Sometimes you get a lot more out of a product than you expected. My wife and I recently purchase one of those lightweight, fold-up, power travel wheelchairs and it has turned
out to be a real blessing. Although I am a relentless consumer of information about things that could help people such as my wife, who have had strokes, I had never heard of this particular product until a blogger from this site, who writes under the name Strokewife, told me about it. She had bought one for her husband and assured me that it was a godsend for them and allowed them to take a much-needed cruise together. With that information, I set out to research the product quite a bit. I finally found a chair slightly more expensive than the one Strokewife bought and decided to buy it. The reason was that it has a footrest that can fold back out of the way, thus enabling the user to get closer before sitting down. This particular chair, made in Malaysia, also impressed me with its quality and with various reviews I read. The chair is made out of lightweight aircraft aluminum and folds up to the size of carry-on luggage. Indeed, that makes it ideal of air travel, though some airlines apparently require you to check it rather than store it in the cabin. Although the chair's weight is not a lot lower than the weight of the manual chair we had been using, it is far quicker and easier to use and requires no assembly to set up once you pull it out of your vehicle. Five days after I ordered the chair it arrived from Malaysia, fully charged and ready to go. We took a few days for Dorothy to become acquainted with it inside the house before taking it out. We started in an uncrowded grocery store before progressing through a slightly crowded Costco and then to one of our favorite restaurants. It was wonderful. Let me tell you why.
I never minded pushing Dorothy and her manual chair anywhere she wanted to go but she did, at least some. She said she never felt independent when she had to be pushed through stores, restaurants or what have you. As for me, the problem with the manual chair was that I always had to stop for doors that don't open automatically. If no one held the door open for us, I would have to open the door myself and awkwardly push Dorothy and the chair on through it while she did her best to help with the one good leg she has and I held the door open until she got through it. Once inside I had to go everyplace she went, of course. Furthermore, I couldn't use a shopping cart because I couldn't push one of those and the wheelchair too. It was all do-able but somewhat inconvenient. With the power chair, once I have it outside of our SUV and unfolded, Dorothy can get in and go anywhere she wishes. If she wants to browse one part of Costco while I browse another area, she can do so. If I lose sight of her I can call her on her cell phone or she can call me. And of course I can use a cart to put items in just like we did pre-stroke. It may sound simple and even trite but it makes a huge difference for use. We go out more often because it is easier and more enjoyable. In short, this chair is wonderful and well worth the $2,500 price.
Everywhere we go people take notice of the chair. Not many have seen one for some reason even though they been around for several years. I'm not sure why except that they are travel chairs and I don't think insurance usually pays for them. To me they are a great, mostly undiscovered treasure and I am forever indebted to Strokewife for telling me about them. The chairs even look good and are far more compact than a manual chair.
Dorothy has a regular power chair, by the way, but it weighs more than 200 pounds and thus cannot be transported without installing one of those lifts on the back of our vehicle. While we could do that, it would be less than ideal in that we would still have to get the chair from inside our house to the garage, which requires use of a portable ramp. Once again, it is do-able but not convenient and thus discourages usage. Another option would be one of those full-size power travel chairs that can be disassembled into three pieces so as to be stored in the back of a car or SUV. That would work but assembling and disassembling a full-size power wheelchair is not exactly convenient. With the foldable chair that we bought, you just pull it out of the vehicle and open it. No leg rests to install, no parts to assemble, no nothing. The battery is lightweight and is based on the technology long used by the computer industry. The 45-pound total weight of the chair is a bit heavier than you might think but I can handle it fine and I am 73 years old. Women my age might have more trouble, so everyone should keep that in mind. Then again, anyone who manages to load and unload a manual chair could certainly handle this one.
I'm telling you folks all of this because this kind of wheelchair might do as much to improve the quality of your lives as it has done for ours. I can't overstate what a difference it makes. Going out and getting around is so much simpler and easier than it was prior to our purchase of this chair. It has literally been a life changer for us just as it was for my friend Strokewife and her husband. We leave it in the back of our SUV so it is always loaded and ready to go.
There are several brands of these chairs on the market and I have no way of comparing them. Ours is called Foldawheel and it is sold on the manufacturer's website, Wheelchair88.com, as well as on Amazon. We bought the smaller chair in the series because my wife is not large. It's plenty big for her and can even transport me a test drive showed. All I can tell you is that we have found no problems with the chair or the company in the 3 months since our purchase. The company has been easy to reach and responsive when we've had questions. And their shipping was flawless and fast. I can't vouch for the other manufacturers but I have no reason to think they wouldn't be fine too.
So there, I've said it. You all know what I know and if you think this kind of chair would be as good for you as it has been for my wife and me, I wish you the very best.