Education in Motion / EIM Blog / August 2018 / Accommodating the Mobility and Seating Needs of a Retired Veteran with Amputations

Accommodating the Mobility and Seating Needs of a Retired Veteran with Amputations

Name: SFC (Retired) Mark H. - U.S. Army 3rd Special Forces Group
Age: 42 years old
Location: Virginia

Fun Facts

Mark grew up in a military family and has lived all over the world. His grandfather served in World War II and his father in the United States Air Force for 25 years. Mark and his wife are both United States Army veterans. They are the proud parents of two little girls. In his spare time, Mark enjoys spending time with his family, working out, and riding his motorcycle trike with his friends.


Mobility History

In 2010 during his fourth deployment to Afghanistan, Mark was injured by an improvised explosive device (IED). As a direct result of the explosion, both of Mark's lower extremities were amputated above the knees. While being transported out of Afghanistan, Mark was put into a medically induced coma in which he remained for approximately six weeks. Unfortunately, at some point during those six weeks Mark's left leg became severely infected and subsequently was completely amputated. In addition to the bilateral lower extremity amputations, he had an open book pelvic injury, significant nerve damage to his right forearm, and two fingers on his right hand were amputated.

Mark spent over six months recovering and participating in the rehabilitation program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. Throughout the recovery process Mark was faced with numerous obstacles including not only his limitations in mobility and the overall impact his injuries would have on his entire life (family, work, leisure activities, etc.), but also processing the trauma and the impact on his mental health. He reported he is a very driven individual by nature, so with the support of his family and friends he pushed himself to overcome the obstacles in front of him.

One of his top goals was to become independent with his mobility and learn to utilize prosthetics for ambulation. Due to the severity of his injury, learning to walk on prosthetic legs full-time proved to be very difficult. However, he did learn to wear the limbs all day, stand for brief periods of time, and take some steps. At the time of discharge Mark's primary means of independent mobility was a folding frame ultralight wheelchair.

A couple of years after his injury, Mark's therapy team suggested he transition to a rigid ultralight wheelchair for increased efficiency, decreased weight, and improved propulsion. Mark utilized the rigid frame wheelchair for a while, but found himself gravitating back to a folding frame on many occasions for a variety of reasons.

Reasons for Seeking New Equipment

At the time of his most recent decision to seek a new wheelchair, Mark was using a folding frame ultralight wheelchair with swing-away leg rests with a hard shell backrest and air cell cushion as his primary means of independent mobility. He reported he was wearing his prosthetic legs the majority of the day, was able to stand for transfers and take a few steps, but was still experiencing pain and discomfort while ambulating so he required the use of his wheelchair. Mark most often wore his prosthetics at work, in the community, and when riding his motorcycle trike. However, when he was at home he would frequently utilize his wheelchair while not wearing his prosthetics.

Mark was seeking a new wheelchair that was lighter weight, more efficient to propel, and easy to fold. When the idea of switching back to a rigid frame wheelchair was presented to him, he immediately declined, citing personal preferences related to his lifestyle and previous experiences. According to Mark, it was much more difficult for him to take apart a rigid wheelchair for transportation and he simply felt more comfortable in a folding wheelchair.

The evaluating team and Mark researched different options of equipment to meet his needs. For seating it was determined that a slightly shorter and lighter hard shell back mounted lower than his current one would help with propulsion and balance. Comfort, pressure, and balance were key areas of consideration for his cushion, so in order to try something that provided him with a bit more stability while he was propelling his wheelchair without his prosthetics, a hybrid cushion with a foam base and fluid insert was explored. Since Mark was very clear he wanted a folding frame chair, the team looked into a folding frame ultralight wheelchair that would provide the most rigid feel and be lighter in weight.

The final equipment recommendations for Mark were: a QUICKIE Xenon2 fixed folding front frame with an 80° bend and carbon fiber footplate, a JAY J3 carbon fiber back shell, and a JAY X2 cushion.

Current Status

Soon after the delivery and set-up of his new wheelchair, Mark reported that the wheelchair was easier to propel and maneuver. He also stated that the locking mechanism within the cross brace made it much easier for him to fold and transfer the chair into his vehicle while standing on his prosthetics, which was an added bonus because at times he feels off-balance when standing. In terms of aesthetics, Mark commented on how the location of the cross brace made it look as though his wheelchair is actually a rigid frame chair. From the wheelchair cushion perspective, Mark appreciates the foam and fluid option, but also continues to use his air cell cushion in certain circumstances. The ability to switch back and forth between the two has proven to be best for him.

Between the lighter weight components, set-up, more rigid feel, and the ability to fold the wheelchair, Mark's new system is working better for him.

Published: 2018-08-27

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