Stretched outright, Lynn stands about six-foot tall. For the past three years; however, he has been around four-feet tall. That’s his height when he’s in his wheelchair. Since just before he was hospitalized in 2010, he has not been able to stand up or walk. Being restricted to a wheelchair has; therefore, changed his perspective on how he sees the world. In other words, his view of the world dropped about two feet. This week that changed…
I may have mentioned that we were looking into buying a device that would help him stand. Lynn has been exercising religiously since he got out of the hospital trying to regain the muscle tone he lost while “laid up” for about three months off and on in 2010. It takes much, much longer to get it back than it does to lose it. In fact, we have heard it said that it takes a week for every day of bedrest to get back what was lost. After many hours of exercising, he has now gotten to the point where he wants to focus his energy on possibly being able to stand independently. He realizes he may never be able to do that, much less walk, but he also figures that if he doesn’t try, it will absolutely never happen. Having made that decision, he went in search of a device that could help him reach that goal. He found what he was looking for in the newly released Rifton Tram (find out more at: http://www.rifton.com/adaptive-mobility-blog/tag/rifton-tram/.)
The Tram is a multi-purpose device with a low center of gravity that lifts from below rather than above. In some ways it’s similar to a hoyer lift with the legs that widen but that’s where the similarity stops. It has the ability to be a lift/transfer device, but it also allows you to help the person go from sitting to standing and then from standing to walking. It’s light-weight; only weighing about 70 pounds; and rolls easily. While no medical equipment is cheap, this one actually sells for right around $5000 depending on whether you buy the optional scale device with it as well. The scale allows you to determine how much weight-bearing is occurring and helps with determining progress in that area.
Since the insurance company says this device is too new to demonstrate that it is truly effective in all that it claims to be able to do, they won’t pay for it. They classified it as “experimental” when they rejected it. So, we decided to take the money out of savings. Sure it took a big bite out of what we might have for other things but how do you put a price on hope? For Lynn, the price was $5000. In the scope of what it might do for him, that price seems worth it.
Adaptive Solutions (http://www.myadaptivestore.com/) , the company that helped us find out about this device and purchase it, was very supportive throughout the process. Lee Rooney, the owner, really believes in this equipment, and personally brought us the device and showed me how to use it. For him, it was a two-hour drive from Lynchburg on a Saturday to deliver it to us so that we could ave it as soon as he got it. You can see how dedicated he is to his customers.
Though the process is simple, I have to admit, it takes a lot of practice to get the straps set up to be the most effective for what we want. Yesterday it took me four tries. Once, the straps were too tight in the forward position causing it to lift him into a sitting position rather than standing. Two other tries had him once with his right side longer than his left and then the third time with his left side longer than his right. Finally, I had the straps equal enough that he had almost even pressure on his toes and he was able to stand for a while. Today I got it right on the first try! He was able to push his feet into the floor and to slightly pull back on his knees as if to lock them–both movements being necessary if he wants to stand.
One of the main reasons we got the Tram though is Lynn’s feeling of independence and normalcy. He recalled that when he was in physical therapy, his therapist used to stand him almost upright when he transferred him. He described how exhilarating that feeling was. When he first stood with the Tram, it was a similar experience. “I feel so tall!” he grinned. He explained that he had forgotten how it felt to look down on things. He was so used to being at eye level that to look down and see objects below him made him feel like a giant.
It was a good feeling…for us both.