Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ingress and Egress

Getting Maggie into the house used to be a multi step process. Once we arrived home we had to do the following: undo the seven buckles on the straps that hold her into the wheelchair, lift her out, carry her up a flight of stairs, lay her on the floor of the living room, go back downstairs, carry the chair up the stairs, pick Maggie up off the floor and strap her back into the chair. That all changed about four or five years ago, when we had the lift installed in the back yard. That thing saved our back and our sanity.

When we installed the lift Maggie was about 10 and weighed approximately 35 lbs. Her wheelchair weighed more than she did. She was not heavy, but the constant lifting was getting a bit more difficult. We were lifting both her and her wheelchair numerous times each day. When we looked ahead, we knew we could not keep it up. Good thing, now she weighs over 60lbs and her wheel chair is well over 70. Without that lift, we would likely not still be in this house.

The lift is nothing fancy. It is a platform lift like you might see in a department store or church. The door on one level locks behind you and the door on the other level will not open until the platform fully arrives. It goes slowly, but it is perfectly fine. It is outside and open to the elements. That’s not too much of a concern because we live in sunny California. Oh wait, that doesn’t apply to San Francisco. Even with the rain and the fog there are very few times we can’t brave the elements for a few minutes. A huge downpour is a drag and I have at times sent the empty chair down the lift and then carried Maggie down the garage steps. Folks have suggested a cover for the top, and we have considered it; but I resist it because the only light we get is from the front and back of the house and I do not want anything to interfere with that.

This week has been wild weather wise. There have been downpours, sudden hailstorms and very cold temperatures for San Francisco. I’m not trying to compare to what many of you have to deal with weather wise, but remember we only have clothing to fit where we live and it has been insufficient this week. The cold temperatures have been wrecking havoc with things designed for a more temperate climate. Turns out the lift might be one of those things.
We returned from an outing the other evening. It was 6PM, very cold and of course very dark. It had been raining all day, but it stopped on our way home. There was just time to get up the elevator and stay dry, but the clouds threatened above. Maggie and her nurse Fely were in the lift and I brought the rest of her equipment upstairs. I remembered then that the lift had been a bit sluggish the day before and went on the back deck to see how they were doing. It was moving slower than usual. They were about 5 feet from the top and it stopped dead. This was not good timing. Rain and hail were looming. I tried all my usual tricks, which is nothing more than turning it off and on again. Nothing. Maggie was laughing and the nurse was getting a little panicky. I could almost reach Maggie and I tried to get the top door to unlatch so I could grab her, but there was no way to open it with the platform below the landing. I looked at the threatening clouds and considered how long it would take the elevator company to arrive. I considered 911, but….really? I tried again and the platform moved about an inch. It took several more minutes, starts, and stops, but the platform finally reached the top and they were free.
Maggie was still laughing and Fely was visibly relieved. Thankfully, it did not rain until we were back in the house. If it had, I would probably be looking for a new nurse about now.
So, I am home today waiting for the elevator guy. I can’t go out until I know Maggie can get back in.

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