Mostly constructed from stainless steel, aluminum and lightweight plastics beach wheelchairs are capable of withstanding fresh and salt water. With large balloon tyres they roll over soft sand without digging in and aid buoyancy in the water. Beach wheelchairs are also excellent for travelling over snow, soft grass, mud and terrain that is difficult to negotiate in a standard wheelchair. When on rough terrain the balloon tyres absorb the impact from rocks, gravel and rutted tracks. Beach wheelchairs are a great way to cross soft sand and enter the water. They range in price starting from a few hundred dollars. Self propelled models are rare and so a common downfall is they require an assistant.

Mountain climbing to the top of the highest in Africa, the 19,340 feet high Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, is quite an accomplishment for any person. Paralyzed 28-year-old Erica Davis of Carlsbad took six days to reach the snow capped summit using her everyday wheelchair modified only with knobby tires and geared wheels to provide more torque. At 24 blood vessels near Erica’s spinal cord and a major artery ruptured. In a matter of days she went from being a woman who once rode dirt bikes, played multiple sports in high school and taught high school P.E. to being paralyzed from the waist down. Her strength of spirit still shines through with a simple home -made mountain climbing wheelchair.

All Terrain Wheelchairs

There are many types of all terrain wheelchairs available as both manual and power chairs though they are typically miles apart in cost. Manual all terrain wheelchairs are relatively cheap while electric power wheelchairs are very expensive. I think my next upgrade will be to an all terrain powerchair as I love the beach. The problem with many 4×4 powerchairs is size. They are difficult to navigate a standard house in – forget hallway u-turn’s – the wide tyres stick and mark tiled floors and they screw up carpet and mats.

Shower Wheelchairs

A shower chair or commode is a seat made for bathtubs or showers for people with limited mobility. The most common type is much like a regular plastic garden chair with four legs, prices begin at $30.  When it comes to spinal cord injury, paraplegics mostly use a shower chair with large back wheels so they can manually propel themselves around and apply the brakes. A basic manual shower chair cost around $1000.00 which like most “medical” equipment seems grossly overpriced.

High level quadriplegics typically use a similar shower chair to paraplegics only it may have four castor wheels and high back rest with padded seat and padded armrests. Having severely compromised mobility leaves quadriplegics susceptible to pressure marks from un-padded seats and stainless steel or aluminum tubing. Additionally as many quads are vulnerable to bouts of autonomic dysreflexia (a condition of extreme low or high blood pressure often brought on by sudden temperature changes) the shower chair may have a headrest and be capable of tilting backwards.

A spinal cord injury makes equipment like shower chairs a necessity for day-to-day living. It’s disappointing that the construction simple enough costs exorbitant amounts of money. A shopping trolley with four castor wheels uses much more steel in its construction and only costs $200.00. A four castor padded folding tilt-able shower chair can cost in excess of $4000.00. If you are a beach loving quadriplegic mountain climber you will be out of pocket $10,000 for three basic impractical manual wheelchairs. Add a decent hoist, bed, vehicle and home modifications after hospital medical bills and resuming your prior lifestyle after acute spinal cord injury becomes nothing more than a wish for the majority.

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