Today, after many months’ waiting, the new buggies arrived in the mobility shop. Some time ago, I inherited my uncle’s big buggy which is a very, very good one; very powerful, very comfortable and goes a long way on a single charge.
However, there is a major problem with it, and that is, it is much too big and heavy to go in the car. It is fine for getting to the shops, or to church – launching forth from the garage at home as you can see in the above photo.
However, many of the outings we go on involve going in the car. We belong to the National Trust, for instance, and if we have a day out, visiting one of their properties, the wheelchair is ideal for indoors, and for sitting in the restaurant, but not so good for going around the grounds – despite the power assist wheels, after a fairly short distance, I become too fatigued to self-propel any longer. My hubby has never forgotten (and never lets me forget, lol!) that time we went to the zoo, and he had to push me all the way up the hill to see the tigers! Last time we went to the zoo, the other day, we hired one of the zoo’s buggies and this was ideal.
So what we needed was a smaller, lightweight buggy that could fold up and go in the car, and still leave room for the wheelchair. We visited our local mobility shop, and I tried out quite a few. You really do have to try them – it is too risky to buy a buggy off the Internet, for example, without trying it, because however comfortable it may look, everyone’s body proportions are different, and what suits one will not necessarily suit another. The problem with the ultra-compact foldable buggies is that most of them are not adjustable at all, because this would interfere with the folding mechanism, and most of them were simply not comfortable enough. My arms are too short, which always causes problems, and having to reach further than is comfortable is very fatiguing. Some of them had really uncomfortable seats, and with the small wheels, many of them provided a very bumpy ride.
There was one that was different, though, and this was the SupaScoota. The control column is adjustable for height, and fore and aft angle, so that with it tipped towards me, and the whole thing raised, it was within easy reach and comfort for my arms. The battery is very powerful and it fairly zips along, with a choice of two speeds. With the seat removed, the control column can be folded flat against the base, and even with my adjustment, it still folds OK. Removing the battery makes it lighter for my hubby to lift into the car.
When we first tried it, the only drawback was the awful seat! As you will see from this photo:
The seat is triangular, and very uncomfortable, despite the sprung suspension. I was very disappointed, because apart from that, the rest of the features were ideal for me. The man in the shop told us that the manufacturers were about to bring out a new model with an improved seat, which was rectangular, and with a better back support. The buggy would also have an automatic setting that caused it to slow down when you turn a corner, but there would be a button to override this feature. We were very interested in this new model, and he said they would be getting some in soon. This took months longer than we’d hoped, but they knew we were interested, and let us know as soon as the prototype model arrived in the shop, and we went to try it.
You can see how much better the new seat looks. The foot rests are also larger. This is the four-wheel model (which we chose), but there is also a three-wheel model, and you can also have the extra “training” wheels for the front if you want. The new model is actually gold, not orange, and I much prefer this colour.
Here is a video of the original SupaScoota – the new model is so new that there aren’t any videos yet. (Perhaps we ought to make one!!) The new model is slightly easier to disassemble and fold, but apart from the new seat and suspension, the details are pretty much the same as on the video. I chose this Youtube video from Canada because it seemed to show best how the buggy folds up, and a lot of its features.
I tried the prototype in the shop, and after the control column was adjusted for me, I absolutely loved it! I took it for a good little spin outside, and my hubby practised taking the seat off and folding it up, and if he removes one seat from the back of our car, it will go in beside the wheelchair with no problem at all. He can also use the crane in the back of the car to lift it in. So we paid a deposit, and we then had another long wait, until this morning when the shop phoned to say they were in at last.
We went to collect it, and I am one of the first people in the country to get this new model – apparently there are only two shops that supply the SupaScooter – our local one, which is the importer, and another shop which I think he said was in Hampshire. Afterwards, as it was such a beautiful spring day, my hubby took me on an outing to try it out – this was by way of an experiment for him, too, to see how well he could get it in and out of the car. We went to Brunel Woods, at the entrance of which is a kissing gate to prevent mountain bikers invading the woods. This makes it very disabled unfriendly! There was no way my hubby could get my wheelchair through, but today, he tried the disassembled buggy – it was a bit of an effort but he managed to lift it over. He said afterwards that if he’d removed the motor as well as the battery, it would have been a bit lighter.
Off we went, and it was pretty steep! There was also a thick covering of beech nuts on the ground, and at one time I did lose control a bit and started sliding back! It was only when we got home that my hubby read in the instruction manual that you shouldn’t take it up a slope steeper than a certain number of degrees (and we were sure our path was steeper than that!!) and also that it should be run on a firm surface! So we broke all the rules on Day One lol! Anyway, we put it through its paces, and it was fine.
In Brunel Woods there is an extraordinary collection of wood carvings in honour of our greatest engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the central feature of which is a dead tree trunk which has been carved into a totem pole, depicting all the things that I.K. Brunel constructed. It is surrounded by three more carvings, one of which is a statue of the great man himself.
Here is my hubby with I.K. Brunel, which gives a sense of the scale of the carvings.
Here is the totem pole, a bit closer up.
At the base of the totem pole, the date when it was made has been carved.
After admiring these things, we went for a wander in the woods. The sun was shining through the trees, and all the birds were in full song. There is something about birdsong in a wood – it echoes off the trees, and sounds so full and rich. In a few weeks’ time, these woods will be full of bluebells! To me, there is nothing more beautiful than a beech wood with a carpet of bluebells, with the sun filtering through the translucent, young green leaves of my favourite tree. If the oak is the king of the English wood, then the beech must surely be the queen.
Finally, here are some pictures of me using my new buggy. You can see that there is a bag on the back of the seat – we had hoped that the bag from my big buggy would fit, but it wouldn’t, so we got the one to fit this mini-scooter while we were at it. The basket on the front is actually surprisingly capacious – better than the one on my big buggy, but I shall still need to be able to carry more, especially after my operation when I will need to carry my emergency kit with me, for bag-changing etc. There is also room underneath the seat for another basket if I want it.
You can see from these photos how the control column has been adjusted to suit me. (Note my new hair colours!! Also, the felt poppies hair clip I made last year in the felt class.)
It’s a very nice, zippy little buggy and will do just fine for our outings, enabling us to go further afield and not be tied. It isn’t quite as comfortable as the big one, but with its improved seat and the sprung suspension, it’s not at all bad.
Today was another of what my hubby calls “spoilies” before I go into hospital. We were so pleased that the new buggies arrived before I went in! We have now got it all ready for when I am better enough to go out and about again. Another purpose in the second postponement of my surgery, perhaps?
Talking of which, having had nothing in the post from the hospital today and it being Friday, I thought I would phone them just to see if they had any news, and I spoke to Mr. Pullan’s secretary. She said he would be away until Tuesday. I asked her to phone me as soon as she had a date for my admission, and she said that would be fine. She said I was already at the top of his list, and it looked likely that I would have it done a week today, Friday 27th March, which would be exactly a month after my first scheduled admission on 27th February. (I am getting a bit concerned at the delay now, because that’s another whole month for the cancer to be growing… However, if they were worried about that, they would have got me in urgently and I’d have had another surgeon to do it.) She obviously could not confirm this date in the absence of Mr. Pullan, but hopefully we will get definite confirmation as soon as he returns to work.