Adapting to Life in a Wheelchair After Foot Amputation: My Experience and Tips
Introducing James Bull who is dealing with the changes caused by his recent foot amputation. James will be talking about the ways he is adapting to life in a wheelchair and the products and tips that he is finding useful.
Hi, my name is James, I’m a 45-year-old paediatric Neurology Nurse from Sheffield. I am married with 2 children 5 and 7 years old. We live in a boxy semi-detached in Hillsborough.
In the last year, I developed a recurrence of a malignant tumour in my left foot and ankle. Previous major surgery to the foot made further surgery impossible, so three weeks ago I had a below-the-knee amputation.
So after two decades of looking after children in wheelchairs, and their families, I am now adapting to life in a wheelchair myself.
Most of my specialisms and clinical contact within Neurology involved looking after children and young people with complex health needs. Pretty much every single one is in a wheelchair. I, also, managed the continuing care team for a while, which, amongst other things, involved detailed assessments of these children and families’ practical needs at home. The reason I am telling you all this is that I don’t think it’s arrogant to say, I was an able-bodied person with a lot of insight into the life and problems of people in wheelchairs.
YET, when I ended up in a wheelchair myself, the annoying minutiae of daily living, that I had never even considered, despite my prior knowledge, meant I had to get some gadgets pretty quickly.
Adapting to Life in a Wheelchair: Some Essential Gadgets for Everyday Living
The Reacher Grabber: My Extended Arm
The primary reason I wanted the Reacher Grabber was to open high kitchen cabinets and get out mugs and cups. Due to our young children, all the treats are kept up high so I wanted help with that too. It works very well for that, but it also helps with picking things up off the floor. Usually, shoes or blankets are thrown by my children that need moving to get my wheelchair past. It is also great for reaching things at my level but is a struggle to reach because the wheelchair sets you back from tables and countertops.
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The claw itself was much more sturdy than I imagined. I think I had those children’s toy claws in mind, but it is made mainly from metal and is properly screwed together. The claw itself has rubber inserts so has a great grip. Personally, I even trust it to carry glass cups from high cupboards. The “trigger” is easy to press and I would imagine it is usable even for some with arthritic conditions.
Very highly recommended.
The T-Pull Door Closer: A Simple Solution to a Big Problem
Closing doors was another challenge. It was hard to manoeuvre my wheelchair and close the door behind me. The T-Pull Door Closer came to my rescue. It’s a simple device – a cord with a T-shaped handle at one end and a hook at the other. I attach the hook to the door handle and pull the T-handle to close the door. It’s portable and works on most doors. A simple solution, but it’s made a world of difference.
@techowlpa @Makes Door Closing Easy thanks for the product! #accessibility #disability #3Dprint #AssistiveTech #disabilitytiktok #occupationaltherapy ♬ Beggin’ – Måneskin
The Muggi Mug and Cup Holder: No More Spills
One of the moments that I suddenly realised how difficult simple things could be, was on the first day out of the hospital when I managed to make myself a cup of coffee. Nobody else was in the house and I realised that I was going to have to drink my coffee in the kitchen. Obviously, I couldn’t move from the kitchen to lounge with a scalding hot coffee on my lap. The muggy cup holder has been great for that. It has four holders in a square. The holders fit most mugs and cups. If the cup is a little small, the handle holder secures it in place, so there’s no wobbling. The holder has rubber on the bottom and sits perfectly on the Trasaback table. Very little risk of sliding. It has been nice to be able to make drinks for myself and my family and friends. I honestly think showing that level of independence has been very consoling to my worried family. An excellent product, used every day.
This product is fantastic and is used pretty much constantly every day. When you are in a wheelchair, you have to be aware of movement efficiency. Part of that is carrying things around with you, that perhaps if you could walk, you’d be less mindful of. So for instance, if I go upstairs, I get there and realise I have forgotten something, it is a pain to go all the way down again. Also, I have to crawl up the stairs or bum shuffle, so it is physically impossible to carry things up and down stairs as I need both hands. In these cases, travelling from room to room downstairs is invaluable. It is also useful as a bag when going out of the house.
The table part is useful for many things. For example, I went to the pub for a carvery. The way the tables were, meant I could not put my legs under it. So I could pull right up to the table and eat off the trabasack. As I have diabetes, the table is useful for setting out all my blood monitoring and insulin syringe equipment. I suspect any disabled person would be able to think of many useful applications for this product specific to them.
In terms of quality, the bag is made of high-quality material. The zips have metal rings on the clasp for ease of opening and closing. There is plenty of room inside. The table is made of a non-stick-type rubber material. As I said before, it’s great with the mug holder but is non-slip for many things. I’ve had mine for a month, using it constantly, every day and there has been no degrading to the product at all.
Another highly recommended product.
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Adapting to life in a wheelchair, just the start of a long journey
In conclusion, adapting to life in a wheelchair has been a challenging journey and I’m just starting! These tools have made it a bit easier. If you’re facing a similar situation, I hope these tips will be helpful to you. All these products have been extremely useful and are of very good quality. I can recommend them with no qualms. I hope to order more things as my specific needs become apparent over time.
Other articles by James can be found on his medium blog. We hope he will share more tips and info for our readers here.
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