Why I look like I’m about to sing into a microphone…
In the last millennium I acquired my marvelous wheelchair from the Wheelchair Service in Waltham Forest. It was all singing all dancing as it were (but no microphone!!).
Some years later we moved south of the river into Kent. It was here that I met an OT called Simon Tempest. By strange coincidence he’d been part of the team some years previously in Waltham Forest. Fate had brought us together again and after sorting out a wonderful new gel cushion for me, his astute observational skills spotted I was having great difficultly driving my wheelchair as my ‘good’ arm was packing up. He then put me in contact with Medical Physics and I entered the wonderful world of Dr Pepper and his team.
When we first visited the Medical Physics department at Kent & Canterbury hospital I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The place is full of strange looking bits and pieces of wheelchairs, and even the clock ran backwards (I’ve since bought one of these brilliant clocks for myself – great for confusing visitors).
Medical Physics turned out to be staffed by a group of talented people, led by the ever cheerful Dr Matthew ‘there are no problems only challenges’ Pepper. Matthew and his team seem to work on the principle of how can we make it work, rather than we can’t buy one of those. This resulted in them making various proto-type chin controls for me to try out in place of the traditional hand-operated joystick. Once the design was perfected and my wheelchair re-programmed, my life was transformed.
After more than a year of being stuck where I was ‘parked’; I was once again free to roam around and cause trouble. With the addition of three buttons on my headrest which control the on-off switch of my chair and the speed, plus another button to control my Possum system (which I prefer to call my World Dominator Kit or WDK for short), the world is my ‘cockle’ (I don’t like oysters….).
I have visited various countries in Europe and enjoy emailing Matthew photos to prove that ‘have chin controls, will travel’.
My comfort was further enhanced by the later addition of a ‘matrix’ seating system for my wheelchair. Thankfully this doesn’t include a free Keanu Reeves (Karen was disappointed), but rather it’s a system of interlocking pieces which are moulded to the body shape and then tightened into position (rather like a F1 driver’s moulded seat). Michael Shumacher eat your heart out! I can’t go quite as fast, but it’s stopped me slipping and leaning at strange angles, particularly when travelling in the car (useful given Karen’s driving).
Ralph 'I'm chin control now' Edmunds