Necessity is a Mother, All Right

Glancing at the caller ID on my ringing cell phone, my stomach lurched. It was Dale, my husband, calling from another part of the house. These calls were often benign, asking for a cup of coffee or a special lunch. Then there were the others, the stomach-lurching kind, where he’d usually say two words – “I’m down.”

I took a breath and answered, hearing the dreaded two words from his shaky voice, “I’m down.”

“Where are you?”

“By the pool.”

“I’ll be right there,” I said, stuffing my cell phone into a pants pocket and running as quickly as my 64-year-old self, who’s overdue for disc surgery and possibly a hip replacement, could. That is to say, I limped and hopped my way through the house and out to the pool.

Dale lay on his side on the pool deck, wedged between his scooter and the ground cover. Both knees and shins were bloodied from falling on the exposed aggregate. The first thing I did was flip the scooter gear to forward and guide it ahead a few feet, freeing Dale to turn onto his back. Then I reversed the scooter to widen the distance between Dale and it. For the next few minutes, we tried painfully to get Dale’s knees on the floor of the scooter, while swatting at ants biting his legs. It was 100 degrees outside and we needed to get Dale out of the heat, away from the ants and into a cool place.

When it became apparent that boosting Dale to the scooter was futile, I “ran” to get a couple of quilts to roll him onto, a softer alternative to the hard deck. By now, we were both sweating profusely. Next, I brought a wheelchair from the house, thinking maybe his knees would tuck into the footrests and we could use it as a sort of dolly to get him into the house. Nada. Almost crying now, Dale asked if I’d please call 9-1-1.

I reminded him we couldn’t afford it because I was still fighting with Medicare over the last $1200+ bill from calling 9-1-1. We had to accept that we were on our own and would have to figure it out.

After an hour and a half I had a nutty idea. I couldn’t lift all of Dale, who was far too weak now to help himself, but maybe I could lift parts of him. I retrieved a couple of planter caddies from the garage. These are plastic trays, about 16” in diameter, on wheels, and when placed under planters, allow easy movement of heavy pots. I padded the caddies with folded towels, and slid one under Dale’s knees. We managed to scooch the other under his tummy.

I picked up my beautiful husband’s slender ankles and started to pull while he used the palms of his hands to push back on the deck, and we headed for the sliding glass door 30’ away. We had created a low-lying, makeshift skateboard and we were on a roll. Talk about durable medical equipment.

Being in the cool was such a relief to Dale, and though the carpet was softer than the deck, I brought him a plump comforter to lie on, hoping that, like previous times, a few hours of rest would recoup his strength and we could lift him to his scooter or wheelchair. Alas, that wasn’t in the cards either.

At 7:15 the next morning, I relented and called 9-1-1, asking if they would charge us another $1200 to come lift Dale off the floor. To my amazement, they explained the charge is only if they transport someone, e.g., to the hospital; otherwise, our tax dollars underwrite services like a “lift assist” so there would be no further charge. The EMTs came right out, and their first question was “Why didn’t you call us last night?”

My terribly sore husband looked at me and smiled while responding to them, “Next time, we will.”

I nodded in agreement, thinking “Right after we patent a new DIY mobility device for PSP patients, that is.”

6 Replies

  • Oh Carla!

    What a trauma!! Well done for being so inventive! Glad to hear you can now call 9-1-1 for lift assist without worrying about a big bill!! When I read things like this I realise how lucky we are to have the NHS in the UK, despite it's faults :-)

    I hope you are both fully recovered now?

    Take Care


    Kathy x

  • Yes, Kathy, it is a relief to know we can call now without sacrificing an arm and a leg. I'm still fighting with Medicare over that one. It seems to me that ambulance services ought to be covered by our property taxes, which are sky high in this part of Texas.

    Fully recovered? Well, we're cool and have medicated the ant bites -- so that's a plus.

    Let us know how you're doing.

    Love you back,


  • Dear Carla,

    Confused & curious- how does it work with Ambulance cover where you live? Sounds like lift assist is no charge where you live (And is perhaps the same as what is called 'Ambulance plus' here? - Am I right,

    And you are stuck with a high bill if you go to hospital?

    Where I live in Western Australia - There are no government run ambulance service. It is not covered by the State or in our taxes. So unless you are covered by private health insurance the patient is also 'hit' with a bill of about $900 min call out if you do not go in the ambulance, or $1200 min to go to closest hospital (based on living in inner city suburb). Yes, I have heard of many families & members of the public having second thoughts to call an ambulance because the cost.

