On June 13th I was referred by my GP to the wheelchair services in Essex. I was surprised at how quickly my appointment came through, and even more surprised at how soon the appointment was, especially as we had to ring up and change it! I had my wheelchair assessment on July 3rd.
Prior to the appointment I was nervous and trying to find out exactly what happened at these appointments, in order to allieve some of the anxiety I had about it. Given my experience with specialists in recent months, any appointment with a new person in regards to anything which relates to my health leaves me rather anxious. I got some helpful comments from friends on social media but there were differing stories too. So I thought I’d put this blog post together for anyone facing a wheelchair assessment and wondering what to expect; this is based solely on my own experience and may differ elsewhere in the country and depending on your needs etc.
What Happened at the Appointment?
First off, after the introductions, I was asked about how I use the chair. Mainly do I self propel it, the answer to which is a little but not much as I can’t do it for long or any distance. Also how much I use it; I can’t leave the house without it unless I’m going from one door into the car, and able to park right outside the other person’s house. I can’t go around any shops without it.
The next question was why? Is it just a lack of energy or what? The answer to which is rather complex but I kept it fairly simple; it’s mainly fatigue but also my legs are painful, shake and give way beneath me after even a short distance walking on crutches.
The assesor then measured across my hips while I was sat in my secondhand chair, and from my hip to my knee, before leaving the room saying she would see what they had available for me.
She returned with three for me to try, all suitable for my size.
A Sunrise Medical Breezy Moonlight. This I didn’t find particularly supportive, it is the most basic one they do. I couldn’t try self-propelling in it as it was an attendant version in the size I required. Although she did say they did a self-propelling version.
A Sunrise Medical Breezy Rubix. This I found very supportive. I used my own seat cushion (wedged in as it was slightly too wide really) because the foot rests weren’t adjusted for my height but it was comfortable. Plus I could self-propel quite easily; much more easily than any of the self-propelling wheelchairs I’ve had in the past.
And an Invacare Action 3NG. Again this was comfortable to sit in & quite supportive. However I found it difficult, almost impossible to self-propel. Which surprised both me and the lady doing the assessment. I just couldn’t get the momentum on the wheels.
I tried each one before choosing the Sunrise Medical Breezy Rubix which I’d found easiest to self-propel and comfortable. My Dad checked out the weight & had a push and agreed too.
She then went to check the stock and to see how long it would take to get me one. Amazingly they had one in stock & it could be delivered in 7-10 days!
When it was delivered, about 10 days later I believe, it was demonstrated to me and my Mum. They had me sit in it to check the footrest height and concluded it would be about right (it wasn’t and we later had to adjust those ourselves but it does differ depending on what shoes I’m wearing so I can’t really grumble about that!).
We had a few niggles that we identified in the days that followed, which were soon sorted; the cushion they originally provided was slightly too long and rubbed on the back of my legs causing sores. This was rectified in a way but now I have a cushion the correct length, which is an inch too wide for the wheelchair really, so it is quite a squash to get it in! I can’t actually do it myself and it leaves the flip up armrests completely unusable, and so I have been searching for a solution myself. Although it looks like my only option is to make one to fit, which will be fun!
The original armrests were a bit low for me. I think in a way that comes from trying the wheelchair without the type of cushion they provide, but it also stems from me being abnormally long in the body too! These have been adjusted and replaced with bulky padded armrests which make the flip-up feature more difficult to use, but I can actually rest my arms on. Why they are so much wider than the original armrests I don’t know. These niggles can be lived with and are much better than being stuck in the house without a wheelchair.
Overall I was absolutely stunned at how quickly it all happened. I was expecting a long wait for an appointment and then a further wait while the wheelchair was ordered and delivered. But it seems lady luck was on my side. That’s not to say I’m enthralled with the service provided in terms of the minor adjustments, and the initial set up, but considering the pressures the NHS is under I am immensely grateful to have been provided with a wheelchair from them. Even if it isn’t perfect, it suits my needs better than the secondhand one I had, and I now know what to look for should I decide to go out and buy a better one.