Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I had an iBOT accident today

I was leaving my house this morning to take my dogs for a walk. I was in my iBOT, in Standard Function, and in Speed 2. There is about a 1 inch threshold to get over to get out my front door. If I hit it straight on, the iBOT casters get stuck on it. If i hit it at a bit of an angle, one caster will pop up onto it and then the other one will go up and over it as well. Today I hit it straight on. My dog was really, really excited to be going for a walk and so instead of wasting time by backing up my iBOT and hitting it at an angle, I decided to give it a little more power and I pushed the joystick forward. I held the joystick completely forward for just a second or two and right before I decided it wasn't going to work and I had to backup and hit it at an angle (or sometimes I transition to 4 Wheel Drive), it popped up over it. It didn't stop though after popping over it. At this point, I knew I was in trouble and so both my hands were trying to grab onto something so that I could pull myself out of the chair. Now normally after I get over the threshold, I turn to the left and go down my ramp. This time, completely out of my control, the iBOT went to the right, which is where the steps are. I saw I was headed for the steps and I couldn't stop the iBOT and also coudn't get myself out of the chair and I screamed, "No, no, no!" as in "No, I'm not ready to die!" because I knew I was about to go down those steps. Down the steps I went (there are five of them). I stayed in the iBOT down all 5 stairs. It was super fast and I think it was at full speed when it launched. I'm thinking it kinda flew down the stairs because it didn't tip over at all. It came to a complete stop about 2 feet from the bottom step. At this point, I fell out of the chair and I landed on my right side in my driveway. The iBot did not tip over and it did not run over me or land on me. Some ladies were walking by at the time and they picked me up and put me back in. The iBOT did not throw a wrench, and I drove it back into the house with no problems. I have a small scrape on my right knee, my right shoulder is scraped up, and my left wrist is swollen and bruised. I don't know what happened to my wrist but I think maybe I injured it when I was trying to grab onto something before I went down the steps. Amazingly I didn't break any bones (despite my osteoporsis) and I didn't even bonk my head. I'm finding it quite strange that I got away with such minor injuries. The iBOT does not seem to be damaged in any way.

I called IT. They are going to send a tech out to read the black box.

I suspect one of the following happened:

1) I don't know if this is possible, because I don't understand how this sort of thing works, but I'm wondering if when I was stuck on the threshold and holding the joystick forward, if it had that forward command "stored up", and so when it finally did get over the threshold it kept going. As for why it turned to the right instead of going straight forward, maybe I had been pushing it a bit to the right.

2) Maybe the joystick got stuck. It doesn't appear to be sticky. I know for sure I did not have my hand on the joystick after clearing the threshold. One time my grandma was backing out of her driveway and she swears she had her foot on the break, but she must have had it on the gas. She ended up crashed into the neighbor's house accross the street. I know I didn't have my hand on the joystick though because I was trying to grab things.

3) It's possible the the dog leash caught the joystick and was pulling it forward. I don't think this is what happened because I'm sure I dropped the leash as soon as I knew I was in trouble. Perhaps it snagged it though after I let go. But also, the dog wouldn't go to the right. Whenever we leave the house, we go to the left, so it makes no sense.

4) A person who uses an iGlide wrote this after she read about what happened to me: "I'm very interested in hearing what the iBot folks have to say. I had some malfunctions with my first iGlide (far more comical than serious -- the chair started going in circles backward at top speed), which all ended up being caused by people nearby using the pager function on their cell phones. Is the iBot also sensitive to cell phone towers, signals and such?"

Out of those 4, I'm thinking #1 caused it. #2 would be my second choice.

It was extremely scary. I was very calm right after it happened and the ladies who picked me up commented on that. But then I got inside and started crying and shaking. I cried for about 2 hours. I think that was partly due to the fact that it was terrifying, and partly due to the fact that I knew I could have been hurt badly but I somehow got away with minor injuries. I don't understand why the iBOT did not land on me, but if it had, it could have been disasterous. The thing weighs nearly 300 pounds. I'm fairly small and I weigh about 90 pounds. It seems to me that when the casters went down that first step, it should have tipped over forward and tumbled on top of me. As much as I hate the footrest system because it sticks out so far, I think it prevented it from tipping over.

