By Allen McKinley
I’ve been using a wheelchair since April 1, 2002. Like many of you reading this, I never thought I would need one, and I certainly didn’t ask for the challenges life threw at me concerning my disability. I was in a motorcycle accident that left me paralyzed from the chest down. I’m a T-4 para, for those of you who understand the lingo. I was thrust into the crazy world of durable medical equipment with no history or knowledge of what to do.
I was lucky, if you want to call it that, and had excellent insurance at the time of my accident. I was able to go to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado, where I learned the skills needed to navigate a world completely foreign to me. I was very independent prior to my accident and was determined to stay that way. My first chair was a folding chair because I had seen someone with one when I was younger. The rep selling them tried to talk me into a rigid chair, but I thought I knew better. I was wrong.
In the 13 years since my accident, I have learned a lot, mostly from doing things wrong the first time around. I was headstrong when it came to that first wheelchair, and like many of the decisions that followed, it took educated people to point me in the right direction. I came to realize that I was fighting the current, not making my independent lifestyle any easier. I decided to get educated about the products available from all the great companies that have evolved by listening to wheelchair users over the last 30 years.
That’s right. Companies have hired people with disabilities, been started by people with disabilities, and have used the technology available to build fantastic products that make life easier. Can you get by with what you are using today? Of course you can, but my question is, “Why?” I did it for years, and slowly — much too slowly to my liking — I found products that made my everyday life much easier.
These products are not the cheapest on the market for good reason. They are the result of years of research and development, built from the highest quality raw materials, and they will last much longer than the lowest cost options. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Why spend the extra money, you may ask. The beauty of this blog is you get to skip the tough years and learn from my mistakes. Please keep reading!
The wheelchair industry has created wonderful equipment that makes being independent not only a goal, but a reality. Being able to do things for yourself will create self-confidence and a daily attitude about life that is incredibly positive. Can you put a price tag on happiness? I certainly can’t. When you use less energy to do simple daily tasks, you have more energy to enjoy life!
I’ve found great products and wonderful companies that love to evolve and make your life easier. I plan to write in detail about these companies and products in the weeks to come. It is as simple as finding the right seat cushion and seat back to allow you to sit up straighter, lessening pain in your daily life. A great seat cushion and seat back also will help with spasms and long-term issues with posture. And having less pain will make your attitude more positive every single moment!
There are an almost-unlimited number of products available today, and the biggest obstacle is simply finding a way to learn about them. What works for me may not work for you. But once you know what is available, you can decide which one is best for you. There is a product that will make your life easier; you just have to find it.
Many people in wheelchairs have pain that comes with their disabilities. Doctors will prescribe drugs to mask the pain, but some come with serious side effects. What would you pay to be pain free? Finding durable medical equipment that solves problems instead of covering them up is a priceless tool that will make your life better. From personal experience, I know thousands of products are available today to help you get on a better track and replace medication. Don’t be scared off by the up-front cost of some of this equipment.
How much do you spend weekly, or monthly, to simply maintain? Imagine if you could stop paying that every month and simply buy a wheelchair, seating system, at-home therapy equipment, shower and bathroom equipment to erase the need for daily medication? It is possible, and I’m going to help you navigate the red tape until you know how to make your life better!
Allen McKinley is an MSL associate who covers North Carolina and South Carolina.