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Thread: A Better Wheelchair

  1. #1
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    A Better Wheelchair

    A Better Wheelchair
    Nov 15, 2001


    For the estimated 36 thousand Canadians with spinal cord injuries, life in a wheelchair poses many challenges.

    One of the greatest is keeping fit. Now a new type of wheelchair, designed in Canada is giving paraplegics a workout.

    Dennis Siltala was fit and active, until three years ago when a broken neck put him in a wheelchair.

    Dennis Siltala says "I have limited hand function, I can not walk. I can wiggle my toes and lift my feet up once in awhile".

    Dr. Richard Stein is a Neurophysiologist. He says "we see all sorts of changes that take place. Medically, their muscles atrophy, their bones get very brittle, ah they get heart problems and have heart attacks more frequently than the normal person".

    Now a wheelchair, designed at the University of Alberta, is giving people like Dennis a way to exercise their paralysed legs.

    Dennis uses his legs to propel the chair, through a combination of electronic stimulation, and a unique drive train.

    Kelly James designed the chair. Kelly James says "what we were able to do is come up with a design that when you move the legs up and down, it drives that wheel forward".

    The stimulator works by delivering a powerful jolt to muscles in the legs.

    An electronic charge, which would be painful to most, brings the paralysed legs to life. Because Dennis has little feeling there, he can tolerate the jolt.

    A button sends the electronic signal to his legs. Each push alternately straightens and bends, creating the pumping motion that drives the chair.

    Dennis Siltala says "your legs are tired after. It's the same as going to the gym and lifting weights with your legs and gives em a good workout. Work up a sweat".

    Four chairs have been built so far, to test how they work in everyday life.

    Dr. Stein says "is it practical in terms of going shopping, in terms of getting in and out of a car, in terms of getting in and out of tight bathrooms and so forth".

    Dennis Siltala has been testing the chair for a year. He finds it tough to use in tight spaces, but loves the open road.

    Dennis says "with this chair here it's keeping my legs strong. It gives you good exercise".

    And keeping his legs strong is important to Dennis. He has a dream that that one day he'll walk again. And that's motivation enough to stay in shape.


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  2. #2
    Senior Member Tara's Avatar
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    Oct 2001
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    I was involved in an experiment at a University that used something a lot like this chair- in my opinion it would not work for everyday use.
    I am incomplete and the extreme jolt of electricity hurt not just in my legs but throughout my entire abdomen causing spasms. The chair is large and cumbersome - good luck getting it in the majority of bathrooms- never mind in and out of your vehicle and because your legs are moving in front of you to propell it, opening doors is impossible.
    Just my two cents.........

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