Wednesday, 30 July 2014

I Flipped

I had an accident last night, a wheelchair accident. They happen; they are mostly not serious. Last night's accident had possibilities; it could have been very serious. I flipped over backwards while navigating a slope at the edge of a parking lot. Fortunately I managed to avoid banging my head other than the slightest amount. Unfortunately in doing so I twisted my neck, gave myself a bit of whiplash, and banged my left knee. None of these injuries are serious; all will pass within a day or so.

It's not all that hard to flip my wheelchair. The wheels are large, the bearings high precision and very free wheeling. The frame is light weight and the center of gravity is fairly high to accommodate my long legs and large body. All of this means it is very easy to roll too far backwards when doing a wheelie, or to flip backwards when pushing a steep slope.

The particular slope in question last night was the transition between the downward slope of a parking lot and the steep, compound up-slope of the edge of the road. Most of the roads in Calgary have steep edges to facilitate snow removal and rain drainage into the gutters. When you come to a transition from a sidewalk or parking lot, the transition from one slope to another can be quite dramatic, especially in a wheelchair.

The way I deal with these dramatic slope transitions is to try it head on, and if I sense a tipping point, then turn around and reverse up the slope. This way the force of pulling the wheelchair keeps the front wheels down while I go backwards up the slope. The tricky part is getting turned about safely. That's where things went off the rails last night.

I came down the slope from the parking lot and edged my way the smallest bit up the upward slope of the road. I have done this one before and knew I would have to turn about and go backwards. However each little bit of the slope varies from place to place, sometimes including both a vertical and angular or horizontal slope. In last night's case, there was a bit of a slope change right where I made the about turn. That change in slope was just enough to cause me to tip backwards, and once tipped I was gone.

As I went over backwards I twisted my neck so my head would not hit. Once I touched down, my legs came tumbling after, my left knee smacking into the pavement with a solid thump. I lay there for a minute, contemplating my situation, then phoned the pub for help. One of the waitresses just happened to step out at that minute as well, and in just a moment there were three people helping get back into my chair.

There was little physical damage, certainly no lasting damage. It was just another reminder of how much my life has changed in the last couple of years, how much of my ability to live now depends on the kindness of others, how easy it is for me to get into serious trouble. It will likely happen again; after all I don't plan on stopping any time soon.


  1. Your tenacity will serve you well.

  2. Richard, I'm so sorry to hear this. It is scary, even though you have such a great attitude. I'm sending a big hug.