The Spirit of Giving


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Yes, I’m one of the crazy people who shop the Black Friday Deals. I love finding a bargain. I’ve heard and seen the horror stories in the media of people pushing others out of the way to get that last sale item or even grab an item out of another’s hand because they felt they should’ve been the one to get it. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never witnessed it in person. Instead, I’ve had strangers offer to share their cart with me to relieve my arms which were too full of must-buy items because there wasn’t an available cart. I’ve also had strangers offer to save my place in a long line while I run back and get a forgotten item. One year I bought a large television, back in the day when they were thick and bulky. My eyes were bigger than the car trunks dimension and I couldn’t get it to fit. The next option was the back seat. Now if you shop Black Friday you know there are no employees available at WalMart to help load your items. They’re all too busy indoors to even think about coming outdoors. The T.V. was heavy and awkward, but I was determined to somehow get it home. Lucky for me, a stranger stopped his holiday rush to assist me in this nearly impossible endeavor. After several tries of moving seats and pushing up the car door weather-stripping we finally got it loaded. I’ve since learned to better plan my shopping day and have a van instead of a car. My experience is that most people want to be thoughtful and caring, even on Black Friday.

This year my grand experience with strangers happened just before Black Friday. For months I’ve been worrying and researching how and where I could get Mark’s broken standing frame repaired. I’m not talking about a decorative wood folding stand that holds pictures or a mirror or shelves like most people relate to, but rather a standing device which assists a wheelchair dependent person to stand. The standing frame has been an essential piece of equipment at our house since Mark came home from the hospital in 1991. It provides an alternative position from sitting in a wheelchair and the weight bearing is important for his muscles and bones as it supports him in the standing position. The old standing frame started leaking hydraulic fluid last April, so I kept a pie pan underneath it to catch the drips. I started asking repair or handymen where I should take the standing frame to have it fixed. Most people couldn’t even imagine what a standing frame is let alone where to get it fixed.

As the months passed, it got harder to pump in the upward position. While Mark was at Rocky Mountain Care Center, I asked their equipment maintenance man where I might take Mark’s standing frame to be fixed. “The hydraulic lifts can’t be fixed,” he said.

Thinking it couldn’t be repaired, I started looking into replacing it. Not one medical supply company I called in the Salt Lake Valley carried one, so I searched the internet for one. The cheapest one I could find was $2,600. The rest of the standing frame was in good shape, so I wasn’t eager to buy a new one and although it kept getting harder to get him up and down, we kept using it. After time, the handle bent with the pressure it took to pump the hydraulic and one night after pumping him straight up it completely broke off. Getting him out of it was a chore because without the handle we couldn’t release the hydraulic.

“I don’t believe you can’t get a hydraulic fixed,” my Dad replied after I told him of my search for options. By now, I had posted on facebook and had a poster at Neuroworx and the TBI Conference that I was looking for a gently used standing frame. Dad started his own search and found Gustin Hydraulics in Salt Lake who was willing to take a look at it. Thankfully my dad was able to take the hydraulic off and into their shop. They filled it with oil, found the leak and repaired it with new seals for a total charge of $55.67. I was thrilled until we reinstalled the hydraulic and it wouldn’t work.

“Bring in the whole standing frame and I’ll take a look at it,” the repairman said, not fully realizing what a standing frame is. Dad and I loaded it in the van and he took it in.

Mark StandingBy the end of the day they reinstalled the hydraulic, which we had installed incorrectly, made a new metal handle and painted it to replace the broken one. They made it look as good as new. By now I was willing to pay some big bucks for this much needed piece of equipment and to have this long time problem and worry solved, but they wouldn’t let us pay a dime more than the hydraulic repair. What a splendid group of men at Gustin Hydraulics. They are caring strangers whom I’ve never met before. They took pride in their workmanship and wouldn’t let us reimburse them for their time, paint and the materials for a new handle.

