How Many EMTs Does it Take to Free a Quad from Her Own Desk?

Answer: Eight, plus one husband, one attendant and one best friend

There’s no way for Sheri’s joystick to trap her under her new desk.

I’m not sure who came up with the name “joystick” for the device we use drive and steer a motorized wheelchair, because it isn’t always a particularly joyful experience.

About a month ago, I was sitting at my desk in my home office as I normally do while on a conference call. I have to pull pretty far under my desk to use the phone, and the joystick is completely beneath the desk. There is usually enough space for me to put my hand over top of the joystick but somehow it got caught and the mode changed to tilt and recline. My chair started to tilt and it wouldn’t stop! It tilted all the way back until my legs were wedged into the wall and my knees into the bottom of the desk. The people on the phone had no idea what was going on as I yelled for my attendant to help me. She raced in and turned off the phone.

I started to sweat profusely, which is how my body exhibits pain. Because I was tightly wedged into the wall and the desk, it was impossible to remove my foot rests to relieve the pressure. Taking my chair out of gear was impossible, so my attendant and my husband could not move the chair manually. Even when they pulled as hard as they could, I was completely stuck.

My attendant smartly decided the only way to get me out was to call 911. We did and the operator kept asking me my situation. I told her that I was a quadriplegic and that I was stuck under my desk. I did tell her I had a trach and I think that triggered a higher level of emergency. Within a couple of minutes, eight emergency medical technicians arrived at my condominium.

If you were a fly on the wall watching this, you would be laughing out loud. My office is not very big and crowded into it was me stuck under the desk, my attendant, my husband (in his manual wheelchair), my best friend and nurse practitioner (in a power wheelchair), and eight EMTs, who were all quite burly and strong. They even had a “code kit” because they were worried I might be having trouble breathing.

It took seven of the EMTs to pull me out far enough so I could reach my joystick and take myself out of tilt mode. I caught my breath and stopped sweating. In fact, we were all smiling. They took my vitals and I was fine, they didn’t even need to take me to the hospital. The best moment was when one of them said, “I’ve been an EMT for 35 years and I’ve never done a desk extraction!” All of us were laughing. So I guess I can say that my “joystick” did bring a little joy to what was quite a drama.

The good news is that I went to the orthopedic doctor the next day and I had not broken or hurt anything on my legs. And I have a great story about EMTs being ready for anything and me surviving what I’m sure will not be my last joystick adventure.

** This post was originally published on

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