Locked and Loaded

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As I told you in my last post, I recently began the process of getting a new, power wheelchair. The first thing you have to do get the ball rolling is to meet with a wheelchair technician and a physical therapist. This meeting serves two important purposes. First, it gives you a chance to talk with the wheelchair technician, who will eventually be building your new chair, to discuss all of the different options you have in terms of vendors, parts, and features that can be included with your wheelchair. Second, it satisfies one of your insurance provider’s requirements for approving payment for your chair, by having a physical therapist sign off that for medical reasons you do need all of the options and customizations you are requesting. This can be an extremely long and overwhelming meeting, as there are a lot of things that need to be addressed when building a wheelchair that you will spend upwards of 15,000 hours in over its lifespan. Having gone through this process a few times over the years, I knew going in that in order to avoid getting overwhelmed by all of the information being thrown at you, that you have to prepare yourself by doing some research beforehand. You have to go into this meeting already having an idea of what is out there and what you want, in order to ensure that you get what you need and do not get talked into choosing an option that will not work for you. Since this is something that I have grown accustomed to doing, I thought that everyone did this when going into important meetings. But judging from the surprised reactions I saw on the faces of the wheelchair technician and the physical therapist when I came in and told them exactly what I wanted, I now realize that this is not the norm.

Scott Drotar Switch-It
This, “Switch-It,” control is very similar to the touchpad-type hand control I will end up having on my new wheelchair.

Last week, before going to my meeting to start the process of building my new wheelchair, I had spent several hours on the internet doing some research as to what all is out there in terms of parts for power wheelchairs. While this took up a fair amount of my time, and even though I wasted a lot of that time looking at things that will not work for me, I knew the importance of educating myself before going into a meeting about something as vital to my happiness as my chair. I wanted to have a general idea of what vendors, parts, and features I wanted for my new wheelchair, before discussing it with the wheelchair technician, so that I did not end up getting talked into something that was unnecessary, or worse, harmful. Having at least a vague idea as to what I wanted also allowed me to steer our discussion in directions that were productive and helpful, which saved us a lot of potentially wasted time talking about features I do not need. Doing this research before going in to chat with the wheelchair tech and physical therapist prepared me for this important meeting, and it also gave me the necessary “ammunition” to head into this critical discussion calm and confident, or as I like to say, “locked and loaded.”

Having only met the wheelchair technician once and having never met the physical therapist that I would be working with to get my new wheelchair, I typically would have had a fair amount of anxiety going into this meeting. Even though I endlessly babble about my life online for the whole world to see, you may be surprised to learn that I am a bit shy in person. So as you can imagine, meeting with two people, who I do not know, to chat about something as personal as my disability and my wheelchair can be a bit stressful. In addition, any time you are making an enormous, life-changing decision, you will usually feel some level of apprehension anyway. Despite all of this, when I went into my meeting last week, I was not stressed or anxious at all. In fact, I was calm, confident, and excited to discuss my new wheelchair and begin the process of building it. This complete reversal in my emotional state was a direct result of feeling prepared, “locked and loaded,” and knowledgeable enough to take charge in our discussion. I soon discovered through the reactions of the technician and therapist though, that this is not a practice that is all that common.

After everyone got situated, exchanged pleasantries, and introduced themselves, everyone sort of looked at each other waiting to see who was going to start the discussion. So, feeling confident and well informed, I decided to speak up first and get things going. I thought this was perfectly natural, since only I know what my body needs and what features I want on my new wheelchair, but as I was talking I noticed looks of pleasant surprise on the faces of my counterparts. As we continued to chat about features for my chair, and I listened and commented on some of their ideas, I kept picking up on these feelings of surprise. Towards the end of our meeting, the physical therapist jokingly said that all she and the tech needed to do was sign off on my medical needs and order the parts, because I already had done the rest of the work. While this is not really true, they both had good ideas that I ended up liking more than the ones I came in with, hearing this comment made me realize, not only how powerful this habit can be, but also how few people actually do it. Recognizing these two facts about the act of going into important meetings “locked and loaded” is what motivated me to share this critical life skill with you today.

Scott Drotar Locked and Loaded
Power wheelchairs have come a long way during my lifetime and can do some amazing things.

In an earlier post, you learned about how crucial it is to advocate for yourself when it comes to decisions regarding your health and well-being. Doing some independent research and learning about any major, medical decision in your life, which allows you to head into meetings with health care professionals “locked and loaded,” is how you give yourself the ability to stand up for yourself and voice your opinions. It is impossible to feel confident or speak about something that you do not know much about, and medical professionals may be experts in their field, but only you are an expert on you, your body, and what you want. By taking the time to educate yourself about the various aspects of whatever decision you are making, you can open and guide your discussions with professionals. This will combine your immense, personal knowledge about your body with their professional expertise, which will give you the best chance at making a good decision and improving your life. It is important to note that this process of getting yourself “locked and loaded” before attending major meetings or making life altering choices is not unique to medical decisions. Taking the time to be informed prior to pulling the trigger on an enormous choice facing you is a practice that can be applied to any area of your life.

It is a shame that it is often only after the fact that we recognize how crucial certain parts of our lives are to our success and happiness. If not for the looks of surprise on the faces of the wheelchair technician and physical therapist last week, I would have continued to overlook how much the process of educating yourself and being “locked and loaded” can improve your life. By taking a few hours beforehand to do some research on your own, you give yourself the ammunition necessary to be calm, confident, and prepared as you speak with experts and make important decisions. This process also prevents you from getting talked into something you do not want by someone else, as well as helping you avoid wasting time and energy looking at options that are not going to work for you. The next time you see a major decision in your life on the horizon, take some time to get “locked and loaded” before pulling the trigger on anything. This will save you time, prevent a lot of bad choices, and remove a large amount of stress and anxiety from your life. Most of all though, applying this process will bring you more happiness and success that will greatly improve your life.

Did this article leave you wondering something? Are you curious about a certain aspect of my life? Do you want to know my favorite color? Submit your question to “Roll Models Mail Call,” and I will do my best to answer it in a post.

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