When we first applied to get Namine her own wheelchair, we had a choice. Up until then, we’d been using a “custom-built” wheelchair. I put that in quotes because it was built by my aunt, not by an equipment provider. She’s done an amazing job helping us out with accessibility equipment for Namine. It’s just the nature of things: we’ve long depended on Katy’s Kloset for filling in the equipment gaps when my insurance and SSI fell short. And fall short they do, I am sad to say, with alarming regularity.
So, back on track: our choice was whether to get a fold-up wheelchair, or opt for something a little (or a lot) more sturdy. We had a four-door sedan at the time, so realistically, a fold-up chair would have made more sense, space-wise.
On the other hand, Namine is an active child. She always has been, contrary to the assumptions of doctors and nurses who don’t know her. She much prefers to depend on herself for getting around — that’s true in the apartment, on the floor; as well as outside, in her wheelchair.
We could only conclude that since fold-up wheelchairs are not as sturdy, getting one for Namine would not make sense. We had to get something that wouldn’t collapse, either by accident or by design. True, getting it to fit in a small car was a trick and a half; but it was well worth it, to further enable our daughter’s independence.
When the time finally came for us to decide on our next car, we didn’t have as much equipment as when Namine was little. Gone were the trache tube, humidifier, ventilator and battery, trache suction machine, oxygen tanks, g-tube, and feeding pump. But what equipment we did have — Namine’s wheelchair — we needed more room for it.
Namine got many years of use out of her wheelchair; more years than she should have gotten, if I’m to be honest. She outgrew it long ago, but we couldn’t yet get a replacement. We were only allowed a new wheelchair every five years; if we were to get a new one before those five years were up after getting the first chair, we had to pay for it completely out of pocket. (Some families might have been able to shoulder the cost of a new $5,000 wheelchair, but we simply couldn’t afford it.) The only solution was for our equipment provider to keep elongating Namine’s wheelchair; in doing so, it became off-balance. It even finally broke — literally — but my aunt helped us repair it until the replacement finally arrived.
Last year, we met with Numotion staff to discuss Namine’s replacement wheelchair. We made sure to communicate the necessity of a sturdy wheelchair. Even with as sturdy as the last one was, it still broke. How much more durable, then, should this new wheelchair be? (That’s rhetorical, but the answer is “hella.”)
Now, at long last, Namine has her new wheelchair. She’s still getting used to the size; it is, after all, longer and wider. (It is not, however, heaver. That’s nice.) Once the weather gets nicer, Namine will be able to join me in running again. (She had stopped coming with me because we were just too fearful of her wheelchair breaking for good, and before her new one arrived.) The wheels are larger and wider; Namine was very specific in asking for wheels that could navigate over gravel, something her previous chair could not do without an adult pushing behind her.
There are plenty of days that we don’t just need to put Namine’s wheelchair in the car. She uses her walker in therapy, so we need room for that. We found — only by necessity — that we can even fit the walker, Namine’s wheelchair, and a basketball wheelchair in the car. That one was borrowed, but the Marquette bio-mechanical engineering class is working on building Namine her own sports chair. It’s good to know we can fit more equipment in the car if we need to.
We definitely made the right call in getting a solid, sturdy wheelchair for Namine. We lose the space, true, because it cannot be folded up. Knowing this, we made sure to have a vehicle large enough to accommodate it, and I’m glad we did.