Shiny new wheelchair

Most girls get excited about a new dress or maybe even a shiny new car. For the last two months, I’ve been crazy excited about a new piece of medical equipment. Yup, that’s right. On Friday, I got my first new wheelchair in about six years. The standard time between new chairs is five years and I was long overdue.

My new Quickie 2 HD wheelchair

I was a little nervous because I was starting out with a new company but my experience with National Seating and Mobility in Fort Smith has been more than fabulous. This has been the easiest and most professional experience I’ve had purchasing a chair as an adult. The new chair is the same model as my old one (a Quickie 2 HD for those who know that kind of thing and actually care).

Why is a new wheelchair such a huge thing?

There are many new features about this chair and I’ll get to those in a minute. First, let me elaborate about why this is such a big deal, such a big decision. It’s not just about buying a new, expensive and shiny thing. Choosing one’s wheelchair, especially when you are a full-time wheelchair user, is a huge deal. Consider this: I “wear” my wheelchair all the time. So choosing something that is my accessory, my legs, my chair, my support system and to some very small extent a part of my outer identity, is incredibly important to me. It’s a major decision and a lot of fun to reap the benefits.

The “legs” part, people seem to get. My wheelchair is how I get around and it holds me upright in the physical sense. It’s an accessory in the way that I am always “wearing” it and so I never just get a black chair. I have to choose a color that fits my personality but also won’t clash with the majority of clothes I wear. This is why I have never chosen Candy Apple Red for a chair! I love the color, but I wear enough muted colors that it would just look funny.

I say that it is an extension of my outer identity because I don’t see my disability as my whole identity. How I’ve responded to it certainly shapes part of who I am, but I am so much more than Spina Bifida alone. It is still part of my identity in that, simply put, it’s how people identify me and part of my outer self.

Now for the rest of the story…

The new wheelchair is “root beer” which is a chocolate brown with gold sparkles.

The most noticeable change for most people will be the new color. Three of four of my wheelchairs have all been some shade of purple (the other one was green). This new chair is a color called “Root Beer” and it’s true to its name. The chair is a dark chocolate brown with gold sparkles. It almost looks black in some light but it’s this really pretty color that I just love.

This chair has several changes to it that I think will create a healthier, more comfortable experience for me. Read on:

  • The wheels are set farther forward, which means I don’t have to lean so far back to self propel. This is better for my shoulders and back.
  • The foot plates are set farther in so that they stay out of the way, making it more likely that I will wear them. My legs not dangling is better for my circulation and puts less strain on my bad hip and back.
  • The seat is less deep, which places my legs at a more comfortable angle, again helping with circulation problems and chronic pain.
  • The ends of the arm rests are solid foam instead of having a cap on the end, which falls out and gets lost too easily.
  • The brake handles are curved, making them easier to manage.
  • There’s an additional brake feature that let’s me have more control on steep inclines.
  • I have spoke guards now, which protects my fingers and the spokes themselves from harm.

    This close-up shot gives a look at the new braking system, the spoke guards on the wheels, the new foot plates and of course the new color.
  • The velcro on the seat is covered, which means my pants will not longer get holes torn in them (must go shopping for new pants!).
  • The overall positioning of the chair puts me in a more upright position that feels better and is more sustainable for long periods of time.
Look closely at the shoulder straps on this wheelchair backpack. They are designed to fit well and stay out of the way.

I also received two brand new backpacks that are, get this, designed for wheelchair users. The shoulder straps are short and designed to fit over handle bars instead of being the long, standard style of backpack shoulder straps that usually get in the way at some point.

 

 

 

11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Michael, thanks for reading and commenting! You’re welcome to come back any time. I’m curious, how did you find the blog?

  2. Hi Mark! I didn’t get to meet you last week but I’m sure we will meet soon. Feel free to share the blog with your friends!

  3. Hi Jamie! I happened to stumble upon this and it made me smile to hear how happy you were about your new chair. I work for Monroe Wheelchair (a provider in NY) and am familiar with many stories just like your own. It’s amazing what a difference a good fitting wheelchair can make. Enjoy and have a good day. 🙂

  4. You are so sweet, thank you for the compliment, it was great to have you in the office, and like you I agree about the color, root beer is one of my favorites. When we first pulled the chair out of the box I thought it was black!!!, but once we got it out of the shadows I saw the sparkle;) If you ever need anything at all just let us know.

  5. Jamie, It has been a great pleasure to work with you. You and so many others like you have a special place in my heart and give me the strength to do what I do, I give you mobility and give you me a purpose…that is greatest feeling anyone could have at the end of the day. Your an absolute inspiration and your personality is at the top of the chain, please let me know if you ever perform and speeches or advocate work, I would love to come and support you. Again, thank you for allowing me the pleasure of working with you. Judy

  6. Jen, Melissa, Judy and Danielle,

    Thank you for coming by and leaving a comment!

    Judy- about the advocate work, it’s interesting you mention that. I once did a presentation in Rogers about the business reasons to make your place of business friendly for people with disabilities. I might try to find a place to do that again but leave out the examples of modifications. Is this the kind of thing you’d be interested in?

    Everyone is of course welcome to subscribe to this blog on the front page. All you need is your email address (I obviously won’t sell it or anything). I know, shameless plug.

  7. Jamie, I really think you have that caring sincere peaceful personality about you that would bring comfort and ease to a lot of people. Maybe even some starting with some support groups like; parkinson, spinal cord injury, just to show people what you have lived with your whole life so now as their life is changing that there is support out there for them and people that will fight for them and lead them in the right direction. And then maybe some of your more challenging the schools- as we know kids can be so rude to their co-students because they may be a little different or require a the use of equipment to get from one class to another. Something I have talked to some of my SCI client’s about is doing some speeches at some of the Junior and High School’s to explain how their injury happened and how fast it changed their life. I just really think you have what it takes and you could touch so many lives with your wonderful loving voice. I would be more than happy to support you in any way and even attend with you just to give you that hand of support. We will talk and see what you think, that is if you would like. Talk to you soon. Judy

  8. Judy,

    Thank you! I really appreciate it. It’s interesting you mention that about the kids because I was an education reporter for nearly 8 years. I spent a lot of time interviewing kids and while my job was the primary focus, I always felt like I was showing them that someone with a disability can live a full life despite the challenges. One of my dogs I think would make a perfect therapy dog and I would like to get her trained (and start listening to me, AHEM) and use her in programs that involve all kinds of groups, both adult and kids.

    On another note, I have opened up several discussions in recent days about my disability and the wheelchair on my Facebook page. I think I might start blogging about life with a disability but in an educational way, not a woe is me way.

    Also, do you think people at other NSM offices would find this blog useful or helpful? I know that people who work in healthcare often get grumpy and ungrateful patients so I thought it might brighten their day to know that they DO make a difference!

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