Continued from Getting a Wheelchair, Part One. In my previous post I told you I broke down crying, and here’s why. After the wheelchair I got through my insurance turned out to be wrong in several ways, I spent almost 3 hours on the phone with insurance, the company that I got the wheelchair from, and other wheelchair companies, trying to figure out what exactly my insurance would cover and where to get it. It turns out what I really need is an ultralightweight wheelchair, which are (as far as I can tell) only custom built, and I need a custom built one anyway, because I’m thin but not short. And, of course, my insurance does not cover custom built wheelchairs.
The stress finally drove me to hysterical tears, and my husband said “Enough. You’ve been at this for months, it’s not going to happen. We will just buy the wheelchair outright no matter how much it costs, because you need it and this is not healthy.” And it’s true. I said “how do other people do this? They just throw up their hands and say “well, I guess I’ll just be in crippling debt?” “Yes,” he said.
So, that’s what we did. We forgot about trying to get it covered by insurance, and just started trying to find the right wheelchair. We would have just gone forward with it and done our best to figure out the financial aspect later, but when I mentioned it to my parents they offered to buy it for me. I am extremely grateful to them, I can’t say that enough! I’m so lucky to have family that cares so much about me.
I knew I needed a place that could measure me and build the wheelchair according to my needs, and I finally found that in Boston Orthopedic and Respiratory Equipment . We made an appointment and as soon as we walked into their showroom I knew we were in the right place. They had some of the really light, modern-looking wheelchairs that I’d seen online. The technician/owner asked me what I needed, measured me, and explained our choices. It was just what I needed! He showed us a Ki Mobility Catalyst chair and told me to think of the Quickee as a Lexus and the Ki Mobility as a high end Honda. He told me that, as an occasional user, I really didn’t need a high-end chair. After trying them both I agreed that the Ki Mobility was perfect for my needs, and I appreciated him not trying to sell me something I didn’t need. They both weighed about the same and came apart – wheels and leg rests came off, allowing me to easily load the wheelchair into my car. And they were both easy to propel by myself, whereas I had a hard time with some of the lower-end chairs.
So we ordered a Ki Mobility chair and borrowed one of the rental chairs to use in the meantime, which I had a hard time using. I was really excited when the owner/technician delivered the chair to my house and made sure it fit correctly! I was able to take my new chair with me on my two recent road trips to Vermont and to Mass MoCA, where I used the wheelchair for hours in the museum. I’ve also used it recently in Boston, and it allowed me to “walk” around the city in the summer heat with my family, something I would not have been able to do otherwise.
I want to be able to put a positive spin on this experience and to help guide others who need their own wheelchairs, but it’s obviously not that easy. The positive aspect is that I finally have a great wheelchair, and that I have a loving family who supports and helps each other. The negative aspect, and unfortunate reality, is that I even though I have health insurance that covers wheelchairs, I wasn’t able to get them to pay for it like they were supposed to. In the end I had to give up and pay for it myself (of course in this case it became a gift from my parents, for which I am so grateful).
I can’t say strongly enough how pathetic I find this. When asked what stresses me most in my life, I always say “doctors and insurance,” which surprises many people, who would expect me to say the physical aspect of my illness. Don’t get me wrong, dealing with my medical condition is extremely difficult, and I feel sick and am in pain all day, every day. But it’s the medical system that drives me to frustrated tears, that leaves me anxious and stressed. I wish I had a good answer for anyone else looking to buy a wheelchair. I’m still going to try to get my insurance to reimburse me, but I don’t have high hopes. I hope you have a different experience and can get your insurance to get you the one you need.