Will I stop using the iBOT? Absolutely not! I still love it. I don't know if it malfunctioned or if the dog leash caught it. Even if it did malfunction, continuing to use the iBOT is worth the risk. Driving a car is quite risky, but I won't be giving that up either. I will just try to be extra careful when around stairs. I will also start thinking about how to get out of the chair if I'm ever in that situation again. I should have flipped my armrest up and then thrown myself out of the chair. That is what I will do next time, if there is a next time.

One more thought... the iBOT is really powerful. I'm sure it has to be powerful for the 4-Wheel Drive Funtion, but I'm wondering if it could be made so that it is not so powerful when in Standard Funtion? I know it has Speed 1 and Speed 2, and I suppose I should have been in Speed 1 until I got to the sidewalk. It seems to me that Speed 1 is very powerful, but at the same time, it is too slow. This is the only powerchair I've ever had, so I don't have anything to compare it to, but I've always thought that the power was a bit too much.

I'd just like to say that I do not believe the iBOT malfunctioned when it when down my porch steps. I believe it was 100% user error. On top of that, I was very impressed that the iBOT did not tip over, and was in no way damaged.

I'd also like to say that although my wrist still hurts at times, I would take my iBOT and a wrist that hurts for the rest of my life over a painfree wrist and no iBOT.


Anonymous said...

Hi Shannon, your #1 theory is likely what occurred. Unfortunately, there will be no black box data, as bb is not available unless the device throws a controller failure/service wrench. These don't occur in Standard Function. As for the #1 theory, the energy stored up in the motors and wheels from joystick input will carry you forward once an obstacle is cleared. Try curb climbing and you'll see this reaction. It is this power which give the IBOT the ability to climb curbs and obstacles with a payload weight up to 250 lbs. I hope you quickly feel better, and try to remember the seatbelt. It may have helped.

Shannon said...

I'm not sure about the seatbelt. In this particular case, it would have been good since the chair didn't tumble, but had it tipped over foward, I think it would be better if it threw me out of the chair rather than land on top of me.

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced it was theory #1. Are all power chairs like this, or is it just the iBOT because it needs that extra power? I'm wondering if it could be designed so that it doesn't have that much power when it is in Standard Function? I'm also wondering if the iBOT manual warns about this stored up energy. I don't recall reading or hearing anything about this.

I didn't know that the iBOT can't throw a wrench when in Standard Function. I was quite surprised when I got back in the chair and didn't see a wrench.

steve said...

Sorry to hear about your accident, Shannon. My partner BR has an iBOT. We've experienced the "shooting forward" effect when caught on something in balance mode, but never in standard mode. He doesn't spend much time in standard mode, though.

Stair mode has always been the most dangerous for us. Hard landings, laying down flat, and BR was even dumped once when his caregiver lost control. Broke his nose and the chair ended up on top of him. We compare stair mode to riding a motorcycle. It takes skill, and yet even the best take a tumble from time to time.

Shannon said...

Ouch about the broken nose. I bet both of you felt thankful that his injuries weren't worse though. Did you write about it on your blog? I didn't see it there. Did he fall out and the chair landed on top of him, or did it tip over forward?

steve said...

I wasn't there, so I can only guess ... They were going downstairs and the iBOT took an extra step instead of stopping in between steps. That ripped the assist handle out of the caregiver's hands, putting the chair into a forward free-fall.

The rules appear to be:

* extra hard landing going up = lay the chair down
* extra hard landing going down = extra step

This all happened before we started blogging.

Shannon said...

Interesting and good to know. Although, for me, I don't really ever use the stair climbing function. It's just too scary. Does BR use the stair climbing function frequently?

steve said...

Don't use stair mode much anymore -- couple times a month. Back in San Francisco, we used it 4-6 times a day to get in and out of the apartment. Always with an assistant.