I spent a good part of today going through the measurements of the wheelchair I am about to order after receiving feedback from specialists well-versed in customising wheelchairs in the CareCure forum. The specifications are close to being finalized. A big thank you to SCI_OTR and everyone who has given me valuable advice.
There are many factors to be considered to make a wheelchair good fitting and work like it should. The critical areas are seat depth, front and rear seat to floor heights, seat dump, seat back angle and centre of gravity. Each has to be right for me to be comfortably seated for the entire day, and for the chair to be well balanced and easy to push.
Most importantly, I need to get it right because it is going to cost me about US$3,000. The good thing about the TiLite ZRA Series 2 is that it is very adjustable. Minor mistakes in the measurements can be easily rectified. Still, I want it to be done properly in the factory to reduce the hassle of having to do adjustments it when it arrives.
Apart from the wheelchair, I am also ordering the Supracor Stimulite Classic cushion, an extra pair of wheels, spare spokes and inner tubes. The cushion is crucial for preventing pressure sores to the buttocks. The extra set of wheels is cheaper to buy separately than upgrading from the standard wheels provided with the chair.
I hope the TiLite ZRA Series 2 will last longer than the Max Pleasure Synergy that I have been using for the past three years. It will cost JPY25,000 to have the broken cross brace replaced, excluding shipping and other charges. This is equivalent to about RM970. I will just have the fractured tubed welded back later and use it as a spare chair.
I dropped something this morning. I am always dropping things. I leaned over the right arm rest to see where it landed on the floor. It was no where in sight. I leaned over a little more to peer into the cargo net under the wheelchair. I did not find it there too. But I was momentarily taken aback when I saw what I did not expect to see.
Broken wheelchair cross brace.
The perpendicular tube welded to a cross brace of the wheelchair is fractured right through. Wuan has been having problems opening the chair for a while already. Now we know why. The perpendicular tube rotates on its axis and allows the wheelchair to be folded or opened. The broken tube is still held in place, at both ends, by screws that attach it to the frame. Fortunately, I caught this before the screw for the cross brace section breaks as well. That would have been disastrous.
This new turn of event has brought forward my plan to get a new chair. I am using the old chair now. It has an exceptionally large footprint. The footrests extend way out to accomodate the eight inch casters. I kept bumping my toes against walls as I turn or reach out to pick things. It also has extreme flex. This makes pushing strenuous. Half a day in this chair and my back is already aching.
I am going to measure myself for one final time and post the dimensions in the CareCure Community forum for advice and comments. There is a big group of people living with spinal cord injury who are active in the forum. A number of them are professionals in managing the various aspect of post-injury issues and are more than willing to share their experience and knowledge, and provide useful advice.
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.
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.
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.