I’ve written a lot about my love of wheelchairs and what an important role they play in my life.
There have been times when my chair’s been broken or I haven’t had the right equipment, and as a result, my mood and wellbeing have been seriously affected. The right chair makes all the difference, not just to what it’s possible for me to do, but also to how I feel.
Yesterday I took delivery of a new wheelchair, and I can’t describe the difference this is already making to me. When I woke this morning and remembered it, I was flooded with joy all over again. To many non-wheelchair users, all wheelchairs might look the same – but they very definitely aren’t!
Up until yesterday, my everyday chair was the one provided by NHS wheelchair services. This service is an often under-appreciated and under-resourced part of the Health Service. The people there are brilliant, and it was the sensitivity, support and skill of my first wheelchair therapist and technician that enabled me to navigate the emotional and practical challenges of life on wheels.
A couple of years ago I was re-referred for a new chair because the physiotherapist treating my chronic back and pelvic pain was concerned that my chair wasn’t supporting me sufficiently and might be adding to my pain.
The team worked incredibly hard to get me the best equipment possible. I loved the chair they provided and it felt like a much better fit than the one I’d been using before. They tweaked it a lot to meet my requirements, and experimented with options they don’t usually prescribe, like shock absorbing front castors.
But they also acknowledged that there was other equipment out there that they couldn’t provide, so they wrote a letter of support for an application to Access To Work for a new super-lightweight chair with shock-absorbing wheels. My application was successful and I was measured for a chair made to fit me precisely.
I felt super-nervous just before the new chair arrived, anxious about whether it would fit and whether it would justify the hefty price tag. The moment I sat in it for the first time I knew this was a game-changer for me. I felt that I was sitting in a totally different way. With all the chairs I’ve had before it’s felt like sitting on them – with my new chair it feels as if I’m really sitting in it. My back is supported, and I feel taller, thinner, stronger and straighter.
On the phone to Laura last night I said it was as if I’d been able to buy a new body. And not just any old body – it’s like the difference between being able to jog around the park for ten minutes panting, and being a gymnast.
My wheelchairs have always felt like an extension of my body, but with this new chair I feel this more clearly than ever before. Not only do I feel good, I can also move with a freedom and ease that I thought was no longer possible.