Sep 092010

My wife seated on a small three wheel scooter

My wife shopping for her first scooter.

When is it time for a scooter (or wheelchair)?

From the moment I was diagnosed, I have had a simple philosophy about using the various mobility aids that are available to us. I say use them all if they make your life better or safer! I know there are those who feel like using a scooter is “giving up”. But it is important to realize when pride is getting in the way of your future lifestyle. I have seen people trying to walk whose leg muscles are so weak that their knee joints are bending backwards at almost a 45° angle. For me, after I had made several trips to urgent care and come away with casts and bandages, I realized that walking was an adventure I couldn’t afford.

Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t have a very enlightened attitude about the mobility needs of the disabled. They have always operated on the philosophy that if you were able to get from the bed to the toilet, you didn’t need any more help. Fortunately for me, I was not yet on Medicare when I decided to get a scooter and I was able to write a convincing letter to my insurance company explaining that it would save them a lot of money to get me a scooter so that I would stop falling and breaking things. Amazingly enough, it worked.

Once I had my scooter, a three wheel model (more about that in a later post) it was as though a whole new world had opened for me. I loved taking it for drives around the neighborhood, to the stores, to the library, to the post office. Once again I was able to get out and enjoy the fresh air. As my weakness progressed, a new challenge emerged: how could I take my scooter with me on driving trips, such as on vacation? Fortunately, there was a solution for that as well, although it wasn’t inexpensive.

The same mobility store that sold me a scooter also carried vans that had been modified. The most expensive type are those which have a ramp that automatically deploys so that you can drive right up inside, but I wasn’t in need of that just yet. Instead I purchased a used Plymouth minivan that had a swing-out lift in the rear. With that I could pick up the scooter and place it in the rear of the van and then carefully walk around to the driver side and get in. This worked for several years, until I got too weak in the legs to safely maneuver around the outside of the van. Two serious falls occurred during this process and that told me I was ready for the next level of van.

But before that, I had also reached another milestone–I was outgrowing my scooter and ready to graduate to a wheelchair. In the next article, I will talk about some of the differences between scooters and wheelchairs and some of the many decisions that need to be made when you select one.