At Hatfield House, in the Hertfordshire countryside on a typically wet English summer day, actor David Proud is taking a pretty special set of wheels out for a spin.
The former EastEnders star has the condition spina bifida and has always used a wheelchair to get around. He was, therefore, an ideal candidate to test drive a unique innovation in mobility technology.
AddSeat has been created to allow wheelchair users the freedom to reach places they previously wouldn’t have been able to.
The Swedish invention, which was recently launched in the UK, has been developed over several years, shaped by continual monitoring of customer feedback and reworking of the design to fit their needs.
The device is based on the market’s best Segway PT Gyro, offering groundbreaking driving control.
It can turn on its axis and is able to take on almost any terrain, from snow and sand, to the country tracks at Hatfield House.
“There are so many things to like about it,” says David (pictured above).
“It’s embracing new technology, which is amazing, and it really handled everything I chucked at it, in terms of all the different terrains I came across.
“I live in the country so I would probably be using it every single week, going about and exploring. Just to be able to go to different places, like the park, without even having to think about it was great.”
Chief engineer Ian Thompson was partly inspired by Professor X’s wheelchair in the X-Men films while working on the project.
He was also motivated by the need to improve the usability and comfort of mobility vehicles generally.
The initial idea, however, is credited to Swedish Paralympic Gold medallist Marit Sundin.
The gyro wheelchair is built on a durable chassis, with a height-adjustable seat, allowing users to sit higher for eye-to-eye conversations.
With a footprint as small as a manual wheelchair, getting the AddSeat into an elevator or transporting it in a car is relatively easy.
The built-in AirRide works as a shock absorber making obstacles such as pavilions and roots less annoying.
Meanwhile, the seats are designed for maximum comfort, inspired by those used by long-distance truck drivers who spend hours in their seat.
As a result, the AddSeat user can also happily spend all day in the chair without discomfort.
“It is really comfortable, and I felt really safe in it,” says David. “It was a lot sturdier than I thought and the seating was very springy.”
Unlike in a manual chair, David didn’t have to worry about becoming too tired, giving him the freedom to be out and about all day, spending more quality time with family and friends.
And, despite initial concerns about how long the battery would last, he was most impressed by the power range of the chair, which allowed him to be out for the full day.
“You see other devices which are battery operated and the battery only seems to last about two minutes! But actually you could run this all day, quite happily, so that was really unexpected.
“The range would probably be the biggest consideration for me in terms of investing in one. The battery technology in the AddSeat means that it’s useful for a lot more of the day than other chairs I’ve used.”
There were other unexpected benefits too, such as having hands free to hold an umbrella.
“In my manual chair, I need two hands to push it, so I wouldn’t even hold a brolly,” says David, who wouldn’t have been able to go out in the rain were in not for the AddSeat.
“It seems like the smallest little thing, but I’m out, getting fresh air, I can hold a brolly and move on terrain I wouldn’t normally be able to move on. Being able to go places and do things. It’s priceless.”
However, as with most cutting-edge technology, the AddSeat is relatively expensive, setting wheelchair users back around £12,500.
This, for David, is the only downside, and the reason why he returned to his manual chair following his test drive.
“It is the future technology, completely. It’s just the Tesla of wheelchair technology. For a lot of users, that price point is just out of reach.
“Inevitably when new technology comes out, there isn’t much thinking about the cost and over time it will become more affordable to the masses.
“I’m always big on championing great new technology to get the manufacturers selling enough so that they can bring the price down.
“For the people that need it, it’s not a luxury, it’s something that can really open up a whole lot of activities for them and their families.”
David would like to see AddSeats being sold to organisations, such as parks, visitor centres and stately homes, for their visitors to hire.
“Then I’d be able to go to my nearest stately home and hire one, for say, a payment of £10 for a couple of hours, to be able to go and enjoy it with my family. It would be lovely to have more places like that.
“It’s great fun and it really does turn a lot of heads… and I think a lot of kids will love it.” Hopefully one day, in the not too distant future, all wheelchair users will have access to mobility technology such as the AddSeat.
“I would encourage more people to actually have a go. It would be lovely to see more wheelchair users embracing the battery technology, in their mobility devices.
“Just imagine how amazing the world would be if every wheelchair user had one of these. It would just be incredible,” David adds.
For more information on the AddSeat visit www.addmovement.com.
Achieving independent bed access with neurological conditions
Getting in and out of bed is a common problem for individuals with a neurological condition. With risks from Covid-19 now an added challenge, the desire to achieve independent bed transfers without carers is even more important – made possible by the powered Rotoflex rotational bed range from Theraposture.
An award-winning solution
Theraposture has been a respected supplier of specialist adjustable beds, chairs, and care cots since 1981. It provides the largest selection of tailor-made turning beds for
a multitude of user conditions, sizes, and weights. By pushing and holding just one button, the Rotoflex bed provides a safe and independent way to get into and out of bed. It also helps the user to stand up safely by vertically lifting them and most importantly, NOT tipping them forward – so important for users with inconsistencies around weight bearing and balance.
The ground-breaking Rotoflex 235 won the prestigious Excellence in Caring Award at the OT show, and the new Rotoflex 235 Mk2 builds on this reputation by offering further functionality.
The latest turning bed innovation
A key advancement in the Rotoflex 235 Mk2 is its inbuilt software which provide personalised programming of functionality. Neuro users can choose their maximum angle of rotation, incline limit or return to their favourite pre- programmed position. Soft-start movement is also now included and operation is quicker.
All this operation, including using the unique and patented rising heel section, is controlled with just one hand control. The Rotoflex is the only rotating bed in the world to include a powered rising heel section.
