I am not looking forward to the colder months ahead. Getting out has already become more difficult. Firstly the process of transferring between indoor and outside wheelchair is more involved with the need to transfer feeding system between the two. It doesn't take that long, but its another thing and if the carer isn't here it has to be fitted in with everything else that is going on. Then there is the increasing physical limitations. I am no longer able to bomb around at a breakneck 7.5 MPH because I can't push the joystick forward far enough and because the bumping around causes me to slip out of the seat. The cold weather makes this worse as it causes my legs and core to go rigid and I end up almost lying down.
But the biggest deterrent is the fear of the dreaded puncture. I have to admit that going out by myself is at best, foolish and at worst, completely irresponsible. I don't take my eyegaze system out usually because it is difficult to see where I am going with it on and it wouldn't survive a shower of rain. So if I have any problems I have no way of communicating. I have stuck a card on the armrest pointing people to a larger sheet kept in the bag on which I have printed my 'instruction manual'. It includes various contact numbers including a wheelchair recovery service and details about changing wheels amongst other information. However, it relies not only on whoever is helping having some common sense to decide the best course of action but also them being able to give up at least an hour of their time. And knowing this means I constantly worry about the need for assistance and feel guilty that someone is going to have their day considerably inconvenienced if I do.
When I do go out I spend most of the time carefully scouring the ground in front of me for potential puncture inducing debris. Items on this list are numerous and include screws, nails, broken glass, thorny brambles, drawing pins, various metal items which have fallen off bikes and cars. Once spotted, I try and commit the location to memory for the return trip. It is probably verging on paranoia, but the fear of being stranded without being able to communicate is now significant and is either deterring me from going out or spoils the experience when I do.
I have until now forced myself to get out at least once a week just to know that I can still manage it. If a longer period elapses between outings I fear that just a small step change in my strength or range of movement will prevent me from using the outdoor wheelchair . I have already lost the ability to turn right, so I have to spin anticlockwise 270 degrees instead which confuses everyone, and the next person who says "ooooh, showoff" might regret it! I am hoping to get the controller modified to make right hand movement more sensitive, but it might not help. So with the winter months approaching this maybe the last time I will be able to get out by myself. And that fact is hard to deal with.