Friday, July 24, 2015

Stair Lift Stumbles

Noah's stair lift was installed Monday morning.  Something that I had fought rather hard for, and something I believed would help me safely get him down the stairs to his adapted bathroom instantly became a bigger headache than I ever imagined.   I was worried watching the track being installed, but kept telling myself I need to reserve final judgment until it was completely in.   I was told it was going to come out a "just a little bit" from the wall - but not the distance that is actually wound up being.  And that the seat could be removed completely for bringing Noah's equipment up and down the stairs, as some of it weighs nearly 100lbs, like standers and adapted seating devices.  Some of which takes up the entire width of the staircase to bring it up, and multiple people assisting depending on what it is that is coming up and down the stairs.  Equipment much to cumbersome to have in our living space upstairs all day, as there is no place to store it, so we bring it up daily or every few days as needed and then take it back downstairs.  We have an unfinished basement with an uneven and cracking concrete floor with presence of efflorescence, all of which could be fixed with lots of money to finish the basement and correct the floor -  but Noah's walkers and such aren't practically used in that space because it's really a rough area to work with as it stands unfinished and I can't put in him a stander in the unfinished basement for two hours while his little brother roams free on the first floor.   Noah would never be happy with that proposition.   So it's essential that we have the ability to bring his equipment up and down the stairs.  Something that just became impossible literally overnight with the stair lift.   Half of his equipment is now stranded in the basement, with no real logical or good way to get it up and down the stairs safely or adequately. 

As it turns out the actual distance the track is from the wall is 9 inches!  That's huge on a very small stair case.  Add a motor and stair lift seat on that and it becomes 20 inches away from the wall.   The track is 16 inches high!  Meaning you'd have to be able to lift over a foot above the track to get anything up the stairs if you were even able to get past the chair itself.  When we were sold this stair lift we were told the chair would be removable - no problem they said.  Not true, they took all construction manuals with them, and said that if we want them to remove the seat (for instance to bring things up from the basement) that each time they come out to do that it would be a $150 fee.  If we needed the track removed a good $800-$1,000 each time to have it uninstalled and reinstalled.  Something that was never conveyed to us when agreed on the project.  We were led to believe that this would take up minimal space on our stair case, that it would have a 5 point harness for Noah's safety and would fit him well, and that we'd have the option to remove the seat (which doesn't even cover the motor which is just as big and would need to come off too) easily.   It came with a Race Quip Harness that they put on the seat.  It was huge, and the metal lock that sits on the hips was so heavy that it could have easily done damage to Noah's hip bones just by the shear weight of it.  Not to mention it wasn't designed for a child of his age so there was no way to get it small enough to accommodate his body.

While they removed the harness realizing that there was no way the Racing Quip would work, they said they'd work on getting a harness made out of "back pack" material.  That won't work either.  Noah needs a pediatric harness, or butterfly harness and either a 3 point or 5 point depending upon the upper body support.  I showed them what he uses on his seating devices, and it was dismissed like we'll just make one out of fabric... It also has no lateral support, and Noah with his high tone could likely get his feet stuck in the vertical railing that is structural on the stair case going down before the curved edge.  His father rode it with Noah sitting on his lap, and Noah's feet stretched and scraped the wall going down in a sitting position because he extends his legs, and Noah's daddy isn't an average sized guy and he too found his knees an inch away from the wall.

The project manager for the stair lift seemed rather dismissive of my concerns; saying can't be refunded since it was a custom curved stair lift, that a back pack harness should work fine (whatever that really means), and said I could take Noah's equipment out of the walk-out basement before I had to tell him that we did not own a home with walk-out basement.  It's 100 percent underground, it's not even garden level and there is way to fit his equipment through a window well.   So my concerns didn't seem to trouble him, with the overall attitude of it's in now kind of deal with it.  

I am also a bit bummed that my carpet now has silver dust (likely from metal rubbing) on the staircase and that I stepped on a drill that they left in the hallway during installation that impaled my little toe which required just basic home medical care.  But I was relieved that it was me and not either child that obtained that injury.

I think my feelings could adequately be described as buyers remorse.  Insurance has already paid for half of the project, they don't pay the other half until completion and satisfaction of the homeowner.  Yet, I suspect that the contractor's idea of satisfaction is simply slap on a back pack harness and call it good.  Which is going to do nothing to address that it's simply too big of a track from the wall, and that the seat can't be positioned as we were promised to accommodate getting any of Noah's equipment to and from the basement, or even that Noah is going to require more postural support than a make shift "back pack material harness."  I'm not really sure what the end result of this all will be.

There are tracks and stair lifts that do exist that hug the baseboard and the wall, there are a variety of different kinds of lifts even something called a wheelchair platform lift that would of course solve all our problems as we could just wheel any piece of Noah's equipment - with him even on it and it would lift him up and down.   Problem being not all lifts are necessarily compatible with a split staircase with a landing like ours.   Some lifts are only designed for straight staircases.  But I do believe there are some products that would be much better than the one that was installed.

Ideally if we're going to be blocked off from the use of half our staircase then really what is needed is a wheelchair platform lift for rounded corners.  It would allow Noah to ride his own wheelchair up and down the stairs and allow us to put any piece of equipment that existed in the basement on it so we didn't have to struggle to lift it up and down the stairs.  Only problem being finding a vendor that does this type of thing isn't easy, and would insurance even consider it in light of what we're up against?   Each contractor works with their own manufacturer and vendor which makes it difficult to find the product you want.  We tried hard to get a pediatric Stannah lift, but much to our dismay we could not get it in the USA from the UK.  They don't see the pediatric seat as safe in the USA where they do in the UK.  Our safety standards differ, although having several pieces of equipment from the UK I can tell you they often give more consideration to the safety of their products than we ever begin to think about here.

For all of you out there contemplating stair lifts for your children, please learn from my mistake.  I'm certainly kicking myself that I was easily led to believe that this was not a going to be the monster that it is on our staircase and that it just blocked me from moving any of Noah's equipment around.  What is in the basement now is stuck there, what is upstairs is now stuck there too. 

The cost of an elevator lift isn't something insurance would consider as those range in the 40-60K category.  The cost of the stair lift was a few hundred over $13K.  We know that with Noah growing we have to do something, but at the same time we know that this isn't going to work for us.  At this time I'm assuming if the contractor is unwilling to work with us on finding us a better suited product for our home based on the project managers insistence that we're stuck with it - like it or not, in which case I guess that we ask to have it uninstalled and store it in the basement.  And then we just threw Noah's insurance funded home modification out the window.  I'm certainly a bit stressed out about it.  I know it's just a stair lift but my stomach is heavy with regret that I thought I was getting something that would work for him and it doesn't.  And I can't conceive that this particular Bruno lift has any potential no matter what is done to it to make it work in our home for Noah our for his therapeutic equipment needs.

The owner and the contractor are visiting Monday, I do worry that it will be a "smooth over & learn to love it" visit and not really how do we fix this visit.  And I'm certainly not getting the "we support you" vibe from his insurance caseworker either.  It's kind of let us know how it all pans out, but I'm not feeling like options or solutions to the problem are going to be presented.  I hope I'm pleasantly surprised.  I'm certainly trying to be optimistic. 


Noah's Miracle by Stacy Warden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.