Hiring a wheelchair is something you don’t often see written about in the public domain. Most people have purchased their wheelchairs, whether they be manual or electric. If they haven’t purchased them new, they’ve bought one second hand.
Unfortunately, wheelchairs, and especially electric ones, are seriously expensive. For most of us with chronic illness, we can’t work or if we do (like me now) it’s just a handful of hours a week. From home. With the comfort of a sofa close by and/or a wheelchair to get about.
(Note: the reason for my lack of writing recently is that I’ve been setting up my life-long dream of owning my own business. That business is teaching children to play the piano. It’s something I’ve always thought about, people regularly asking me if it would be something I would want to do, but never got round to it. While I love blogging, it doesn’t exactly pay, so I needed something that was going to bring in a bit. Note, I work for 5 hours a week. That’s it. I work from the comfort of my home, people come to me, I rest before and after and I can just about manage.)
So, what do you do if you want the use of a wheelchair but can’t afford to buy one?
For me, I have gone on quite the journey to find the right mobility product.
I started with my rollator. It worked well to keep me upright and help with the dizziness but didn’t help with the fatigue. I’d sit down on the little seat part of it when I got tired (after about 20 metres), then stand and walk a bit more, but each time I sat my body didn’t magically fill up with energy. The crashes at that time were crazy. On a regular basis my legs would simply give way, deciding to no longer work. Life with a toddler was seriously hard work.
I then bought my manual wheelchair. A Karma Ergo 115. (Don’t ask why there is a wheelchair brand called Karma. It feels so very wrong.) It made sense at the time to break up my “leg days” and “arm days”. I figured that if some days I used my manual wheelchair that would become an “arm day” i.e. the arm and upper body strength required to self-propel. Funnily enough when you’re seriously overweight (and under-fit) like me, that’s pretty hard work. And I didn’t want to be housebound so I forced myself to leave the house and self-propel around all the smooth surfaced areas I could find: supermarkets, shopping centres, that was about it. On other days I would use my rollator.
But the crashes were still happening. I couldn’t get control of these crashes and I hated them happening. I hated not being able to put my daughter to bed, or even take her to and from nursery.
Hiring a Powerchair
So, I investigated hiring a powerchair (also called electric wheelchairs). And I honestly haven’t looked back. I don’t honestly know why I didn’t get an electric wheelchair in the first place, but I reckon an internal ableism was at work, trying to tell me just to push on through. (In case you didn’t already know, pushing through with ME CFS is a seriously bad idea. It makes you worse.)
I didn’t know what kind of powerchair I’d need or want and certainly couldn’t afford to spend several thousands of pounds on buying one outright.
I figured a folding powerchair would be a good option. Fold it down, lift it into the car boot and take it wherever we were going. I was desperate to be able to do “normal” things with my daughter like taking her to the zoo, or to a farm.
My first hire was the Horizon Gadabout, a folding powerchair available from Mobility Hire for short term hire contracts of only 2 weeks. It seemed perfect. I could finally go from my front door to the playgrounds, into town, anywhere I liked really! I called up Mobility Hire on 0800 111 6234 and the staff there were brilliant. I simply just had to hand over my details, pay the cost of the hire and the chair was at my front door the next day.
I was seriously excited about getting out from my front door, without having to get in the car. However, something I’d never noticed on the pavements around our house: there are potholes. Everywhere. I’m sure other places have better quality pavements. Not here. Complete patchwork of different kinds of surfaces, and holes all over the place. Now I’m not light by any stretch of the imagination. The Horizon Gadabout, while it is a great wheelchair for those who need the ability to fold it, for my weight, it just wasn’t supporting me the way I needed it to.
“Sunrise Medical Q200R”
So, I called up Mobility Hire again, explained the situation and we simply swapped the Horizon Gadabout for a much sturdier powerchair, the Sunrise Medical Q200R. A massive positive to this was a greater level of sturdy-ness, more ability to get over the surfaces of the local area, and most pleasingly of all, enormous wheels that are able to climb mini kerbs! Note: the chair won’t be able to climb up regular height kerbs, but I’d say half-height ones.
Again, I had this on a short-term hire basis and I loved it. I was using it pretty much every day and I had my independence back. Slowly but surely my crashes were becoming less and less frequent and I was able to get out more and do more generally.
My husband and I decided that transferring onto a long-term hire schedule would be the most sensible option. Mainly because the weekly hire cost would be about half, but also so I knew that any insurance, break down cover (yes you need break down cover for something that weighs 100kg!) and maintenance would be covered.
I now have the Q200R on a long-term hire basis, and now that I have my Motability car via my PIP benefit, I have a hoist in the boot that allows me to transport it wherever and whenever I like.
Having a powerchair has given me a greater level of independence and freedom than I’ve had at any stage through my ME CFS journey. It’s allowed me to regain some level of social life and has got me the fresh air I need on a regular basis to keep me sane.
I would recommend Mobility Hire for hiring a mobility product. They’ve been absolutely fantastic in helping me and I’m sure they’d be the same for anyone else.