A few years ago, my life changed. I went from being a sporty, confident student to being unable to walk without tremendous hip pain due to the onset of a condition called Hypermobility Syndrome, which causes my joints to be unstable in their sockets. The result of this was chronic pain and fatigue, which left me turning to using a walking stick age 22. However, increasingly, this solution wasn’t enough and I found myself missing out on events and socialising. To try and combat this, my sister bought me a manual wheelchair. While this was a great improvement for me being able to be out of the house when having a ‘bad leg day’, I soon found that, as I have the same condition in my shoulders as my hips, I was unable to ‘self-propel’ unless on a completely smooth, flat surface, and on ‘bad shoulder days’ not at all.
This led to me frequently having to wait for someone else to return home and accompany me if I wanted to leave the house, and I struggled with this loss of independence equally as much as the physical pain. But then, a few months ago, my life changed again. I took the step of purchasing a Foldalite powerchair in a bid to regain some independence and take part in activities without my body holding me back. I’m thrilled to say it exceeded my expectations, and my quality of life has improved exponentially. Here are some of my adventures with my Foldalite so far!
My first outing was doing something that seems so simple, but I’d been missing out on for too long, a shopping trip! Immediately I was so excited (and a bit emotional) to be able to move side-by-side with my boyfriend all day, instead of him pushing my manual chair. I found it really easy to control, and was happy to see that it was small enough to move between clothing rails in my favourite stores! I also couldn’t believe how much energy I still had by the end of the trip, I was finally starting to feel like my old self again.
Due to its small size and how easy it is to handle, I felt comfortable taking the Foldalite to a very busy Christmas market with a group of friends. I rarely used to feel confident going out with a larger group, but I was relaxed as I didn’t have to worry about having to ask them to stop for me to sit down! I had a great time, I laughed more than I had in ages. Additionally, as I didn’t have to take strong painkillers to walk around, I was able to enjoy a mulled wine!
I decided to try taking my powerchair to one of my craft fayres, as they often leave me tired and sore, and I’m glad I did. I was able to really help with unloading and moving my products, instead on wholly relying on my partner to carry everything (which he was pleased about as well).
The chair also fits comfortably behind and underneath the table, meaning I was able to stay in it through the whole process. The padded and breathable seat was also much comfier than the plastic chairs which are normally provided!
I was home alone when I happily submitted my final Master’s project, which focused on accessibility in the events industry. The blue sky reflected my mood and I felt like getting out of the house and enjoying the day. I wasn’t having a good day physically, and previously, would have had to wait for someone to come home and help me get out and about. However, I was able to make the most of my day with my powerchair by taking myself for a long ride to a spot I like, and getting a coffee. I was out for about four hours on my own, which was such a blessing and really topped my day off.
I was called into London to model for a wheelchair accessible clothing brand, and knew it was going to be a long day. It was the first time I would be using my chair on public transport, and was pretty nervous about it! I was put at ease however as many underground stations have completely step free access onto the train, and Google Maps has the option to select wheelchair accessible public transport which, for the six trains I took, was accurate. Although sometimes a little steep, I had no problems driving the chair up ramps onto conventional trains as it is so narrow, and the phone holder accessory I have came in handy for storing and accessing train tickets! I was also able to pack everything I needed for the day into my backpack from CareCo, including my walking stick in the side holder. This made the day go incredible smoothly, and meant I had enough energy after the shoot to meet my sister for dinner in the city!
Having a powerchair has helped me regain my independence and happiness, and made me feel much more like my ‘old-self’. Another benefit which I hadn’t considered has also been that my pain levels have actually lessened, due to not having to ‘push’ my body to uncomfortable limits to participate in everyday activities and social events. Through Instagram (@chick_with_a_walking_stick) I’ve been able to share my experiences, which has led to people in a similar position reaching out, and letting me know that after they’ve seen my powerchair adventures, they’ve got a Foldalite for themselves and it’s changed their lives too. I am very thankful for my chair, and excited for many more adventures in my Foldalite electric wheelchair!