Here we are, at the end of Janurary and, despite sporadic storms, the snow does not seem to want to stay on the ground. It is not so much the Winter Wonderland nowadays as when I was a child. Winters have slowly seemed to become milder, as if Spring is just waiting for its first chance to warm up the ground and get everything moving toward Summer again. Maybe that whole custom of the groundhog being afraid of his own shadow and hinting at six more weeks of Winter might actually become obsolete some day; either that or we move back his appearance into the month of January! Who knows what the weather will start to do during the first half of this
century. I await it with anticipation!
I spoke a little in my last blog about using a sled for exercise in the winter time, and how I have transformed some of the things from my youth into activities for my adult life. I also mentioned how technology can affect our lives for the better and how it has completely changed mine. When I think about the latest massive flux of technology, I often wonder if people around me ever stop and take into consideration what it means to have a product that actually makes your life easier and supports a healthier lifestyle. Throughout our lives, we hear about and see the most recent updates on technology, including phones, computers, televisions, smart cars, and the heaps more of products that we integrate into our daily lives. Many people now even stand in lines waiting for the next upgrade for their cherished items. It has become our culture.
I, too, appreciate the gadgets that make my life easier and allow me to stay in contact with long-life friends, and allow me to feel better connected to a world that seems
to get smaller every day. I like to be able to email a family member in an instant rather than send a letter that could possibly only arrive on the next day, I enjoy watching an important public event on TV that I could normally not be able to see, and I love the fact that Skype and other video messaging programs keep me connected to all of
the friends I have made across the world. However, what I like most of all, which is what I want most to share with you, is the technology that often goes unseen by the people around us.
The products that have made my life easier over the years, since I was four years old, cannot be limited to just my wheelchair. Most of the time, especially when speaking
with a hospital or the dreaded, often-difficult-to-deal-with insurance companies, people will refer to all of those products I now mention as ‘medical equipment.’ By loose definition, they are what are used to help someone with a certain medical condition in order to achieve a better quality of life. I suppose you could say that, by that definition, my wheelchair could be put into the same broad category as a supportive stalking that helps to improve the circulation in your legs. For me, that is always funny to think about.
I never considered my wheelchair as a piece of medical equipment. Ultimately, it was an extension of my body, and has served as, in a sense, my very legs. Without my
wheelchair, my day would be much less active and my life would be probably more depressing. I would be stuck in my house, possibly waiting for someone to pick me up for a daily outing and life would not have the thrill that it has for me now. Thankfully, wheelchairs were in fact invented, and they have come a long way since my childhood.
My first wheelchair was, of course, what most people get to experience at least once. While I was in the hospital, and while I was going through the necessary therapies after my hospitalization, I was put into one of those one-size-fits-all hospital chairs. It was made of heavy aluminum, and it seemed like it was impossible to steer or even reach my short little arms to the wheels. I truly felt like a child in that giant hunk of metal! Quickly, however, thanks to my parents, I upgraded to my next chair-another aluminum chair that, although it mimicked the hospital’s version, was quite more comfortable and fit perfectly to my size.
I continued this transition from old wheelchair to new wheelchair like kids go through their clothes, albeit a little less often. When I started to become too big for it, we were already starting to plan to get a new one. What I noticed as I got older, and also as I got more active, was how the chairs were transforming. The evidence of the newest technology was mostly in plain sight. The older chairs had more metal and several more nuts and bolts, while the newer chairs had less metal and more welds. The
chairs became lighter and, because I could make them move with less force, I became much faster. My short pushes on the push-rims changed to long strides. What also changed was the angle of the wheels in relation to the chair’s frame. Instead of being straight up-and-down (i.e. perpendicular to the ground), my chairs came with a
wheel axle that was slightly slanted. Because of this, I had a wider wheel base, which meant more stability and faster turning. Ultimately, my chair was growing with me and this new technology was slowly improving my quality of life.
I was no longer bound to the chair. I was a part of it, and it was a part of me. It was like I was given a huge gift to my own freedom. I continued to replace chairs as I got
older as, one-by-one, I wore out each of them. Eventually, in my late-teens, I got my first chair that was fabricated mostly out of titanium. It was quite incredible to feel like nothing was beneath me holding me up as I rolled across asphalt and tile floors. I followed suit when I was in college playing wheelchair basketball for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, when their wheelchair athletic program gifted me a basketball chair in my sophomore year. That particular wheelchair forever changed the way that I played sports. Not only that, but it also greatly strengthened my perception of a wheelchair as the symbol for my independence. The things that I can do from a basketball chair still inspire me to this day to keep striving for greater things.
As I said, there are many more things that I could touch upon that are perceived as ‘medical equipment’ and that have vastly changed my quality of life, but the chair is
without a doubt the most influential. During my next blog I’m going to speak about other medical equipment that has changed my life since my accident. Maybe someone out there reading this can get some ideas from the things that I write, or they might even have their own thoughts from something they have experienced. If you want to
contact me about your thoughts, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
For any of you who would like to browse some of the new wheelchair technology on the market today, including either daily-living or sport-related wheelchair frames, here are a few companies you can check out to see what they have available:
Colours, Eagle, Quickie, Per4max, Invacare
*These are all manual wheelchairs (i.e.excluding electric chairs), since that is where I have most of my knowledge.
Have a great week, everyone!