Education in Motion / Blog / August 2018 / Upgrading to a New Power Wheelchair Yields Clinical and Functional Benefits

Upgrading to a New Power Wheelchair Yields Clinical and Functional Benefits

Name: Karen C.
Age: 53 years old
Location: Colorado

Fun Facts

Karen is a former Paralympian swimmer and continues to swim regularly. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends camping outdoors in beautiful Colorado. Karen is a wife, mother, and speech language pathologist.


Mobility History

When Karen was 16 years old she was involved in a rollover motor vehicle accident which resulted in broken vertebrae and bruising of her spinal cord. Her official diagnosis was an incomplete C5/C6 spinal cord injury (SCI). Karen spent four months in inpatient rehabilitation immediately after her injury. She reportedly got a lot of return of function. At the time of her discharge she was able to ambulate household distances with crutches and bilateral ankle foot orthotics (AFOs). Eventually Karen progressed to the point of only needing to wear one AFO on her left side and using canes for ambulation. While Karen preferred to ambulate as much as possible, she did utilize a Quickie rigid ultralight manual wheelchair for longer distances.

After high school Karen attended the University of Northern Colorado. Due to the size of the campus and the distance between her apartment and classes, she primarily utilized her wheelchair. Unfortunately, her home was located at the bottom of a steep hill leading to campus. Karen experienced a great deal of difficulty propelling herself up the hill multiple times per day. Much to her dismay she found herself being forced to connect with others who were walking her way in order to request their assistance with pushing her up the hill. The loss of independence significantly dampened Karen's spirits, but she continued to utilize a manual wheelchair.

In 1996 she married her husband, Rick. According to Karen, Rick had much better medical insurance than she did, so they were able to consider a new wheelchair for her. By this point in her life she was experiencing increased pain with propulsion, so a power wheelchair was suggested. Initially Karen hesitated because a power wheelchair would not only require purchasing a van, but she also believed using a power mobility device signified that she was more disabled. After much consideration Karen received her first power wheelchair in 1997. With the system she was able to be more active with less pain. She made a point to remain as physically active as possible to decrease the likelihood of losing any of her motor function.

Reasons for Seeking New Equipment

Karen had her first power wheelchair for 12 years and the second for eight years. Both chairs were basic power wheelchairs she drove with a fixed-mount standard joystick and no power seating functions. Over the years Karen began to notice her posture becoming worse, an increase in discomfort when sitting (pain in her abdomen and shoulders), and feeling weaker overall. After speaking with her physicians, she decided it was time to be evaluated for a new seating system and wheelchair.

Karen contacted a local and very experienced physical therapist (PT) she had worked with previously for complex rehabilitation technology (CRT) recommendations to schedule a wheelchair clinic appointment. The PT and a RESNA ATP certified rehabilitation technology supplier conducted a complete team evaluation on Karen, which resulted in recommendations for a seating system to provide her with better support and a new wheelchair base with increased power options including power lift.

In order to prepare for her evaluation, Karen educated herself as a consumer on the various options that are available in power wheelchairs and their features. From what she discovered it seemed as though the QM-710 wheelchair base would be the ideal option to meet her active lifestyle needs because of the SpiderTrac suspension. During her evaluation she discussed the appropriateness of the QUICKIE QM-710 with her team to ensure it would meet all of her medical needs also.

Karen and her team decided the best equipment for her was a QM-710 with power tilt and a standard joystick on a retractable mount, a JAY back support, standard cushion with minimal positioning components, and a Whitmyer single pad plush headrest. She sought funding through her medical insurance and the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. According to Karen, those two funding sources combined paid for 100% of the seating and wheelchair.

Current Status

Per her report, Karen experienced immediate positive changes in her overall health and function once obtaining her new wheelchair. In fact, one of her friends commented that she was positioned so well in the new wheelchair that she looked 10 years younger! When the evaluating PT recommended adding power tilt to the wheelchair, Karen initially did not see the need as she does periodically stand and get out of her chair throughout the day. However, since having her new chair she has utilized the tilt function many times to provide pressure relief and position changes to aid in relieving pain, thus understanding the clinical benefits of the function and her need for it. The retractable joystick mount has allowed her to better position her joystick when maneuvering close to tables and other obstacles. The SpiderTrac suspension has been a game changer for Karen, too. She has since noted the ease at which her new wheelchair handles various terrain and the smooth ride it provides.

For Karen, the keys to success for obtaining a new wheelchair included recognizing she needed equipment to improve her posture and health, educating herself on the entire process, working with a trusted and experienced team of professionals, and playing an active role on the team to ensure the process went as smoothly as possible.

Published: 8/24/2018


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