This week, Jennifer’s husband Bryan shares his recent experience purchasing used medical equipment from another special needs family. Here’s his story.
I was cruising Craigslist on Sunday afternoon looking for a good deal on a bike trailer that may fit our King Roa and give us another alternative for family outings. I had done my research and knew what I was looking for when I stumbled upon it. The Wike Trailer. A bike trailer that my internet searching had shown to be the Holy Grail, a bike trailer specifically designed for special needs, with a price tag to reflect that. I hit dial on the contact phone number and immediately exclaimed that I wanted to buy the trailer and I would make the 3 hour round trip drive to get it tonight. (Another lesson I learned over the years was that Special Needs items do not last long on Craigslist.) And this was a good deal to boot.
As I made the 1.5 hour drive, I reflected on the brief conversation that I had with the man on the phone. He was a soft spoken man and his voice carried the tenor produced by a long day of work. I thought little of it because it was a nice weekend in May and many of us are working hard all weekend to get ready for summer. But I also realized that I may of have too exuberant over my awesome Craigslist find.
I pulled into the typical middle class American neighborhood and stopped in front of a typical middle class modified split level. There was a service van in the driveway as well as truck and a couple of cars. A middle aged man and a teenage boy stood in the driveway as I got out of my truck and walked across the street. The man and I shook hands and he showed me the Wike Trailer. It was beautiful, perfect, with all of the added accessories that I wanted. I told him I would take it and handed over the money. He showed me how to set it up, collapse it, change the front end for the bike trailer to stroller, and the other accessories he had purchased. After which, he and his son helped me load it into my truck.
He asked me if I was buying it to re-sell or did I have a use for it. I explained that I have an 8 year old son with Cerebral Palsy and that we want to get him out on bike rides with the family. He explained that they had bought it last summer with the hope that they get could get their son out of the house more. They had used it once and had taken him around the block. Then the sons health had deteriorated and they no longer foresaw being able to use this trailer.
Standing in the street next to him I could feel the pain, disappointment, guilt, and sadness coming out of him like an emotional wave. I wanted to grab him and hug him. I wanted to tell him that he and his family will move forward. It will never get better but it will change into something that is manageable. I wanted to tell him about God and the strength that is available. Although the dirt on his clothes and shoes told me that he had been working outside all day, the tiredness in his voice came from the emotional exhaustion that comes with the on-going tragedy of special needs parenting. Whatever life changing event that brought about buying the Wike was recent, fresh, raw and emotionally unprocessed. I glanced at the teenager, 16 or 17 years old, and saw the helplessness of how to help his father on his face. I wanted to hug him as well and tell him that this will shape the rest of his life but it will make him stronger. But I didn’t. (It is times like these that I truly admire my wife for her boldness and compassion, because she would have and she would have brought some sunshine into their lives.) Instead I shook his hand, got in the truck, and drove away.
Special needs equipment is expensive and only the primary must haves are covered by insurance. So we buy, and sell, used equipment. Nobody ever sells equipment because the child got better and no longer needs it. They sell it because they don’t need it anymore. Either it didn’t work like they had hoped, the child grew out of it, or the child got worse and it was no longer needed. Used equipment comes with the accessories of broken dreams and unanswered wishes. They don’t list these in the ad but they are there. The parents bring them out with the equipment. Your dreams and wishes reflect them and you hope that they don’t end up in the same condition. You give them the money, a fraction of what they spent on it new, and take the equipment home. But you leave the broken dreams and unanswered wishes with them. And that is the true price of used equipment.