Monthly Archives: February 2012

Pushing your wheelchair through the grass (and sand) (alive!)

The Earth was not made accessible. We all know that. Pushing your wheelchair butt through terrains other than the cement and black top variety – to put it mildly – can prove challenging. I once met a para who would sing, “Oh how I wish the world was flat” (a pipedream to be sure). I couldn’t blame him. Nobody wants to live in a world where everywhere they go is limited compared to the masses. This is a reality a few of us know a thing or two about.

I remember my first E&J power wheelchair, a rental, circa 1993, that whinnied like a horse (old-school motors) and crapped out on me one day in my uncle’s back yard, on a slope, under the glaring hot sun. It was not a day to be remembered. And while there were no tricks at the time for how to push a 300lb power wheelchair through the grass in situations like this (there still aren’t), there are plenty of tricks to be had for manual wheelchair-users, including the fab video collection prduced by WildKat TV, that shows the best way to tackle two of the most notoriously problematic landscapes – grass and sand.

WildKat’s videos are specific to her injury (she’s an incomplete C6 quad with triceps and partial hand movement), so you must have similar function to be able to use her videos. But if you are like WildKat, then these videos are a must-watch (especially for new injuries). Being able to watch someone who’s a lot like you in a situation that you too have found yourself in is way more helpful than any book or manual, or even a Physical Therapist, explaining how to get through it. Why fail when you can learn from someone with years of experience from the comfort of your own home?

As you watch WildKat’s videos, you’ll see there are loads of simple things you can do while you’re pushing your wheelchair that can make all the difference (spelled out in text bubbles), from how moving and angling your head can make it easier to push your wheelchair to how changing the camber in your wheelchair can make getting through the cushy terrains a million times easier. Check out her videos below!

Watch WildKat’s “how-to” push your wheelchair through grass video

Watch WildKat’s “how-to” push your wheelchair through sand video (about 8 mins long)

Amazing quadriplegic woman’s pony tail technique

Every girl wants the freedom of throwing up her hair whenever she pleases, but when your fingers are paralyzed, even partially, this is something you have to give up (quite painfully I might add). But Elizabeth, 25, a C6-7 quadriplegic woman studying law at Stanford University, refused to accept her no-pony-tail fate and figured out a way to put her hair up independently after working on a technique for about 2 years. By combining the right lean and moving her hands and manipulating her paralyzed fingers just so, her pony tail technique works.

As a C6-7 quadriplegic woman, Elizabeth can move her arms almost normally, and she has about 10% finger function; certainly not enough to just throw her air up thoughtlessly whenever she wants to. She can move her thumb on her left hand and her left index finger, as well as some lower hand tendons.  But as her video of her showing off her technique shows, once she’s in the right position and has her hair in the exact place she needs, everything falls into place and she can get her ponytail up in less than a minute.

Unfortunately, since my injury is at the C5-6 level (one level above Elizabeth’s) her technique won’t work for me. But despite only C6-7 quads being the only people who can really use the information exactly the way it‘s laid out, it also has another, much bigger lesson: It shows that whatever your injury level, you should make the most of every muscle movement, even if it’s only a flicker, because you never know what you may be able to figure out. The ability of humans to think their way out of almost any situation, even if it takes years, will astound you.

Watch Elizabeth’s pony tail video

Call to Action: How do you put up your hair? Have a tool or technique? Record it and upload it on SPINALpedia.com