As regular readers might know, my right leg, which has made my life a pure misery for the past few years (and especially this year and last), is scheduled for amputation next year (don’t have a date yet and I wish they’d hurry up!). For a while there, when the end was in sight, the pain was easier to bear. Now it’s not, it’s getting worse by the day – I just want it gone!
This will, naturally enough, present some problems as, since the crisis that put me in hospital in early 2013 (if you missed it I almost starved to death – anorexia, plus vomiting and diarrhoea, being symptoms of my then diagnosed, but kept secret by idiot doctor, Addison’s Disease), I’ve been very weak. I lost 35kg, much of it muscle mass, and never got it back (though, thanks to the steroid treatment for Addie’s, I have got fatter!).
I’ve tried, experimentally, hopping on one leg, using crutches – it doesn’t work, I just don’t have the strength, and that has to change.
And then I spotted the FreeWheel offroad wheelchair gizmo – clamps to the footrest and raises the castors off the ground, converting the chair into a trike.
Well, OK, I’ve known of it for a couple of years, but couldn’t see how it would benefit me, until now. I need to work on my upper body strength if the surgery is to be a success, and the FreeWheel seems to offer me the chance to do that, combined with the ability to get me the hell out of this flat.
The problem with wheelchairs, for those of you unfamiliar with them, is the castors. The slightest obstruction brings them – and the chair – to a halt because of their small diameter. The FreeWheel gets around this problem by taking the castors out of the equation and replacing them with a single, much larger-diameter wheel which rolls over things that would stop the castors.
It clamps to the footrest of a rigid-framed wheelchair (I have a titanium-framed Quickie Ti which will be ideal). If you have a look at the FreeWheel website they have a bunch of photos and videos there.
This is the Quickie Ti.
As you can see, the footrest hangers are close together, and my legs were so massively swollen last year I just couldn’t use it as they wouldn’t fit.
And this is my Quickie Life.
Much roomier, as you can see.
To be honest, the FreeWheel, like much else aimed at the disabled community, is expensive for what you get, but it will solve a lot of problems for me. For example, we have a garden here (for which read wildlife desert), with a paved path around a central lawn. When I got the Quickie Ti and, subsequently, my Quickie Life, the plan was, every day (rain permitting!), to do a few circuits of the garden. Once was more than enough! The paving is so uneven that using a wheelchair on it is pure purgatory.
The FreeWheel, though, will iron those bumps out nicely.
There’s also an adapter for folding wheelchairs, which is tempting as it would increase my options (I have a spare folder, too – the adapter won’t fit my much more compact Quickie Life), but it would drive up the price substantially. The best price for the basic FreeWheel is £350, from Spokz, but the folder adapter takes that to £465. Doable – barely – but I really don’t think I can justify it. I’ll stick with the Quickie Ti, not least because it’s a good 20lb lighter than the folder (as a good rule of thumb, the less you pay for a chair the heavier it will be – a bit like bikes).
That was how I felt yesterday.
Last night was the worst since I was hauled off to hospital back in August – and for the same reason – Pulmonary Oedema (PO from here on). I doubt if I slept for 2 hours in total – it felt like minutes grabbed here and there. At one point there wasn’t even time to put down my sputum pot, it was in constant use and so, I suppose, it was inevitable that at some point I’d drift off and spill its contents all over the bloody floor! I suppose I should be glad I missed the bed, but it’s really not the sort of mess you want to clean up in the middle of the night. Or at all.
So, really, if PO is back with such a vengeance, is it wise investing all my spare cash in a FreeWheel?
Part of me says yes, improving my fitness might improve my PO – must check for evidence of that.** Also, being able to get out of here without depending on others (unreliably), will be a bonus. But I can do that with my old powerchair, as I said the other day, for which I now have batteries. And, of course, winter is on the way, which will limit my opportunities for getting out anyway.
**Mayo Clinic says yes, with care.
That’s good enough for me because, if my surgery is to be a success, I have to be fitter, and soon. I live alone so, basically, if I can’t cope with one leg and crutches – even if only to move between bed and wheelchair(s) – then I am monumentally screwed. And at the moment there isn’t a hope in hell of being able to do that so, as well as buying a FreeWheel which I can only use occasionally over the winter, maybe I’d better dig out my weights as well?
At least, using those, I’d be warm and dry!
And when the weather permits (dry and not muddy – taxi drivers tend to sulk if you fill their cabs with mud), I can get out in my powerchair.
Terrible thing, indecision…
So, OK, to sum up. Over the winter, weights for exercise, powerchair for outings, Quickie and FreeWheel for circuits of the garden (no mud there). Might even venture to the park with it.
Next year, if surgery goes well, I should then be as mobile as I need to be.
Sounds like a plan…
A final thought – fitting the FreeWheel is a DIY project and, with some chairs, that’s a project with a capital P (some machining needed on certain models), so download the installation guide and make sure it’s within your capabilities, or you know someone who can do it for you, before ordering. Make sure it fits your particular chair too (footrest size and geometry are important on rigid chairs, and, on folders, the frame tube size is).