As many of you know (and were an amazing part of) at the end of 2019 I set up a GoFundMe to raise funds for a brand new foldable, lightweight awesome wheelchair. Through the absolute love and generosity of many of my family, friends and even strangers, I was lucky enough to achieve my goal. If you’d like to read more about this, pop back to my previous blog post.
I purchased the wheelchair of my dreams – the Lith-Tech Smart Chair 1 XL. I knew this wheelchair would change my life and those around me in so many ways. This is partially why I’m writing this blog today.
Every Monday I’m going to be writing a micro-blog post about my daily life and adventures with my new ‘chair. It serves as a thank you to all of the wonderful people who helped me on my financial journey to fund the wheelchair, but I hope it also delivers vital information and ideas for those who need help with mobility. Lastly, I’d like to bring hope and an understanding place to chat to those experiencing now what I was going through in late 2019 regarding mobility and wheelchair issues. This first post is longer than upcoming posts will be moving forward but I hope you’ll forgive the need for a few more details in this intro piece.
So, for my first Mobility Monday I’ll start at the beginning. I found Lith-Tech online whilst searching for the term ‘electric folding wheelchair’. My dad had seen someone in a local supermarket car park with a folding electric wheelchair earlier in 2019 and my interest was instantly piqued. I had seen some other similar models available on Amazon or through ordering abroad but finding a UK supplier that offered demos and support was important to me. I wanted to make sure I was making the right purchase, for me that means feeling how the ‘chair moves with me in, how stable I feel and how it controls. Lith-Tech are primarily an online company and take pride in having such a great descriptive and ordering service that many people can just place an order off of the website or over the phone with ease. They even have video tutorials so you can see exactly how to work with your chosen chair and how they perform. I was however extremely happy being able to arrange an appointment with them at short notice at their office in Surrey, to go and have a trial run and chat.
I took the hour or so drive (as a passenger, my disability stops me from driving) as an opportunity to enjoy some Pokémon Go gaming. Halfway into our journey, the heavens opened, and terrifying levels of rain fell on to the busy motorway. After having such an awful time with my NHS wheelchair constantly breaking and leaving me in vulnerable and dangerous positions, the colossal downpour seemed like it was sending a message of new beginnings, trying to wash away the dirt of the last month that figuratively and literally had been plaguing my every day. I wish I could say I was excited but honestly, I was nervous. What if the wheelchair wasn’t what I’d hoped for? What if it wasn’t great for what I specifically needed? What if I got a bad vibe? My brain found lots of what if’s on that journey.
My nerves fell away when we arrived. The team at Lith-Tech and their gorgeous COD (Chief Office Dog, Rosie) immediately made me feel completely comfortable. We chatted about the problems I’d been having with my NHS wheelchair, what I felt I needed in a ‘chair and everything else around those topics. You could tell these guys have a real passion for their wheelchairs, I was given absolutely every piece of information I could possibly want and thoroughly enjoyed my physical demo of the ‘chair, too. It was such smooth driving! The what if’s that had been pouring through my thoughts like the torrential rain on the motorway were all unfounded. I could have easily ordered the wheelchair online or over the phone as noted on their website as everything WAS exactly as carefully described.
They talked me through the folding mechanisms, back and front coming together to produce a compact and lightweight wheelchair able to fit in most boot spaces or back seats. It really is an amazing thing to see this fully functioning, strong and stable wheelchair fold down and right back up again with ease (yes, even with one hand!) similar to a child’s pushchair.
The battery charging was another novel experience for me to behold. Charging that can be done away from the ‘chair frame! The two battery components are tucked away down each side of the wheelchair and are easily removeable with a simple click. The wheelchair can run on one battery alone so you can charge the batteries separately or both together, whilst still on the wheelchair. It’s little touches like this that make this wheelchair so adaptable.
That’s the key word for me in this journey. Adaptable. Wheelchairs are seen as a medical necessity, which there’s no denying they are but that’s not to say that they have to be bare bones functional or completely unadaptable to the growing modern world around us as well. I am so lucky to have NHS support and the ability to have a modern electric wheelchair, as manual wheelchairs operated by myself dislocate my shoulder and finger joints. There is no shame in needing something more though. Something you can travel in cabs, cars, and public transport with, something relatives, friends or people passing by can lift and help with if you’re in need of assistance. With a mobility aid, we should be aiming for something that ticks far more boxes than it crosses, as the world already crosses enough for us.
Next week I’ll be chatting about bringing my Smart Chair 1 XL home and a few of the journeys we’ve had together so far. Are you, or do you know, a wheelchair user? Do you think the adaptability of a lightweight folding ‘chair could be what you need? Let me know below!