Orange crush. Cherry bomb. Lime light. Sugar plum. The latest flavored slushes at the local convenience store?
White satin. Military green. Blue jean. The hottest tank top colors at the mall?
Pretty in pink. Red Corvette. Electric blue. Raspberry beret. The top shades for nail polish?
They might be any of these, but for us, these are the colors available for Husband Carl’s new power wheelchair.
Now, for one confined to a wheelchair, power or manual, that chair becomes his “ride.” This is especially true for someone like Carl who’s always loved cars and trucks. When I first met him, he owned a turquoise 1964 Chevy Impala with baby moon hubcaps, a big engine and glass-pack mufflers. My dad used to say that he could hear Carl coming to see me as soon as he left his house across town from ours.
In the early 70s, we had a light blue and silver 351 Boss Mustang with a Cleveland V-8 engine and a Hurst four-speed. (For those who know a thing or two about cars, this one was impressive.) Ford only made 1,800 of these muscle cars in 1971.
We owned two different Chevy Corvettes too. The 1966 version was a copper color, and the 1969 was a deep, dark green. Once we had kids, the ’Vette just wasn’t practical.
All this is to say that when a guy has a love for cars, and then has a horse accident that leaves him in a wheelchair, he doesn’t forget those classic cars. That affinity for a nifty ride simply transfers to his wheelchair. Much like his vehicles did in years past, Carl wants his chair to reflect his personality.
Every five years, Medicare allows a wheelchair-bound patient a new chair. But, it’s not like he can simply pick a model from a showroom floor. Because his chair is “durable medical equipment,” it must be prescribed by a doctor with the help of therapists and industry professionals.
Because Carl sits in his chair all day long, the choice of cushions is very important. We must be sure that it is constructed to prevent pressure sores, potentially deadly skin lesions. In the same way, the chair back must be sturdy – but comfortable – for sitting 16-plus hours a day.
There are other considerations, too. Should the seat tilt? This mechanism means the user can shift his weight periodically – another strategy to avoid pressure sores. Does the chair back need “laterals,” pads that prevent the operator’s leaning from side to side? And should he have a seatbelt for safety?
Likewise, should the chair sport a rear-wheel drive, a center-wheel drive, or a front-wheel drive? Is the controller easy to operate with minimal manual dexterity? Or does the user need a “sip n’ puff” mechanism to operate the chair by mouth? Do the footplates prevent strain on the user’s knees?
Lastly, can the individual raise the seat to better access objects out of reach? For those who have some upper body function, this feature prevents shoulder and arm injuries in order to preserve the ability for eating, personal grooming, and operating the chair.
And none of these decisions account for accessories – at the user’s expense, of course. Yes, now that the pros have determined the necessities, Carl is ready to “trick his ride.”