Throughout my life, I’ve had various wheelchairs, both manual and powered, and each has given me independence and the freedom to live my life the way I want to. By now, you’d think I’d be used to it, but I can’t help feeling nervous about getting a new powered wheelchair.
My powered wheelchair enables me to work, travel and socialise. It doesn’t just get me from A to B. It helps me do the things I love and everything in between. Without my wheelchair, I’d be stuck.
Out with the old, in with the new….wheelchair
I’ve had my current Quickie Salsa R powered wheelchair for ten years so a new wheelchair is well overdue. It’s taken me to lots of amazing places. I also remember the day I got it and then a few days later we flew to New York for the first time. It was its first big adventure!
But it’s served its purpose and now it’s time for something new. If I’m honest, I should have got a new wheelchair years ago. It’s even a struggle to get parts for it now.
I don’t like change when it comes to my wheelchair because in a way it becomes part of me. I’m sat in it from the moment I get out of bed in the morning to the moment I go to bed at night.
It’s moulded to my body shape and gives me the postural support and comfort I need.
So whatever wheelchair I ultimately go for, I know it’s going to take me a long time to get used to it.
Even the slightest change in measurements such as the height or width can feel massive to me. It may solve one issue but then it can have a knock-on effect creating another issue.
As I’ve gotten older with my progressive muscle wasting condition, things like getting a new wheelchair get harder and more complicated as we try to consider all the things.
Having a poor-fitting chair can prevent me from being able to do something I can usually do. It can be the simplest of things like rolling under my desk, moving my arm on the armrest or reaching the bathroom sink.
NHS Wheelchair Assessment
But this past week I had a positive experience at a wheelchair assessment appointment with NHS wheelchair service. We had a good long chat (three hours to be exact) with the bioengineer, going over all my options and concerns.
We now have a plan of action in place and will see what happens next. It’s a long process and there are no guarantees if the wheelchair that’s currently the front runner will be approved.
Unfortunately, the wheelchair options through NHS Wheelchair Services are sadly very limited and often only meet the basic needs of the individual.
The demonstration wheelchair I tried at my appointment was the Invacare Aviva RX40.
To be honest, I went to the appointment a little unsure and not really expecting it to be up to much. However, it was better than I expected.
The way it was set up won’t be the exact set-up I’d have though so it was difficult to get a proper feel for what it would be like.
For instance, the central footplate on the demo wheelchair is not suitable for me. Instead, I’d opt for the side footplates as they are comfortable, keep my legs in a better position and what I’m used to.
My custom moulded seat cushion has been made so that my hips are in line with my knees as that is better for posture.
The central footplates are designed so your legs and knees are close together which isn’t a natural or comfortable way to sit. It may look trendy but that’s about it.
My wheelchair is also a big part of my identity so it’s important that it looks good and I feel good when using it. But my condition is progressive which means I need a wheelchair that meets my complex seating needs without sacrificing my comfort and independence.
For my new powered wheelchair, I hope to have the elevating and recline option. Those features would really enhance my life and help me change positions throughout the day, which is something I’m unable to do independently.
Although I don’t think I’ll get the recline function through NHS wheelchair services as they don’t deem the ability to recline to change position and relieve pressure throughout the day a medical need.
I will however need to personally pay for the elevating function if I want it, which will roughly cost between £1,000 to £1,500. Being able to rise my wheelchair to the same height as someone standing would be incredible.
It would especially come in handy at gigs as I’d be able to see over everyone’s heads. Amazing!
Wheelchair demo and test drive
As I said, it’s difficult to get a proper feel of what the wheelchair will be like during such a short amount of time. Ideally, I’d love the opportunity to take the demonstration wheelchair home with me so I can try it out in my home environment, go out and about and do the things I’d typically do day-to-day.
I’d then be able to base my final decision based on actually using the wheelchair in these environments and know for sure if I’d still be able to manage around my home.
I did have a brief opportunity to try the demo wheelchair around the hospital grounds. This helped me get a feel for what the suspension felt like, which was surprisingly good.
Based on the brief demo and test drive, my first impression including likes and dislikes are:
What I liked about the Invacare Aviva RX40:
- Good suspension
- Smooth and stable drive
What I disliked about the Invacare Aviva RX40
- Central footplate
- Wheelchair controller (shape and size)
- Wide armrests
- Material on the armrests prevented me from being able to move my arms
Is the Invacare Aviva RX40 the right wheelchair for me? I’m not sure yet. Is the Aviva RX40 going to be the one NHS wheelchair services approve for me? I’m not sure about that either.
We have a list of questions and requirements to ask the manufacturer before we can decide if this wheelchair will potentially be a good option for me. If it is then a decision will be made after myself and the NHS wheelchair service receive a quote. I will give an update when I know more though.
We all deserve the best wheelchair that is right for our needs, looks good, enhances our lives and is reliable. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to tick all the boxes, not to mention time-consuming getting it just right.
But it is so worth it when everything comes together to make the perfect wheelchair for you.
What is most important to you when choosing a wheelchair?