Empowered by a Powerchair

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

The age old dilemma every person faces in rehab after a spinal cord injury – should I use a power wheelchair or a manual wheelchair? If you’re at that level where you can go both ways, deciding which chair to go for can be quite the difficult decision to make.

When I was in rehab as a C5-6 quad, my therapists automatically gave me a powerchair, not for once asking if I would want to build up the strength to use a manual chair. That was 1993 and things have changed a lot in the rehab world. Now days when you have a spinal cord injury, they try to push the manual wheelchair much more often, telling patients it’s better for their cardio and overall mobility in regards to visiting people’s homes.

But that’s really a preferential decision. For some people, a powerchair brings more mobility to their lives. I was reading a blog post by Ann Widmann, a woman with Parkinson’s, and she talked about how much she loves her powerchair and everything it’s brought to her life. She can now be part of a book club down the street, she can run her own errands, she can be a member of her church choir. She can have a life because of a powerchair. For her…her powerchair is her legs. Indispensible.

And then you have those stubborn folks who refuse to switch over to a powerchair even though their shoulders are giving out and they really shouldn’t be pushing full-time anymore. The powerchair can symbolize a much more significant disability, a least to a lot of people. Many people aren’t ready to be looked at this way. So they torture themselves needlessly.

I gotta say though, I for one love my power chair. It is my stable tank that takes me everywhere, unlike scooters that flip much easier (didn’t know that until reading the lady’s blog). When I’m in a manual chair, sure I feel less chair/more me, even a bit sexier as strange as that sounds, but I’m not as independent, and that’s the kicker. The only way I’ll ever use a manual wheelchair full-time is if it had power-assist rims.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with my power chair; my comfort blanket times infinity. But at 350lbs, my only gripe – I wish it didn’t weigh so much; the main downfall of the powerchair.

Have you made the big switch to a powerchair? What do you like most about using a powerchair, what do you miss about the manual wheelchair?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

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