Towards the end of last year I made crutch holders for my manual wheelchair. Then, later, bought a pair of SmartCrutches which, because of their radically different design, dragged on the floor. I’ve finally got round to fixing that.
These are my SmartCrutches. As you can see they differ substantially from normal forearm crutches, not least in that the hand grip isn’t attached to the shaft. And no, I don’t have blue carpet and pink furniture – these were taken in the communal lounge.
This is the rear view. Crutches are in their holders, a bag is slung between them, the red and black webbing slings wrap around me to carry my hospital bag resting on my feet (or bin bags when taking out rubbish), and behind everything, against the seat back, is a track pump. Hard to see it, but I’m coming to that.
The crutch holders themselves are plastic mailing tubes, about 2 inches in diameter (I tend to keep packaging, it can be useful). Plastic pipe will do the job just as well but without the advantage of being free. The tubes are secured to the chair’s handles with cable ties, which are cut short and the ends, which can be sharp, melted with a flame. At the bottom they are held against the frame by straps.
As you can see, there are a lot of straps on the seat back. Not elegant but they get the job done without damaging the chair.
In this pic you can see the track pump, which is normally hidden behind the bag.
If you’re taking a wheelchair into hospital, some means of keeping the tyres inflated is essential, and I find a cyclist’s track pump the best solution. I’ve tried CO2 inflators and while they are fine for emergency use, the CO2 leaks away through the inner tube material quite quickly.
One last point. If you find your chair’s seat a tad sweaty with long use, a fleece is the answer, natural wool rather than synthetic.
And this is mine. And guess what it’s held onto the back with. Yep – a strap! There’s been another strap added where the back joins the seat, to keep the fleece tight and in place. These multi-coloured Arno straps (you can see the colours in the cable-tie photo), are relics from my backpacking days, with some later additions. Amazingly useful and versatile.
I had no faith at all that it would work – if I’m already hot and sweaty, how is something as warm as wool going to help? But it does. I stay cool and dry, and so does the fleece.
With the exception of the bits I’ve just been discussing, the fleece, and the cushion which I already had (a Jay’s Soft Combi at a reasonably sane £64 – I’ve had cars that cost less than some cushions!), the chair, a Quickie Life F,** cost me £1500 (and a couple of careless mouse clicks could have more than doubled that!). Worth it? Absolutely. Built to fit me, I spend about 16 hours a day or more in it, in complete comfort. I have an off-the-peg folder, a perfectly decent chair, that cost £300 and is painful after about 3 hours. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Sadly, when it comes to equipment for the disabled, that generally means paying through the nose!
**The F designation is for Folding. R is the rigid version. Both come with fixed (like mine), or swing-away leg-rests. The fixed version is more compact, useful indoors.
I’m toying with the idea of getting new wheels, because those that came as standard aren’t particularly stiff, and creak annoyingly. This wasn’t a problem when I was just an occasional user, but now I’m full time it’s irritating. The ones I’d like cost £225 each, the ones I’d be happy with, £200 a pair.
I have a pair of the same make – Sun – on my second-hand Quickie Ti and they’re excellent. Whether I can justify the expense, I’m not entirely sure, but if I’m going to take the plunge I’d better do it soon, before this poxy government starts whittling away at my pension and DLA.