petertan.com icon



Total pages: [1]1

Wheelchair Users – What Price Independence?

April 12th, 2011 - Tuesday

Wheelchairs are like shoes. One size does not fit all. A customised chair makes a lot of difference to the person using it. My first made-to-measure aluminium chair was a folding Japanese-made Max Pleasure Synergy that costs RM5,700 in 2007. I enjoyed a great deal of independence from it. The small footprint made it very maneuvreable. My posture improved tremendously; I was no longer slouching. For the first time in two decades, I actually looked good in a wheelchair.

Unfortunately, the crossbrace fractured after just three years of moderate use. The crossbrace is the X-shaped mechanism that allows the chair to be folded. I have also had the same issue with the crossbraces of two other steel wheelchairs that I used previously. Both were standard off-the-shelf wheelchairs. They were heavy, difficult to push and fitted me badly.

A custom-made wheelchair takes many aspects of the user’s body and needs into account. The width, depth and height of seat from floor all make a difference; so are the sizes of the rear wheels and front casters. One can choose either a folding or rigid chair. A folding chair takes up less space when folded and is easy to store in the car boot. It is also heavier because of the crossbrace. The rigid chair is lighter because it does not have a crossbrace. The rigid wheelchair has less flex of the frame thereby translating to more energy efficient propulsion.

The current wheelchair that I am using is the Tilite ZRA Series 2. This is a rigid wheelchair with its main frame constructed from aerospace-grade titanium tubes. Titanium has better strength-to-weight ratio compared to other materials used for making wheelchairs. It also does not rust and corrode. That makes it durable, an important factor for something that I am totally dependent on for my mobility.

This wheelchair is also twice as expensive. The costliest part is the titanium frame, followed by the rear wheels, shipping and then the cushion. Friends, non-disabled people and wheelchair users as well, asked me why I was willing to cough up so much for a few titanium tubes on wheels when I could have bought another aluminium chair for only half of what I paid or the Tilite ZRA.

In getting a wheelchair, especially for long-term users, the decision cannot be based solely on cost comparison alone. There are other factors to consider like durability and functionality of the wheelchair. The most important factor to consider, however, is the implication from pushing a heavy wheelchair ten or twenty years down the road. The repetitive actions of propelling the wheelchair has been proven to wear out the shoulders in the long run.

An injured shoulder will rob me of my mobility and independence. Should that happen, I may have to depend on someone to help me with my activites of daily living for a period of time pre and post-surgery. The question is do I scrimp on cheaper wheelchairs now and suffer the consequences in the later years or do I take preventive measures now to preserve whatever functions I still have for as long as possible?

For me, the answer is simple: An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. The RM13,000 I paid for the Tilite ZRA Series 2 and cushion is a necessary expenditure albeit a steep one. It is justifiable nonetheless. I am already living with a host of spinal cord injury-related health issues, many I could not have prevented even if I had wanted to. My shoulders I can. This wheelchair is the gift to myself for sustaining a better quality of life in the long term. In that sense, it is worth every sen I paid for it.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

TiLite ZRA Series 2

August 10th, 2010 - Tuesday

Back in 2007, I blogged about getting my dream ride. I was deciding between the Kuschall Airlite Pro and the Invacare Top End Crossfire Titanium. In the end, I got the Matsunaga Max Pleasure Synergy GS-V instead. I settled on this Japanese-made aluminium folding wheelchair due to the fact that they had a local dealer who could take measurements and customise the chair to fit my body.

Matsunaga Max Pleasure Synergy GS-V
Matsunaga Max Pleasure Synergy GS-V.

The first chair that they delivered was too wide. I had problems going through doorways. I complained and it was replaced with a narrower chair. Having used it for more than two years, I quite like its maneuverability, how my body fits into it and how it improves my sitting posture. At 10kg, it is lighter than my previous chairs and easier for Wuan to lift up and store in the car boot.

Unfortunately, it began to squeak early this year. The seat does not fit snugly to the frame anymore and it tends to pull to the left when pushed. I cannot send it back to the local dealer for repairs as he is no longer in the wheelchair business. While looking for a wheelchair repairman who is familiar with this chair, I am going to get another one.

TiLite ZRA Series 2
TiLite ZRA Series 2.
Image taken from TiLite.

This time, I am going for the TiLite ZRA Series 2. It is a rigid titanium frame wheelchair and weighs about 5kg without the rear wheels. I have never used a rigid wheelchair before but from what I read, the frame has less flex as compared to a folding one thus making it easier to push. Besides that, less moving parts translates to less wear and tear and less maintenance.

The TiLite ZRA Series 2 has to be ordered from one of the online stores in the USA. The frame itself costs USD1,895. The chair I configured with the parts I want is around RM13,000 inclusive of a suitable cushion and shipping. The other snag here is that I have to do my own measurements. I need to get it right else it will be a very expensive piece of living room décor. The good thing about the ZRA Series 2 it is adjustable to a certain degree should my measurements be marginally off.

My “TiLite ZRA Series 2 Wheelchair Fund” has only achieved one-third of the amount needed. I plan to place my order before the year is out. Hopefully, I do not need to dig into my savings to fund this ride by then. It may appear like a large amount to pay for a wheelchair but it is worth the money if properly tuned to fit my body. In the long run it will reduce repetitive strain injuries to my shoulders caused by pushing a badly fitted wheelchair.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Overworking My Middle Finger

July 22nd, 2010 - Thursday

There is this ache deep in my left forearm that radiates from just below the elbow all the way to the middle finger. It has been bugging me for the past couple of years. It aches every time I move my forearm. Massaging has not worked.

I thought it was age-related. At my age, body aches are nothing out of the ordinary. My shoulders and right knee occasionally ache too, usually a day or two before a rainstorm. I am that accurate when it comes to predicting when rain will fall!

The discomfort is especially bad today. Although it does not restrict the already limited function of my hand, the constant aching is disconcerting. I have to stop every now and then to massage the spot although I know that will not bring any relief at all. And then realisation struck when I saw how I was handling the mouse.

Using the mouse with my left hand
Using the mouse with the left hand.

My right hand is clawed. None of the fingers have the dexterity to depress the mouse buttons. My left hand is more functional. I use it more than my right hand although I am right handed. I have been using my left hand to operate the mouse since I got a PC that ran on Windows 3.1 back in 1993.

I click the mouse buttons with the middle finger of my left hand. That finger has a limited range of movement but that is the only finger I can use on the mouse because I have most control over it. Even then, it takes a some wrist movements and a little more effort from the finger to depress the buttons. Using the scroll wheel is easier. I place my finger on the wheel and flex or extend my wrist to roll it.

After 17 years of the same movements day in and day out, I guess something has to give. I must have caused repetitive strain injury (RSI) to the flexor muscle of the left arm. Come to think of it, the constant twitching of the thumb, index and little fingers could be related to RSI also. They twitch non-stop whenever my hands are relaxed.

Perhaps I should revert to the touchpad instead. I seldom use it because I needed two hands for functions like dragging a file from one folder to another when I could accomplish that with just one hand using the mouse.

Or maybe I should rub some of my Ah Mah’s hong eu to the ache. The reasons that are holding me back are the greasiness, the stains and the odour it leaves behind on anything it comes into contact with. Otherwise, I swear by its efficacy to relieve bodily aches and pains from the effects of hong sip (rheumatism), strained muscles and minor sprains.


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


Total pages: [1]1