tall, where in that range depends on the distance from the rider's butt to their head; it can't climb stairs in this mode, but it can go anywhere a normal wheelchair can go) it's not worth the price tag given that people are not, on the whole, rich.

On May 21st of last the Toyota announced that it's going to partner with his company to produce a new version of said chair.  One hopes it will be cheaper.  Even if it is, and even if insurance covers it, human powered chairs have a lot of advantages: they don't need a charge, they're not as heavy as a machine, they give you a feeling of control (in my opinion equal to walking), they're much cheaper, they're a lot smaller, so on, so forth.

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