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A Wheelchair Update (With a Side of Microaggressions)

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Evening Sky During Last Night's StRoll

Last night while out for a StRoll with Mom, a castor completely fell off of my wheelchair. The tires are also kaput and no longer holding air. So, I sent and email to my PCP asking him to fax over a request to the medical supply company for wheelchair repairs hoping these repairs could tide me over until we hear about the approval (or not) of my new chair and wait for it to be assembled (several months).

Many of you have been asking about the status of the request for a new chair. I was waiting to hear from the insurance company before I shared any more about it. Today I learned that this medical supply company NEVER sent my physical therapist's letter of medical necessity to my PCP for signature and, in turn, never sent it to the insurance company. Had I not just happened to request repairs, I don't know what would have happened!

You may remember from a previous wheelchair post how unpleasant my interactions with this company have been. Today was no different, even though it was with a different woman in the department.

Me: "Hello?"

Jennifer: "Hi, this is Jennifer from D--- Homecare. How are you?"

Me: "I'm okay. How are you?"

Jennifer: "I'm confused."

Me: "Okay?"

Jennifer: "I got a request for a wheelchair repair."

Me: "Yes."

Jennifer: "Well, you can't get your wheelchair repaired if you are trying to get a new wheelchair from the insurance company."

Me (confused): "Okay. But it will be several months before I would even get that chair *if* it is approved.

Jennifer: "Yeah, but if you want a new chair you can't get your old one repaired."

Me: "Okay, but it's just a simple repair. What are people supposed to do in the meantime while waiting for a new chair?"

Jennifer: "I don't know, but if you want a new chair we can't fix the one you have now."

Me: "Well, it's just a castor."

Jennifer: "Do you want me to get an estimate for how much it would cost out of pocket?"

Me: "It's just a castor that fell off. I'm sure Dan can fix it in a few minutes. Have him call me directly and I'll discuss it with him."

Jennifer: "You know we would help people if we could, but it's the insurance."

Me: "Okay. Well, please have Dan call me."

Jennifer: "It won't be until next week."

Me: "Okay."

When I learned that the letter of medical necessity my PT so carefully wrote never got where it was supposed to go, I mentioned that Alan, the person I had worked with to get the new chair, had told my PT that we had a dedicated timeline.

Me: "Alan said that my PT had to have the letter done within a certain number of weeks after the wheelchair fitting. Then, it was to get signed and sent to the insurance. He was very specific about the importance of this timeline."

Jennifer: "Well, timelines don't mean anything."

Me: "This doesn't have anything to do with the insurance company. This has to do with what we were told had to be done."

Jennifer: "Well, I never got the letter from him and I don't know what happened. He's on vacation until after Labor Day. I'll text him and find out what's happening and call you back."

When I got a call back I was told they would fax the letter to my doctor today, and they had no reason it hadn't been done before.

Me: "This is going to significantly delay getting the new wheelchair." Jennifer: "Unfortunately, yes."

And that was that.

I wish I could communicate her tone of voice through my writing. Zero compassion. Zero kindness. Rude. Acting inconvenienced. I wonder if they treat all wheelchair users this way? Or just people like me who are ambulatory wheelchair users? Where is their ability to say that they would like to make sure I am not without a chair and let's see what we can do?

I'm sharing these conversations because I encounter these types of interactions (and much worse) all.of.the.time.

As an ambulatory wheelchair user, I'm thinking about how devastating a conversation like this would be to a full-time wheelchair user. I feel really disappointed, trapped and sad right now because I LOVE getting out for StRolls with the old wheelchair and I really, really, really need the new wheelchair to make my life more manageable.

It wasn't until recently that I came to understand that interactions like I had today are a form of microaggression, which is what makes them so emotionally charged and painful. As disabled people, the world is already inaccessible to us. We'd sure hope that those who are in the business of providing tools to give us more freedom would care that we do, indeed, have the freedom we seek.



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