Pushing Miss Daisy

I have met my nemesis, the Invacare TDX5 with tarsys. Those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about will soon learn where your medicare money is going and how I got a great workout yesterday.

First, the closest picture I can find of my new friend, the TDX5:

The TDX5 power chair is midwheel drive and uniquly designed to recline the rider by remote to seek comfort in various positions as a result of injury or illness. This requires the 4 stabilizing wheels shown front and back which angle outward when reclining. They’re designed for stabilization, not so much for pushing. The chair shown is from a blog of a woman who uses it.
The chair I encountered was custom built at a cost of $25,650.

That is not a typo. Her invoice from the supplier (name withheld) states medicare covered the entire amount of $25,650.

The TDX5 I met had full controls for the passenger and the “pusher.” this allowed anyone standing behind her to control movement and recline at the push of a button.
The foot rests were custom made to her exact dimensions as were the arm rests.

For those of you thinking I might be against chairs for those who need them, think again.
This looks like an excellent piece of technology to assist those who have pain I could never imagine.

Let’s move along to when I met my lovely TDX5.
Dinner was just being served at the firehouse when the call came out to “Assist a citizen.” Before we can get going the phone rings, it’s dispatch. They paint the picture of a little old woman stranded at the local grocery store in her wheelchair and unable to move. We tell them all we’re going to do is plug her in and maybe the store can help, but no answer.
This location is notorious for folks getting off the bus with dead wheelchair batteries. I’ve even pushed a man across the street to plug him in, as you’ll remember.

We arrive to a familiar woman, often found shouting profanities from the floor near her bed after falling out, again. She is also known around town for the elaborate rigging of PVC pipe on her power chair which had netting, a tarp and, I’m not kidding, fog lamps for driving at night.

But she is not in her regular chair, she’s got a new TDX5.

“New chair?” I ask walking over to where the charger should be attached.
“I just got it today, but the battery died. I need a push home.”
“We don’t push,” says the officer looking to me to plug it in, but the charger is not hanging in the spot engineered for it to sit. It’s a seperate unit (Maybe 4 pounds) with the wall plug and a power inverter. Why they don’t just build it in, I’ll never know.
“Where’s your charger?” I ask looking over the amazingly outfitted chair.
“I didn’t need it, the battery said 50% when I left home.” It was then I noticed the large tags still attached in places.
CHARGE BATTERY FULLY PRIOR TO OPERATION

After a few minutes of trying to figure out how to charge it, the boss asked her where she lived. The other firefighters and I knew exactly where she needed to go, 3 1/2 blocks away.

The middle wheel drive TDX5 has 2 motors which allow it to turn like a tank, on a dime. We were able to release the motors so the chair could be pushed. And push we did.

Some specs on the TDX5:

Power wheelchair with mid wheel drive.
• Comes with TrueTrack technology
• SureStep Suspension
• MK5 electronics
• Center Wheel Drive and Stability Lock.
• Speed: 7.5 mph maximum
• Seat To Floor Height: Min. 16.5″ @ 0 degrees tilt; Max. 21″ @ 5 degrees tilt (18.5″ and 19″ with Tarsys respectively).
• Product Weight Capacity: User weight capacity – 400 lb. with ASBA, 350 lb. with Tarsys, 300 lb. with Tarsys and vent.
• Overall Height: 34″ with 16″ back height; 37″ with Tarsys and 22″ back height.
• Overall Width: Base: 25″. Seat width to outside of joystick (16″ width): 24.5″. Seat width to outside of joystick (20″ width): 28.5″.
• Turning Radius: 22-24″ depending on riggings. • Arm Height: ASBA/2GT: 9-13″-2GR/GTR: 10-16″.
• Incline Capability: 9 degrees.
• Overall Length: Base (caster to trailing caster): 35″.
• Product Weight: 314 lb. (with ASBA seat),388 lb. (with 2GTR Tarsys).

The chair alone weighs 400 pounds. Add in our 200 pound patient and we pushed 600 pounds 3 1/2 blocks to her apartment. All the way she told us about all the features of her new chair as we weaved through the tourists and curious onlookers. It swerves quite easily with 2 of us pushing so many minor adjustments had to be made.

When we finally arrived at her apartment we opened her door to the familiar smell of stale cigarettes and there it was, glaring like a wife might at a husband home later than expected. The old chair.
“Is it broken?” I ask, stretching my back.
“No it works fine, the salesman said I could get a new one free, so I did.” she said happily, as she moved first her limp legs, then her tired body from the new dead chair to the old working one.
“So why get a new one if the old one still works?” My fellow pusher asked noting the dozens of extension cords criss crossing the room.
“This one was built just for me!”

In the end we spent over 45 minutes pushing that chair from where she was to where she needed to be. It’s hard to imagine a fire engine being deployed to push a 600 pound chair with occupant home, but that’s more and more what our job description requires.

I took this as a chance to learn more about the technology available to those with mobility issues and thus have come to admire the TDX5. From a distance.

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