    So many people take out private health insurance that covers emergency pickup to the nearest hospital. Some private health insurance companies have now started to offer coverage called 'ambulance plus' which I have just taken out for all in the family. I understand this will cover the cost for when an ambulance is called and John needs to be lifted (&/or me or our daughter for that matter) to be moved where required as needed - for example get back into bed. Though we will see - you have to pay in advance - and the coverage does not kick in for another month so fingers crossed it is not needed til then....


    Alana - Western Australia

    N.B. I curse at private health insurance as it is the most costly item in our weekly budget!

    I also love your inventiveness with the skateboard - Shall I contact the Patents office on your behalf??

  • Sure, Alana, contact the Patents office. I could use a partner or partners in this endeavor, and I can't think of anyone I'd rather team with than those who are in the same boat.

    Insurance is costly, it seems, regardless of the source. I won't go into reasons why I believe private industry (assuming it can be competitive and cross state lines here in the States) is a far better answer to health care than the government. We're stuck with it, so ce la vie.

    With Medicare (government insurance for those 65 and older) ambulance coverage is only covered if the patient's life is in danger -- or if the patient is non-ambulatory. Now, you'd think the EMTs might have concluded that my husband was non-ambulatory since they found him on the floor, but someone in the bureaucracy figured since Dale's life wasn't in danger, he didn't need to be transported via ambulance. So Medicare denied coverage. I've since appealed the decision with support letters from Dale's neurologist and fully expect the decision to be reversed before I'm dead and buried. Of course, the ambulance company doesn't want to wait for that, so I've given them a small amount of money to keep the wolf from the door. The full bill is $1260.

    The EMTs are associated with our local fire departments, which are supported through our property taxes, but they use third-party providers for the ambulance service. So if an ambulance is used to transport to the hospital, the person or their insurance company will get charged. However, if a resident just needs a "lift assist," help down from a tree, or any number of situations that don't involve transporting to a hospital, it's free ('cause we've already paid our taxes).

    Sorry, Alana. I've probably just muddied the water, but I hope that helps a bit.

    Let me know how you come out with that patent. :)



  • Dear Carla,

    My wacky early morning thoughts continue (its 2.50am here!!)

    Your explanation was clearer than mud....and ...

    The patents office is far muddier than your letter (Ironically about 20 years ago I used to do some admin work for many government dept's including one called the 'Australian Patents office' who had a really large workforce of three men! who ran the office in Perth - so we used to have a regular chin wag of the most peculiar trademarks and patents placed each week !)

    I instead recommend that we follow up with one of the even more wackier agencies that I've had the fortune of being part of. After all PSP seems to have some rather loose connection to all strange things in life ....

    For example - My husband freezes like glue whenever there is an electrical storm on its way. So I have wondered if I should return to working at the Bureau of Meteorology I think I could use John & probably your partner?? as a great predictor of electrical storm and looming cyclone activity. (When I used to work there we used to predict the weather for money for the Christmas Day maximum & I won a substantial amount by correlating the ants on the pavement with the high temp for the day!)

    Or even better still perhaps we should look at receiving a promising commission from AGAL. - Australian Government Analytical Laboratories. (Yes - I was the clerk for that one too!) A real strange one - They are into all sorts of drug testing, for humans, plants and animals.(Mostly horse drug testing, and yoghurt & cheese - yes wacky combination). I have recently regained a friendship with one of the microbiologists who now works for Pfizer (our daughters are the same age). I am sure with a bit of nudge we could get them to come up with some wonder drug (after all the Pfizer Perth manufactures Viagra) so they must have the expertise....

    All we have to do, is provide enough corroborating evidence to quantify how there are substantial monetary benefits to be derived from inventing, patenting and manufacturing such a drug for a quantifiable number..... Ah well, second thoughts back to the drawing board for ideas.... Where to start?????


    Alana - Western Australia

  • Well, Alana, let's start with a sleeping pill for you. I would bet Pfizer manufactures something that would help you get a good night's sleep, girlfriend. I'm usually to bed with the chickens and up with them also. Though, I must admit that my mind is often buzzing during a couple of pre-dawn hours, laying out what I'm going to do that day.

    Congratulations on your past ant-weather predictions. If I thought I could earn some money counting bugs, I'd grab my abacus and head outdoors. Unfortunately, bugs usually end up costing us money.

    Now, I think it would be fascinating to get the Pfizer people and the patent people together to pick each other's minds. We could sit in the corner, taking notes, and possibly come up with a revolutionary invention.

    Keep thinking, sweetie. I'm going to have some red wine before bed and maybe I'll dream an innovation.



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