Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Test drive

Three years ago this month, we ordered Will's first wheelchair. When it finally arrived in October of 2008, we finally had a suitable and supportive means for Will to experience the world. It was a great experience for all of us.

Through the years, Will's wheelchair technicians have adjusted the chair so that it grew with Will. It survived two airplane trips, hundreds of trips up and down the front steps, and thousands of times being vomitted on. Oh ok, I might be exaggerating... perhaps not thousands of times. But definitely hundreds. Thankfully the pad covers are neoprene and washable.

In the past year, Will has broken several parts of his wheelchair. This is mostly due to the fact that Will does something called extension - he flexes all of the muscles in his body to push or reach for something. There is a lot of force behind his extension, which flexes his chair. And his chair isn't made to flex. When he pushed on it, the thing would creak. Sometimes parts would fall off. After he would be done flexing, he wasn't positioned correctly in his seat because he had managed to push his butt out of the back of the seat. So his posture would be terrible.

Frustratingly, each time that Will broke a piece, we had to go through insurance approval to get it fixed. I know. It makes no sense. So for months at a time (while we waited for insurance cronies to approve a $50 part), we would be holding the tray on his wheelchair with gum and a toothpick. We used rubberbands to hold together the split piece of wood that serves as a pommel between his knees. We had an allen wrench set permanently attached to our hands to tighten up the bolts that held the head rest in place. We were a collective MacGyver.

But after a while creativity like that gets old, and you start asking around for how you get a new wheelchair. Clearly it was time.

The good news for us and Will is that insurance will pay for a new wheelchair once every three years. So we're due. We talked to Will's physical therapists and teachers, and everyone agreed that Will needed a chair that was a bit more flexible. Literally. We needed a chair that flexed.

Our wheelchair technician was excited to tell us about something called a dynamic wheelchair. It is a chair that has flexible joints where the back of the wheelchair meets the seat, and also in the foot rest. He was even more excited to tell us that there were three pediatric dynamic seating systems on the market, and he could bring all three for Will to try at once.

After weeding out the selection committee, Nate, Oma, the wheelchair technician and one of Will's physical therapists met today to try out the chairs. Two were quickly eliminated from the bunch due to shoddy construction. We need something substantial!

Will took to the Kids Rock 2 like a fish to water. The photo at the top was taken just a couple of minutes after the chair had been fit to Will's height. Smiles!

He pushed with his feet. The foot rest flexed. The wheelchair didn't make any noise! Nothing fell off of it! When he was done pushing, the foot rest went back into position. And miraculously, because he hadn't really been able to push against anything, his butt was still in the back of the seat and his posture remained correct!

This is huge. In a good way.

But also in a bad way... but not really a bad way. Recall my post last week about Will gaining weight... so of course, this chair is larger. It needs to be. Unlike Will's current Kid Kart, the Kids Rock does not come apart in 2 pieces. For transportation, it has to remain in one piece and it is a lot bigger than the Kid Kart. We aren't actually sure how well it will fit in our current van. It also weighs a lot more, which means that we won't be able to pick it up or move it around as easily.

So in addition to a new wheelchair, we've also started the required paperwork to get our van and our garage modified with a lift or a ramp. Sarcastically **lucky** for us, all the insurance hoops to jump through and the manufacturing of the new wheelchair will likely take 3 months. So we have some time to get things done around here to prep for the new wheels.

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