Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Bionics And Gaffer Tape

"Steve Deal, writer. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Deal will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster... so long as Polly has enough gaffer tape."

Last Monday came the culmination of months of phone calls, meetings and letter writing when the man from Neater Eater came to fit my Neater Arm. The device fits to and is powered by the electric wheelchair and provides an exo-skeletal arm support that moves up and down. For the first time in months I can feed myself again.

The arm cost £3000 and has been entirely funded by my local authority, though thank you to everyone who offered to contribute towards it. The local health authority has little pots of money set aside for such devices and if no one claims them they get absorbed for other purposes. It would have been easier and quicker to pay for it myself but it became a point of principle.

So, after months of waiting, hours of fitting and calibrating, and £3000 later I have an arm that goes up and down. Mind you, it wouldn't even do that if Polly hadn't been on hand. The problem was that the arm kept getting snagged on the wheelchair backrest. We'd already had it altered but it still kept getting stuck. Step forward Polly with a paintbrush and a roll of gaffer (or duct) tape. She cunningly attached the paintbrush, using the tape, to guide the arm around the problem. Eventually the paintbrush snapped but Polly was ready with a length of broomstick. Is it any wonder I married her.

The arm is brilliant, but as with all things connected to my disability it is a compromise. It limits my arms movement backwards and forwards somewhat and because of the sling that supports my forearm it makes writing even harder than it already is. Inevitably it will affect the number of blog posts I can write for the foreseeable future until I can devise yet another strategy to speed things up.

In the meantime, we took the boys to see the new Star Trek film which is absolutely fantastic, certainly the best film I've seen in a long while. It was hugely enjoyable and now both boys are running around yelling “Phasers on stun!” and doing impersonations of Simon Pegg doing an impersonation of James Doohan doing an impersonation of a Scotsman shouting “she's breaking up, Captain, I no ken hold her.” As a bona fide Trekkie it makes my heart sing with joy and dilithium crystals.

And for once I can raise a glass to you all, literally as well as figuratively. Live long and prosper.