Wheelchairs… wheely?!

What’s this? Wheelchair Sam actually posting again?! I wonder why that is!I’ll tell you why, I’ve had my fitting for my new wheelchair! It was a few weeks ago now, but never mind, it’s still a big thing for me. Now, whilst that may sound simple, straightforward and rather boring, it’s the exact opposite for me. I’ve been waiting a little while for this, and so the day finally arriving is actually rather monumental.

When something like my injury happens, something meaning that you’ll never walk again, it’s not as straightforward as being dumped in a wheelchair and shown the door, thankfully. There are occuplational therapists, physios, brand reps… the list goes on and on as to who is involved. These are all important people, but the important bit, the wheelchair itself, is what this post is about. If you’re interested, read on to (hopefully) learn a little more about the wonderful world of chairs on wheels!

So, as you may or may not know, there are many types of wheelchair available. They can broadly be put into the categories of manual or powered. The latter meaning they are battery powered and move under their own steam, the former being, well, manually powered. However, it gets much deeper than that. There are many types, variations, brands and specifications, all of which are decided upon by the patient and professionals mentioned above. I personally use a manual chair, and that is because I am fortunate enough to have the ability and willingness to do so. I do know a little about power chairs, but not quite as much, so I’ll mainly discuss manuals so as to ensure I’m passing along correct information. Four wheels on a chair, nothing more to say, right? Right. However, there are many variations. There are active user chairs, attendant only chairs, bariatric, paediatric, tilt in space… so many variations are available that it simply wouldn’t be sensible to list them all here, so I’ll stick to the basics.

When I was ready to start going in a wheelchair, I was given what’s known (at least to my knowledge) as a self propelled wheelchair. This is your standard, two big wheels at the back two little wheels at the front big back rest sticking out push handles type chair. It is designed for people who can move themselves, but also have people help them get around often enough that it is practical to have fixed push handles. The small front wheels, known as castors, are actually rather large and this allows for comfort over uneven ground. These chairs usually have folding swing away foot plates to aid transferring in and out, and they more often than not can be folded for transport. Another common feature is armrests attached to the side clothing guards. As with all chairs they come with a seatbelt, though most users choose not to use the belt.

The compromise (as there always is) is that these chairs are heavy, slow, and don’t really turn all that well. The version I have is made by Invacare, and the model is an Action 3 NG. This is at the better end of the scale, and has served me very well for over 6 months of daily use. However, the time now has come for me to upgrade, and the jump is rather big…

An incredibly filthy self propelled chair, showing large rear wheels with rims for pushing, 8″ (large) front castors, and removable swing away footrests. Please ignore the crocs and daddy pig socks.

My new chair, when it arrives, will be a huge step up (if you’ll pardon the pun) and will make my life so much easier. The style is an active user chair, which essentially means it is designed for somebody with a lifestyle equivalent to that of someone who has full function of their body. It is designed to enhance the abilities I still have, whilst remaining supportive and useful to make up the difference. So, what does that mean in English? First of all, my new chair is much lighter. This is achieved through better materials, less parts, and smaller sizes. So, there are push handles on the back, but they are fold down and have no bar between. There are no armrests, just clothing protectors that are very lightweight. The chair itself is one piece, so there are less moving parts, which means less joints, which means less weight. Woohoo! Other parts of the chair are a bucketed seat design, meaning my posture will be better and my balance will improve. Being only two wheels, the chair and a cushion, I will be able to get it in and out of the car myself. Finally, with all the changes, I should hopefully be able to become a lot more independent. The chair I am getting is an argon 2, made by the company quickie. Hopefully it will take less than 2 months to arrive, and I really can’t wait.

Well, I think that’s enough boring tech info for now. When my chair does turn up, I’ll give everyone a guided tour. Take care folks!

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