Friday, December 21, 2007

The Space Pen of Occupational Therapy

Tonight we took a trip to the zoo for the annual "Festival of Lights". We had a good time (we got there before the crowds started showing up), and our youngest really enjoyed the elephants, as evidenced by her non-stop chatter about them for the rest of the evening.

But, here's what is amazing to me: she enjoyed the zoo without use of a power wheelchair.

According to the therapist fitting her for the powerchair, the zoo is one of those places that she just can't keep up with other kids. Now, grant it, the therapist is right that she couldn't maneuver the manual chair around the zoo. However, as I pointed out to her in our conversation, I don't want our 3 year old running around the zoo on her own.

Well, last night proved it! I really wonder if this lady's ever tried keeping track of 5 kids in a huge crowd? I don't want more independence at a place like the zoo, I want the opposite! Has she even considered why wagons are so highly popular among mothers of preschoolers? In order not to lose them, I need 2 of the 5 confined!

Since both my husband and I were there last night, we didn't take the wagon, just our daughter's wheelchair. Our 5-year-old walked and held someone's hand. The three big kids just walked. I did wonder what some medical people would think about our oldest daughter, with the prosthetic leg, walking around the hilly zoo -- even though she despises the thought of using a wheelchair.

Halfway through our evening, I burst out laughing.

"Even besides the fact that we'd lose her if she was driving an electric chair," I told my husband, "She could never do one here!"

"I know," he replied, "too many injuries!"

The previous night, during our Sharon Woods fiasco, we visited the nature center. Using her manual chair, our daughter managed to bruise the legs of at least 10 or 12 people by bumping into them. Of course, in the manual chair, I can just reach out and stop her, as can the person being bumped. In the power chair, if you don't have access to the stop button, you're not stopping her.

Also, the entire evening would have been longer with the wheelchair, no less. In stead of walking out the front door, flipping the wheelchair into the hatch of the van, and driving off, we would have had to:

1) Get all the kids in the van
2) Carry our daughter out to the van
3) Walk down the rest of the driveway
4) Undo the combination chain lock on the driveway gate (it wraps around the bottom of the gate to hold it shut so the dogs can't squeeze out)
5) Open the garage door
6) Turn on, unplug the the wheelchair
7) Drive it up to the back of the van
8) Open the platform on the back of the van
9) Drive it up on the platform
10) Lock it and cover it
11) Then go back and close the gate

The great thing would be reversing it all when we got home. Does this lady have any idea how much work it already is trying to get 5 kids and 2 adults out the door without lugging around a 300 lb wheelchair?

All this reminds me of the story of NASA's space pen. This past summer, while visiting Kitty Hawk, we had the opportunity to see the space pen.

Until I actually saw the space pen, I thought it must be an Internet myth. The story, of course is full of myth, but the idea is the same. Americans spent thousands of dollars developing an anti-gravity ink pen. The Russians used a pencil.

Are we that prone to making things more complex than they need be?

By the way, they have since discovered that a regular old ink pen works just as well in space as the "space pen", and I'm still convinced that a regular old manual chair works much better for a preschooler than a $35K power chair.

Call me crazy. (That was rhetorical.)

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