Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase a power wheelchair. I had been waiting to be seen by Northumberland wheelchair services but as I was referred in October 2017 and still haven’t heard from them for an appointment now, November 2018, we decided to look at the options of purchasing one ourselves. I’d already heard about a few different chairs that were available and after some online research, I found one to try out. A local dealer brought out a Quickie Puma 40 wheelchair, and after a test drive, it was decided that this chair had everything I needed, and this was the one!
The chair has several different features that allow it to adjust to suit many different needs; the entire seat can be tilted to provide a comfortable position if you’re sitting in it all day, you can increase the height of the seat, allowing you to be at the same level as others, and allowing you to sit at a bar or bar table without having to get out of the chair, the back can be reclined right back to allow you to be lying flat, and on my chair, the leg rests are electric and can be put up together, or one at a time. Not all Puma 40s have these as the chair can be customised a lot to suit you, it comes with standard leg rests that don’t go up, you can pay more to have manual leg rests that are controlled by a lever and then pushed back down with your legs, and for more, you can have the electric leg rests that are controlled by the joystick. It is quite expensive to add the electric leg rests but for some, they’re the only option. The chair also has a horn, indicators, headlights and hazard lights, giving you safety for travelling in the dark, and the horn is great when in crowds that haven’t heard your many excuse mes! There are three different modes to use, indoor, outdoor and road, these adjust the maximum speed you can go to suit the environment you’re in.
The pros? I love that I can adjust the height of my chair! I can ‘walk’ at the same height as others I’m with, and it just makes me feel so normal and more included in conversations. Being able to move up also allows for me to reach things in shops without needing to either get someone else to get something for me, or having to attempt to stand up and reach up. The ability to recline the back rest and put my leg rests up has meant that I can manage my PoTS, and back, hip and knee pain, a lot better, meaning I can manage to be out of the house for longer. In my manual chair, I had to be sat upright, with my legs down, and I can only manage this for so long before my PoTS warning signs would start and I’d be left feeling terrible for days. I also love how much you can adjust the chair to suit you and your size; the headrest can be at different heights or removed completely, you can adjust how far away the seat is from the back, and the length of the leg rests. It fits smaller people like me, and would also fit someone much taller, with only a few small adjustments. The joystick is very easy to move and doesn’t need a lot of power, it reacts to gentle movements that don’t put pressure on your fingers or wrist. It does take practice to get used to how sensitive the joystick is, there’ll be a few jolty experiences at first.
The cons? The size of the whole chair, even when taken apart a bit and folded down, is a little bit insane! I know there’s a lot of mechanicy stuff that needs encasing in the chair, but it is still a little restricting sometimes when you have no choice but to be in a small space. The light clips on the sides of the chair are also very easily broken, the clips that attach them are quite flimsy and one bump is enough to snap them.
The price… as with most mobility aids, this power chair certainly comes at a cost. The basic configuration is £5,170. Electric reclining back rest, tilt function, height adjustment, electric elevating leg rests, non standard cushions, lights, tyres and different controllers all cost extra, and it all adds up quickly.
The price tag on the Puma 40 might be rather large but this chair has been worth every single penny. Being able to leave the house alone, to go shopping or to the pharmacy independently is something that I’d wanted to be able to do for so long. I can go out on my own or with friends and I’m able to do everything that they can, without needing someone to push my chair, and without suffering from pain, blood pooling or passing out. This chair has opened up my world and I wish that power chairs with needed adjustments were more available to those who need them, they’re a real life changer.