Yesterday we went over to Exeter to collect my new wheelchair which had arrived a lot sooner than I’d expected – I was fully prepared to have to wait till after Christmas.
It is extremely stylish in black – a lovely blank canvas to work on when it comes to pimping! It was instantly very comfortable, and I could immediately tell the difference between a wheelchair that has been tailor-made to measure and one that has not, although my old Rolls Royce was very comfortable. After using it for a while, however, I don’t think it’s quite as tippy as I would like – wheelies are quite difficult to do – so I will arrange to go back and have the centre of gravity adjusted backwards a little – the power add-on company say they can adjust this to compensate for the extra weight of the system, so that it remains the same for me.
After picking it up, we went to do some shopping, and I really missed the power system – we’d left the old Rolls Royce at home because the car with the ramp was in for servicing – my hubby had to push me most of the time outside (not pleasant for me – I hate being pushed!) and uncomfortable for him as the handles on the new chair are too low for a tall person. In the shops it was fine, because the floors tend to be low-friction which reduces rolling resistance.
I specifically ordered the fold-down push-handles because handles on the back of a wheelchair give out a powerful message: “I’m helpless/a crip/a baby – push me!” and it’s not unheard of for well-meaning ABs (Able Bodied people) to grab hold of the handles and push a wheelchair without the user’s permission (again, presumably, because they think that because their legs don’t work, neither do their brains, and they have no autonomy). Fold-down handles are a very good idea, because they are virtually invisible when folded, but can be snapped into position when needed. I am pleased that these ones are easy to fold down again, at the touch of a button, single-handed, while seated in the chair. One of the things I didn’t like about the Kuschall wheelchair I looked at initially was that the fold-down handles were not as discreet – when folded, they projected above the back, which spoilt the line of the chair.
The frame of the Helium is extremely minimalist, doing away with the lower frame of the Quickie GPV (the model of my old Rolls Royce), cutting down the weight considerably. The whole chair is slightly higher than the old one, but that is no problem, and it’s really nice no longer to be sitting on terminally sagging upholstery! The brakes are small and neat and do not project upwards like the Rolls Royce ones, which sometimes catch on clothing. Their mechanism is very clever, and easy to operate.
I am glad I spent the extra money to have decent upholstery on the back, which looks extremely stylish as well as being made of breathable fabric, and having a pocket on the back to stow small items.
Overall it’s a cool piece of kit and I can’t wait to get the power system transferred – which may happen before Christmas – I phoned the company this morning and it depends on whether the representative is going to be in our area to collect both chairs and return them in as short a time as possible as I am reluctant to depend on a courier. Whatever happens, I shall have to resort to a hired Iron Maiden again for the duration – not a prospect I am looking forward to!
Here are some pictures. Firstly, beside the old Rolls Royce for comparison:
You can see the minimalism of the frame in this shot. The next picture is the back view, showing the push-handles folded down, and also the pouch on the back of the chair. You can also see the camber adjustment on the wheel axles. The wheels, of course, are quick-release, and the back folds down onto the seat when you pull the cord at the base, for easy stowage in the car etc.
This shows the side and back view.
The brakes are placed discreetly below the seat frame. In the open position they look like this:
and to close them, you simply pull the levers towards the wheels until the brakes click beyond top dead centre. Releasing them is just as easy: simply push the levers away from the wheels and they spring into the open position. Very pleasing design!
I am extremely pleased with my new set of wheels. However, they look very naked and unadorned at present, and I can’t wait till they come back from having the power system installed, hopefully before Christmas, so that I can go ahead and bling them up ready for Christmas and beyond!
When we went shopping after collecting it yesterday, I bought some new baubles and tinsel to go on it, in silver and purple. I am going to put my black spoke guards on, with the bling on them, and eventually I shall design and decorate some new spoke guards with a more 3-D collage effect. For more permanent decoration, I am hoping to attach some purple hot-fix gems in swirls down the front frame, and also along the outer edge of the side guards, which have a nice little recess just crying out for a line of sparkles!