Jennifer Smith, age 45, is a proud wife and mother to two children. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at a young age, thyroid disease in 2005, Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, and Heart Disease in 2013.
In 2013, after suffering from a heart attack, she began to lose her ability to stand or walk for longer than five minutes. This began her withdrawal from activities with her family.
For 5 years she sat at home, not wanting to inconvenience anyone and daydreaming of how active she used to be. Her family suggested it was time to look at wheelchairs so that she could continue to participate in everyday events.
In April of 2018, it was suggested she visit the Abilities Expo in Edison, NJ to look at the possibility of purchasing a wheelchair. It was at the Abilities Expo that Jennifer discovered the VeloChair.
Jennifer no longer sits at home . She has the opportunity to go on walks with her husband in the park. She can pedal to her parents’ home a few blocks away. She takes frequent trips to the mall, the grocery store, and the craft shop. For the first time in 5 years she is living her life again.
J : Everyone stops me. I hand out the pamphlets. I give them all the information I have.
J : I like it because I still have function of my legs but I can’t stand that long so I wasn’t ready for a wheelchair. I wasn’t ready to be pushed everywhere but when we go to the store, I wind up sitting half the time and I don’t see anything and we don’t go anywhere together because I have to find a place to sit.
J: We went to the Abilities Expo looking for a wheelchair but when I saw this. That was it. We were so excited.
J: My family and my husband pushed me to go to the Expo even though I really didn’t want to but they said that eventually if I want to go anywhere with the family, I’m going to need a wheelchair. When we first saw the VeloChair, I was hesitant about it at first but I was really impressed. We walked around for a bit just to see what there was but we didn’t see anything like it. Just your standard wheelchair.
J: At first I was like nah it’s ok, I don’t want to try it and then Ken was like just sit in it. Take it for a spin. Once I got in the VeloChair, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to pedal but it is so easy. I only have strength in one leg but the strength is building up in the other now. Once I figured out how to maneuver it and use the steering tillers, it was so easy. I love it.
D : So you definitely feel like you’ve gained some more muscle?
J: I feel like my weaker leg is now stronger than the leg that is fine believe it or not. (pointing to weaker leg) My doctor did some strength tests and she said that I have more muscle.
D : Aside from doctor’s visits, where have you guys taken the chair?
J : We go to the park. I go shopping, we went to the mall. We took it to the town parade. Everyone was asking me what the chair was and saying they had never seen anything like it before. I was like I know because it’s new!
J: This chair has opened my world. I think of all the people it can help as well. I want to see it flourish so much. People don’t realize how much freedom it really gives you. I didn’t realize it just by going to that expo. I was hesitant to even sit in it like I said and Now that I have it, it’s opened up our world. We can go out together as a family and do things together.
D: You’re not the only one who was hesitant to sit in it at first. What was your apprehension?
J : I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to push the pedals and I didn’t want to look weak. I thought it was going to be more like a bicycle and it was going to be harder and I can’t ride a bike because I can’t stay steady. You don’t have to do that with the chair. It just glides. I was just unsure, I saw everyone riding around in them but that was my biggest fear.
J : My son loves it. He’s only 14 but he’s so excited by it. He’s always asking where we are going to go. It’s a family bonding experience.
J : As for the steering on the chair, it’s intuitive. Usually when you get into something new, it takes some time to learn but I just started pedaling and took off!
Emily Zammataro is an 88 year old who lives in New Jersey. At age 79, Emily had a double knee replacement, and a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TVAR) by age 86. Six months after her procedure, Emily experienced a stroke, which created limiting weakness on her left side including her arm and leg.
Following a five month in-and-out patient physical and occupational therapy experience, Emily was introduced to the Velochair.
Emily now uses the chair 6 to 8 times a week. In addition to home-based physical and occupational therapy, her routine includes doing laps around the streets of her community which she estimates to be about 2 miles a day. She recently used the Velochair to shop around a popular indoor mall near her home. It has enabled her to meet new neighbors and remain socially active while strengthening her body and mind.
D: How long have you had the chair now?
M: Three months.
F: She had a stroke in march and then the flu so was in and out of the hospital but it wasn’t until the tail end that we started her in the chair.
D: So you feel that even in three months of having the chair, you feel like you’ve built up muscle and strength?
M: With the chair, I saw a great improvement in my legs. I had weakness in my legs from the stroke but it improved a great deal. Lately, since I haven’t been able to take it out every day due to the weather, I can feel some of the weakness coming back but even after a month and a half of using it in the beginning, I could see a difference.
F: Her debilitation was primarily on her left side so she has weakness in her left arm and her left leg. She uses a walker to get around and she does daily exercise and in fact, we log her daily progress with the chair daily. We put a spreadsheet together for her home care so her occupational therapy routine, we added in the VeloChair to log distance and time.
M: We go out together and I let the OT set the pace and then I follow her about four times around the development.
D: Have you taken the chair anywhere else outside of just the surrounding area?
M: We went to the mall, shopping to buy a new TV and things.
F: She gets around great. It’s very easy for her to use.
M: When I’m riding the chair, I focus on pushing the leg that is weakest.
D: The laps that you’re doing around the development how far are you going mileage wise?
M: 2.8 miles every other day.
D: Do you feel like once you get out of the chair and you have a little time to relax that you’re walking is better?
M: Yes much stronger.
M: So many people stop me and ask about it. And they ask what is it?
F: Another thing that I think is really important to bring up is the mental value.
M: I can get out. I’m not stuck in the house. I have access to the outdoors. My cardiologist loves it.
F: I think the mental lift it provides is really vital. Not being bound to a walker or a cane. When we had gone to the Short Hills Mall, we were in one store and I turned around and she was already on her way to the next one on her own and I think it builds her confidence up to not bound.
M: Before this I couldn’t get out at all. It gets me access to outside and to be around people and I feel wonderful with it. I’m not a young person. I just turned 88.
F: If you talk to cardiologists and people who deal with heart conditions, being mobile is part of the problem. The blood isn’t flowing as well and plaque can build up but in this particular case, I believe not only does VeloChair help you psychologically and physically in terms of strength but I think it can help from a cardio perspective as well in terms of improving blood flow through the body.
F: I think another thing that is important for VeloChair is the community that it can create. For example, a neighbor of my mom’s expressed interest in one and if she got one and my mom has hers now they can do things together. You know, could there be an opportunity for users in this are to come together and meet at the mall on a Sunday morning and have an activity. It creates social interaction which is supercritical to longevity.
F: And this is just a personal opinion from the son of an 88 year old who had a stroke, I think it’s allowed me to do something with my mom. I don’t feel inhibited in any way shape or form to be like “hey Mom, let’s go to the park or the mall.” I actually think it’s allowed me to have a different relationship with her and interact at a different level so she doesn’t feel homebound.