Teacup Rides and Wheelchair-spinning, Oh My!
A JACO robotic arm takes on a life of its own after a wheelchair miscue
When I was younger, I enjoyed the hyperactive nature of the teacup ride at Disney World. My mom hated it, but my dad was willing to accompany my siblings and me on this headache-inducing extravaganza. Spinning around inside a giant teacup from “Alice in Wonderland” was enough to entertain a kid like me, with a limited attention span. My mom, however, was wise to avoid tumbling down this particular rabbit hole — and the migraines that came with it.
Little did I know that I would reenact my own version of the teacup ride just a few weeks ago from the comfort of my home.
I sat in my room on a Wednesday night during the holiday break. A week before, my computer and JACO robotic arm both malfunctioned simultaneously. I had a loaner arm to use and had just taken my computer in for repair, but these circumstances stressed me out. The last thing I needed was for another “SMA sitcom scenario” to come knocking at my door.
Of course, a scenario that’s too absurd to make up hit me at that exact moment.
I’d just finished watching a movie and was ready to go to bed when my left hand slipped and pressed against one of the microswitches on my tray. These switches are for turning my wheelchair on and off, changing the modes on my chair, and adjusting my robotic arm. I hit the latter, and what happened next surpasses the imaginations of even the most visionary comedy writers.
As my left hand pressed down on the switch, I watched as my JACO arm moved toward the joystick on my chair. Frantically, I tried to use my right hand to press the other microswitch and turn my chair off.
It was too late. Before I knew it, I was spinning around the middle of my room uncontrollably. The fingers of the JACO arm were pushing the joystick and sending me into autopilot. To make matters more terrifying, my mom was already asleep and my dad was on the other side of the house watching TV. Though I began screaming for help at the top of my lungs, I knew I might ram into one of my bookshelves or a wall before either of my parents could hear me.
Fortunately, my mom eventually heard my cries of panic and came rushing into my room. I’m pretty sure the sight of me practicing my DUI routine gave her a heart attack, but moms react to chaos like no other group of people. She quickly turned my chair off and moved my left hand away from the JACO arm switch. We both returned to Earth just as my dad came into the room. Then we briefly recounted the scene to him in between moments of gasping for breath.
Though we were all relieved that I didn’t break anything or injure myself, the manner in which my heart raced will stick with me. My mom told me the next morning that this episode took a couple of years off her life, and I pointed out the irony that I had just written a column about imagining a vacation from SMA.
Alas, vacations from SMA aren’t attainable. Absurd situations occur, and for me, humor is my go-to coping mechanism. So while I enjoyed the teacup ride as a kid, I didn’t plan on making my own version of it as a 29-year-old. Sometimes you just have to roll with the flow — or, in my case, spin around a room aimlessly while in a state of unprecedented panic.
Just another day in the world of SMA.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.
How scary! Jaco gone rogue! Enjoyed your story Kevin. Glad no one was hurt. I have imagined similar scenarios with Ryan’s
All’s well that ends?
Your mom suggested that I read this after telling her our branch down the road is going to Disney in a few weeks. I'm so glad she did! If I couldn't picture you and your mom at that moment so easily (we dubbed ourselves Lucy and Ethel shortly after we 'met' online, and with good reason), I wouldn't have dared to even snicker at what was understandably a terrifying scenario. After fiddling all day with taxes and an 'agriculture census' (for us NON-farmers here), however, I needed a good laugh, and you came through. I'm thankful it all turned out okay in the nick of time, and you certainly got a great column out of it!