Acts of service are the true spirit of giving. When we deliver a helping hand to a stranger we may not know how much it means or the difference it will make in their life. It’s the warmth and joy of the holiday season. I’m grateful for strangers who share their shopping cart, reach an item for me, save my place in a long line or help me load my vehicle. This year I’m grateful for the crew at Gustin Hydraulics for fixing a much needed standing frame for Mark and making it look new again. If you need any kind of hydraulic repair, I suggest you give Gustin Hydraulics a call at 801-487-0624. I’m sure they’ll take as good of care of you as they did us.

Wheelchair Ordering Tips

New Wheelchair-front Buying a bicycle, car, truck, or any other form of transportation is exciting. The ability to get you where you want to go is often taken for granted until it breaks down or becomes hard to use. For most transportation vehicles you’re free to shop around, try out different makes and models, and buy the one that fits your needs.  However, buying a new wheelchair is unfortunately different. If you’ve never bought a custom wheelchair or needed one to get you everywhere you want to go, you’re probably wondering, what’s the big deal! You go into a Medical Equipment Store and try out a few different wheelchairs to see which one fits your needs the best, then order the perfect color and in a day or two have your new wheelchair.

If I could have it my way, it would be done in those three easy steps. But here’s the real deal:

1)      Get a prescription or order from your doctor to start the process.

2)      Meet with a Wheelchair Specialist to discuss the necessary parts for your special needs for comfort and mobility. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee these parts will work because you’ve never tried them before or even physically seen them. Sometimes it’s a picture from a catalog or the internet.

3)      Meet with an Occupational Therapist (O.T.) or Physical Therapist (P.T.) to assess your needs and discuss the recommendations from the Wheelchair Specialist. The therapist needs to write a “Letter of Medical Necessity” for the Medical Equipment Store to submit to the Insurance Company.

4)      Get another doctor’s appointment to review the recommendation from the Wheelchair Specialist and O.T. or P.T and get a “Letter of Medical Necessity” for the Medical Equipment Store to submit to the Insurance Company.

5)      Make sure the Medical Equipment Store gets both “Letters of Medical Necessity” and submits it to the Insurance Company for authorization.

6)      Wait for the Insurance Company to send confirmation of coverage. Once you’ve received the authorization notice, make sure the Medical Equipment Store orders the parts which consist of a frame, seat, back, leg rests and arm rests.

7)      When all the parts arrive from various manufactures, the Medical Equipment Store assembles it. Once the parts are ordered and the wheelchair is assembled, you finally get to try it. If it doesn’t work, you get to start the order process again for a different part.


New WheelchairWhen you are confined to a wheelchair fourteen to sixteen hours every day it needs to be comfortable and well fitted for your special needs. Unfortunately, because of the customization they are expensive and because of the many hours per day they are used, they wear out. So about every five years you have to go through this process. The expense is outrageous, several thousand dollars, and you don’t know the total cost, or your deductible portion until the wheelchair is delivered. The drawn-out process and frustration of orchestrating each step is tiring. You need to supervise every step or they don’t get carried out. If too much time passes the Insurance Company can back out and you have to start the process all over again.

Mark Recline wheelchair

Mark enjoying his new reclining wheelchair

Personally, we started this process on October 16, 2013 with the first doctor’s appointment.  Yesterday, March 17, 2014 (our lucky day) Mark finally got his new wheelchair. Because it is getting harder for me to transfer Mark in and out of the wheelchair, it was recommended we get one that reclines for change of position. It’s very nice, but because it reclines the wheels are set back on the frame, making it harder for Mark to propel. Also the frame is longer than the previous chair, making it harder to turn corners and get into our van that’s customized for a wheelchair. It also sits a little higher making in impossible to get under the table and desk. We’re giving it some time to see if we can make some adjustments, but at this point we are unsure if this wheelchair was the best option for Mark. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can resell and buy another.

My advice: start this process before your wheelchair needs replacing. If you wait until you need a new one, you’ve waited way too long.