The Rotoflex 235 Mk2 has a recommended maximum user weight of up to 200kg (31 stones). The design of the lifting frame means that it will not tip over and the mattress will not come off the bed.
There are also low access and heavy-duty versions in the range. Liam Braddell, Theraposture Sales Director, says: “When two carers are potentially replaced by a Rotoflex, the cost of the bed
could be repaid within 14 weeks. Annually, the typical cost of care to assist one person with bed transfers is over £27,000 per year and this is an ongoing cost. Also Theraposture partner with the Parkinson’s UK Charity.
We provide those living with Parkinson’s a 10% discount off our normal prices. We have also extended this offer to people with MS.”
End user story
Rotoflex bed helps determined retired RAF Nurse with Parkinson’s to remain at home. Now living with the effects of Parkinson’s Linda requires assistive equipment to remain mobile – her new Rotoflex is a vital solution for safe access in and out of bed.
Linda explains: “Before owning my Rotoflex, getting in and out of bed was becoming increasingly difficult. I was having to pull myself up on my arms and my elbows were developing sores.
“My Rotoflex has now made a fantastic difference to my life especially as I am adamant that I will not be going into a care home. My independence is so important to me especially as I didn’t have a permanent home for so long serving in the RAF.”
New device could improve spinal injury outcomes
When the spinal cord is injured, it swells, which restricts blood flow and can cause permanent motor, sensory, and autonomic function damage.
Preventing initial swelling, therefore, is key to minimising damage. But the only treatment available for this is a steroid therapy that has minimal effects.
But a team of researchers have devised a new therapy device that removes fluid from the spinal cord using osmosis to reduce swelling. While the device has only been tested on injured rats, they’re confident it will soon be applied to humans.
The researchers, from the University of California’s Department of Bioengineering, found that spinal fluid can increase in the area within one hour of the injury happening, and levels can remain elevated for 28 days.
In their paper, published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology, the researchers explain that the device rests on the exposed spinal cord, while artificial cerebrospinal fluid containing the protein albumin, which initiates osmosis, passes across the membrane, transporting water molecules from the spinal cord. This process is repeated, removing more water.
They found that their device removes more than enough water to prevent brain swelling, and that removing this excess water quickly enough improved neurological outcomes.
The researchers are confident their findings apply to humans, and they aim to carry out more experiments on rats, before moving onto trials with humans.
Expanding the horizon of neuro patients
With AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmills.
A wide range of patients are now benefiting from the use of AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmills throughout clinics across the UK.
Patients with a wide range of neurological conditions are gaining confidence within a fall-safe environment which allows for high intensity repetitions along with increasing motor learning early on in the rehabilitation stage.
Originally designed for NASA, the AlterG uses patented Differential Air Pressure Technology to unweight patients from 100% down to 20% of their bodyweight in precise 1% increments.
AlterG started in Professional Sport assisting with rehabilitation from ACL and Ankle injuries, moving onto MSK Physiotherapy Clinics. However multiple research papers and case studies have now been carried out to show the benefits of use with multiple neurological conditions including Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Functional neurological disorder, Brain Injuries & Incomplete Spinal Cord Injuries.
Developing the technology further, along with a precise partial weight bearing environment, AlterG has liaised with multiple Neurological Physiotherapists and Surgeons and added new features to enhance the experience on the machine and enable patients to gain as much as possible from each session.
The machines are now available with basic Gait Analytics (Stance Time, Step Length and Weight Bearing Symmetries and Cadence), Pain scales, pre- programmed exercises and camera for live video monitoring allowing patients to see their feet whilst walking.
Multiple case studies have been carried out, one of which is Brainstem Cerebrovascular Accidents (CVA) or Strokes. In conjunction with AlterG, Kate Haugen from Great Moves Physical Therapy (Colorado, USA) wrote a great case study with regards to a 42-year-old runner and university tennis coach. The individual presented two strokes resulting in right sided weakness and significant balance deficits from the first stroke and almost complete paralysis on his left side for 8 days following a second CVA.
“Weightbearing exercises caused medial tibiofemoral joint line pain and swelling. The patient was unsuccessful with a stationary bike and elliptical trainer. AlterG allowed for more controlled loading progression for returning to Full Weight Bearing.”
After multiple weeks of rehabilitation, the patient can now step over objects and change direction quickly. In addition, there are no limitations with the distance the patient is able to walk, and they are not limited by fatigue.
Along with a range of case studies, various research papers are available online showing how the treadmill can be an effective intervention for those who have experienced a stroke or other neurological conditions.
“The AlterG enables Neuro patients to experience what they thought they could never do again – be it walking, jogging or running. We have had some very encouraging results – even with clients who had trialled some of others rehabilitation technologies, including a conventional partial-weightbearing treadmill. Any neuro patient who can achieve an assisted step to transfer into the AlterG can benefit.
The AlterG allows a physio to challenge neurological patients in a safe manner and in a cost-efficient manner without the need for an additional therapist or assistant”.
– Jon Graham, Physiofunction.
Trevor Donald, Managing Director of SportsMed Products Ltd (the UK distributor) stated “it is great to see research coming through about the huge benefits the AlterG can have for individuals suffering with neurological conditions. The patient stories emerging from our customers at neurological physiotherapy clinics has been incredible”
Not only does the AlterG aid walking but it can be used simply in a partial weight bearing environment to carry out exercises such as single hand throwing and catching, squats and hopping.
If you would like further information on the papers and case studies carried out along with clinical protocols please feel free to contact AlterG’s UK distributor, SportsMed Products Ltd.
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