Question for you wheelchair geeks.

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KarenNWendyn

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I just received a lovely Permobil F3 from my ALS loaner closet. I can still walk using a rollator or cane but have slowed way down. The tipping point (pun intended) recently occurred while out on a walk with my dog and my walker. I was bending over to pick up poop (the neighbors love it when I do that) when my knuckle-headed dog-child decided to lunge after a cat, pulling me over (at least I landed on grass). Ok, so lesson learned.

Now I have this nifty little F3 on loan. My initial use will be mostly recreational including taking the dog out for walks. I intend to attach the leash to the chair so as to avoid repeating the aforementioned fiasco.

I have a wheelchair clinic assessment coming up next month and have considered a Permobil F3 or F5 for when I buy my own chair.

My questions are as follows:

1. Any advice from those of you who use a pwc to walk dogs.

2. For those who have an F3, do you find it durable and stable enough for extensive outdoor use? I realize it’s not intended for off-road use, but are there situations where something like an F5 might be a better choice?

3. The NuMotion guy who delivered the F3 to me tried to talk me out of an F5, saying they are a lot bigger than the F3 and not as nimble for indoor use. For those of you who have an F5 (or something similar), do you find that to be the case?

4. I notice that the F3 doesn’t have any feature allowing the user to stand vertically. This is something I thought might be useful for physiological reasons (after all, humans are designed to stand upright). Do you wheelchair users appreciate the standing feature if you have it, or wish you had it if you don’t already?

Thanks in advance for your answers.
 

Jrzygrl

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I can't answer all your questions, but my PALS DH has been all over outdoors in his F3. He went to my DS's football and baseball games in it. Up hills that I thought were too steep to try, to our local park, touring the neighborhood, but the true test was when we went to our DD's senior day softball game.

The field was wet, muddy, hilly, it was cold and rainy - you name it. But it was her senior day, and he was determined to get out on the field with her when they announced her name. You can see from the attached picture his chair "plowed through". He at times had to be pushed out of the mud ruts, but he got there and it meant the world to both of them. Probably not something Permobil would recommend, but it definitely got it done!

His F3 has the elevate function, so he cannot "stand", but he can raise up to eye level to speak to people.
 

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lgelb

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You definitely want the seat elevator, and anterior tilt as well, which is an option on both the F3 and F5. The standing feature is a nice option to have though at some point diminished core strength makes it less usable. So the issue would be your ability to trade off the larger footprint -- that depends on your home.
 

KarenNWendyn

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Nice pic Jrzygrl. I hope that didn’t get tracked into your home.
 

Jrzygrl

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We were actually staying at a hotel. I went in and explained to the desk clerk that hubby had gotten his chair stuck in the mud, and I needed something to clean it up. He was very nice and obliged by handing me some wet hand towels. Um, maybe you should come see it. We both had a good laugh as he sent someone to go get a hose!
 

Vincent

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Get your chair with everything you may need in the future. Tilt/recline/ elevating seat/ elevating legs. The thing with standing feature is it makes peeing easier, not necessarily applicable for everyone. I have a head controller for when needed. I tend to be out at night walking the dog and such, so i have lights front and back on my chair. Adductors are something i use as I tend to splay my legs when sitting. This is where I attach my flex-lead. The adductors are removable for transfers and the handle fits on the bracket for the lead. I have elbow blocks, when in tilt/recline your arms just hang down. In short, working with your OT, get all the bells lights and whistles. I even had my chair set up with a 3rd battery dedicated to the Bipap. Most things are cheaper coming from the factory than having to retro fit later. I drive an Invacare TDX-SP.
Vincent
 

KarenNWendyn

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Here’s an interesting new development....

Tonight (after I started this thread), I attended a kick-off party for our upcoming ALS walk and met a young couple — the husband has been living with ALS for 10 years. They have a spare wheelchair, a Permobil M300, taking up space in their garage, and they offered to just give it to me!

The catch is it apparently needs a new bracket.

The thought of having a spare wheelchair is intriguing. Does anyone have opinions on the M300? Is it worth the money and effort to get it repaired and then use it as a backup?

I would still plan on going through the evaluation to get a new chair through Medicare.
 

swalker

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I might have a few thoughts on wheelchairs;).

1. In my opinion, having a backup wheelchair is mandatory. My primary wheelchair has spent up to 4 months at a time in the shop. What would I do without a backup? An M300 would make for a very nice backup wheelchair. It would not be my first choice, as I prefer front wheel drive or rear wheel drive rather than the mid wheel drive of the M300. But, it would do absolutely fine as a backup.

