As part of this blog, I have decided to talk about some of the issues that I have encountered this summer as it relates to living with a wheelchair-user. I feel it is important to write these stories to generate awareness of some of the trials and tribulations as well as for a bit of comic relief!
Bill, who has C5-C6 incomplete quadriplegia, uses both a manual and/or a power wheelchair for mobility. He started a tradition of going camping with his young nieces in his Mom’s very large and wooded backyard. The setup is a large tent for the girls to share, and a tent-cot for Bill and the dog (I did not go on this particular adventure). A tent-cot is the equivalent of a cot which sits about two feet off the ground enclosed in a tent. This allows for ease of transfer to and from the wheelchair as the surface is almost level and the cot material is pulled very tight, creating more of a soft but solid surface. Above the tent-cot was a canopy that was setup to help shield from the weather, just in case of any rain storms.
This setup, although seemingly fool-proof, was a catastrophe waiting to happen. On the second night, a very severe thunderstorm came through the area. The top of the girl’s tent ripped, soaking the girls with rain water, and they proceeded to run into the house screaming, leaving their Uncle Bill outside. The canopy broke from the wind and rainwater build up. This caused it to crash into the tent-cot below, sending all of the built up rainwater through the tent-cot window, flooding the space that Bill and the dog were sleeping. Thankfully, the girls woke up Bill’s sister in the house and she was able to help him and the dog get out of the tent-cot and safely into the house.
When morning came, the damage was visible. The girl’s tent was lost, the canopy was lost and the tent-cot was soaked. In the clean-up process, Bill was helping to transport the canopy pieces on his lap in his power wheelchair. In the process of removing the pieces from his lap to throw them in the garbage, one of the broken ends fell from his lap and landed on his bare foot, leaving a long gash down the top of his foot from his ankle to his small toe. Although Bill took immediate precaution, rinsing with peroxide and bandaging with Neosporin, within two days, the foot was infected. Decreased circulation due to the spinal cord injury always increases the healing time for any of Bill’s wounds. To add insult to injury, Bill was also coughing, wheezing and generally not feeling well. I could feel fluid in his lungs when he would take a deep breath. The decreased strength of Bill’s diaphragm, due to the spinal cord injury, affects his ability to produce a strong cough and consequently will turn a cold into a respiratory infection a lot faster than someone who is able-bodied. Off to the doctor you go!
Verdict: respiratory infection and infected foot. A tetanus shot and two weeks of solid antibiotics and he will be back to new. Too bad he had already given me his cold, and I did not even go on the camping trip! Oh, and need I mention that the dog also developed a bacterial infection on his belly. It’s just another day in the life with Bill. This saga is sure to continue…..
For info on the tent-cot go to: KampRite TentCot
August 9, 2010 at 10:23 am