Tag Archives: SPINALpedia

Joanna Bonilla Crosses Off a Bucket List Goal Post-Injury

Soon after a spinal cord injury many of us start getting that sneaking suspicion that we’re missing out on life. Whether it’s an event we can’t attend because of inaccessibility, or an activity we can’t do because of our paralysis, they begin to stack up. Joanna Bonilla, a 34 year old woman who was paralyzed by Lupus, was able to put a temporary halt to that growing list – if just for one night – when she attended last month’s SPINALpedia’s Adaptive Indoor Skydiving Event at iFLY in Loudon, Virginia

“I was excited because I was finally able to do something on my bucket list because the dare devil in me was like ‘FINALLY!, I did something I wanted to do before my injury.'” From Springfield, Virginia, Joanna signed up for our event when she saw our online flier.

She missed her old adventurous life pre-paralysis. “Before I was VERY I was always looking something fun while on vacation. I had never done skydiving before but it was on my bucket list. And the entire at iFLY met her expectations and then some. “The experience made me feel FREE and even more confident that I can do anything. At first, I didn’t know what to expect from the whole.”

“As I looked at other fliers, I was nervous and excited. Nervous please I didn’t want to get hurt, I didn’t want to chicken out and what if I get sick. And I was excited because I was finally able to do something on my bucket list. Excited because the dare-devil in me was like FINALLY! Finally, that I to do something I wanted to do before my injury.”

The psychological benefits of the wind tunnel in particular, which makes the indoor skydiving experience possible, were especially awesome to Joanna. “After I got over the shock feeling and I took in a deep breathe. I was able to relax and loved the feeling of feeling FREE. I was allowed to have FUN and let go. In my wheelchair, I over analyze everything (“Can I get in that way?,” “Is it wheelchair friendly?,” “Will I be able to do this?”).

She credits her dedicated workout regimen for her smooth sailing in the indoor skies. “My life started to turn around with I started to become physically active. That happened 3 years ago when I met Devon Palermo, Founder of DPI Adaptive Gym. I loved going to the gym before my injury. It’s hard going to a regular gym because it feels as if everyone is seeing how you will work out.”

“At DPI, I was able to get my confidence back little by little. I am now stronger than I’ve ever been. I was able to do IFLY and every other adaptive activity because of DPI.

She also tried rock climbing and adaptive skiing in Colorado since becoming injured, but this Joanna is in love with how easy it was to get in some indoor skydiving in her own hometown.

Meet Our Silver Sponsor: Numotion

Our Silver sponsor, Numotion, played an instrumental role in making the Cuba voyage come true. Numotion is a leading mobility equipment and medical supply provider with locations across the country (map below).

Their specialized team of professionals help thousands of persons with disabilities every year stay active and independent through their sales of mobility equipment and commitment to providing high-quality service and repair. Whether you are in need of a manual or power wheelchair, a standing frame, or medical and urological supplies, Numotion has you covered.

Tips for Flying with a 450 lb. Power Wheelchair.

Prior to the Cuba trip, there were great concerns about how to travel with a 450 pound M300 Power Permobil wheelchair. One of the participants reached out to his Maryland Numotion branch Assistive Technology Professional and was given a great game plan and different tips on how to travel while minimizing damage to his expensive power wheelchair. All it took was a phone call to Numotion and his questions were answered. The advice he received was as follows:

  • Call the airline and let them know about your physical mobility needs and concerns about traveling with a heavy expensive power wheelchair.
  • Humanizing and emphasizing your needs to each airline professional you speak with goes a long way. Speak to the importance of having a working wheelchair with your day-to-day life and the impact it would have if it was damaged. This is also a great time to share your past travel experiences and/or successes and struggles of people you know.
  • Ask at check-in and at the gate for an airline luggage or operational manager to meet you at the gate prior to boarding and to bring in aisle chair. This representative will help advocate on your behalf and communicate with the right airline staff.
  • Ask for multiple airline representatives to help with transferring to the skinny aisle chair and for the transfer into an airplane seat.
  • Sitting by the window is typically the best option because able-bodied flyers do not have to step over you when going and returning from the bathroom.
  • Ask if a caregiver or family member can accompany and/or drive the power wheelchair onto the tarmac for loading onto the plane. If this is not allowed communicate directly about your concerns about keeping your wheelchair safe.
  • The Numotion representative highlighted that a power wheelchair is most often damaged when it is loaded on and off of the plane. A large power wheelchair is placed on its side and travels up a loading elevator belt where it is placed in the plane’s storage compartment. The wheelchair is placed on its side because it is too tall when sitting upright to go through the small storage entrance. The wheelchair arms and frame can be damaged when it is placed on its side or picked up without special care.
  • One strategy for preventing the wheelchair from being placed on its side is to use the power tilt and recline to lay the wheelchair flat. Talk with the operational manager about not loading/offloading the wheelchair on its side because of the ability to lay the wheelchair flat. This strategy was successfully used during both departures and the wheelchair did not have to be placed on its side.
  • Always speak with the pilot and/or flight attendants to let them know that you need the same airline assistance for transferring to the aisle chair upon arrival and that you would like your caregiver or family member to operate the wheelchair when unloading. Request that no airline staff touches your wheelchair, except for your team that knows how to operate it. Even if they decline your request, just supervising the airline staff increases the likelihood that damage to the wheelchair is minimized.

We hope these travel tips help you on your next trip/adventure!

Lastly, Numotion also offers an online store with their hallmark product (of which they’re the exclusive US retailer) – Softwheel. Made in Isarel, Softwheel is a brand new in-wheel suspension that greatly reduces shock and vibration by it’s unique inner-hub design. Debuting in 2014, it has created a buzz among many manual wheelchair-users seeking an all-around smoother ride. You can visit their online store here to see it in motion – shopnumotion.com.

Learn more about everything Numotion offers: numotion.com