2. The M300 will probably take group 24 batteries, which are the same as used in the F3, F5, C500, C300, etc. That provides commonality between your backup wheelchair and your primary wheelchair, in case you suddenly need new batteries. This has happened to me. My friend simply transferred the batteries from my backup wheelchair to my primary wheelchair, so I was good to go until the replacement batteries arrived.

3. In wheelchairs, fit is everything. I spend about $1,000 per extra wheelchair to get them fitted for me. It would be much more if I used all new components or outsourced the work. I scour ebay, etc. to find reasonably priced, used components. Be prepared to spend some money to get the M300 to fit well enough to be serviceable.

4. One reason I like the Permobil wheelchairs is that you can download the manuals for them. I have user manuals, but also service manuals for the base and the various seating systems I use. I really like knowing how the wheelchair goes together and what torque to use for various bolts. Note, NuMotion (my DME) apparently does not use a torque wrench, because none of the bolts are torqued to spec after they work on my wheelchair.

5. The F3 is a good wheelchair, but does not work for me. It is too tippy, especially toward the front. I am 6' 3" and weigh about 175. I vastly prefer the F5 (I have tried both). I have two of the predecessor to the F5 (the C500). I love my C500 wheelchairs!

6. I do like the standing feature. Be aware that as mechanical complexity (such as a standing mechanism) is added, there is more to go wrong on the wheelchair. I have been stuck in the standing position when the sensors incorrectly detected it was not safe to sit back down. Fortunately, there is an emergency "stand down" control sequence you can use to override the sensors and force the wheelchair to go back to the sitting position. I did not know about this the first time I got stuck in the up position. Also, be aware that the stander version of the wheelchair has two small stabilizing wheels that contact the ground when the wheelchair is in the standing position. They stick out a bit when in the seated position, so the wheelchair takes up more space. It is a noticeable amount when negotiating tight quarters.

7. Private insurance paid for my primary wheelchair, the C500s VS. That is the predecessor to the current F5 VS wheelchair. I have been told by my DME that Medicare will not pay for an F5 and that my private insurance will no longer pay for an F5. I have been looking into what it will take to get a replacement for my C500s VS, because it now has a lot of miles on it. I may need to self fund the difference between an F3 and an F5 (or buy a used F5).

8. The Permobil wheelchairs are primarily set up for indoor use. The foam/gel-filled tires will work well on hard surfaces and don't mar the floor (much). They don't have much tread, so don't pick up too much dirt to bring into the house (though, they can make quite a mess). Unfortunately, the standard tires are relatively skinny and so have a small contact patch with the ground. That will cause you to sink into soft soil and slide around on slippery surfaces. They wear fast, so be sure to replace them often (I get about 400 to 500 miles out of set of tires). Permobil makes a mud and snow tire for the drive wheels. I have two pair of those and love them. They are quite a bit wider, are made of a tackier substance, and have a more aggressive tread. I highly recommend them for outdoor use. They will wear very quickly on asphalt and other similar surfaces. I went through a pair in 100 miles when I was on a trip and did an unexpected number of miles on asphalt.

9. You will need some mechanism to lock the wheelchair into your vehicle. I believe an automatic locking system like the EZ Lock or Q Lock are the only viable options for folks like us. Both of these use a bolt that sticks out of the bottom of the wheelchair with just about 3/4 of an inch of ground clearance. The bolt is located approximately in line between the drive wheels, so you can do a lot with that small amount of ground clearance. You can also shim the EZ Lock base in the van so that it is higher and you can get buy with a shorter bolt. But, be aware that if you use an EZ Lock or similar system, driving your wheelchair offroad will feel a lot like driving a low-slung sports car on a four wheel drive road. That bolt is easily removed (by someone else) on my C500s VS, so we can remove it when we anticipate rough terrain. The bolt is welded on my C500 Corpus 3G, so removing it is not an option.

And, be careful. I have found that wheelchairs are addictive. I find myself wondering about getting a larger house so that I can have a place to put my ever-growing wheelchair collection:).

That is enough for now. Good luck, and be sure to ask any questions that come to mind.

Steve
 

lgelb

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Agree with Steve that a backup would be nice to have. The M300 is the last midwheel Permobil that doesn't have anterior tilt -- the M3 succeeded it-- but it's a decent chair.
 

affected

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I totally agree if you can have a backup chair, take it! Once you are dependant on a chair, you don't want a breakdown to leave you without mobility for days or weeks if a repair takes time.

Other than that, just listen to Steve, what a guru of chair features :)

But also I agree, every feature you can get is worthwhile later.
 

chally

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Get 2
Have fun
Ride hard do it all

Love ya
Chally
 

KarenNWendyn

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Steve, thanks so much for weighing in. I have been referring to you as “the wheelchair guru” with my family and friends for some time now :).
 
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