Lena was 43 years old when she was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND). Working as a Human Resources Director in London, she first noticed her foot dropping whilst walking. She carried on working as her condition deteriorated, undergoing numerous tests before her diagnosis in late 2011 – seven months after her initial foot drop started.
MND is a progressive disease that attacks the motor neurons, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. This means messages gradually stop reaching muscles, which leads to weakness and wasting. As the condition progresses, most people with MND will need to use a wheelchair.
“After a while my decline was such that I could no longer get about safely and was reliant on a wheelchair, so in April 2013 I retired”, Said Lena. “My husband and I moved out of the city and back to Cheltenham where we have a strong support network of friends and family.’
‘Needless to say, the slower pace of life was a massive adjustment and I started looking for new roles to keep me busy. I applied to become a trustee for the MND Association and was delighted to be elected to the role in September 2013. It was not long after that I became involved in the MND Powered Neuro Wheelchair project.”
The MND Association successfully applied for a Department of Health Innovation Grant which enabled them to work with three wheelchair manufacturers during 2013 and 2014 to create new models of Powered Neuro Wheelchair that best meet the needs of people with MND. Stakeholder meetings involving people living with MND, carers, wheelchair service managers, therapists and rehab engineers, representatives from the Department of Health and other charities reviewed the design features before final specifications were approved. The provision of the most appropriate wheelchair for people with MND has previously been complicated. Most often, costly adaptations had to be made to existing wheelchair stock, leading to delays in people getting their wheelchair. The new chairs were designed to avoid these problems, in an affordable way for wheelchair services to provide these to people with MND.
Lena added “My Ottobock Powered Neuro Wheelchair has allowed me to keep my independence as my condition has progressed. It’s comfortable and has become an extension of me. The chair has a tilt-in-space function, which allows me to relax and provides safety when going down hills. Its ability to rise up enables me to interact with people at their level. The leg raisers help with pressure distribution and comfort and the chair is compact enough to manoeuvre easily around the house, on public transport and outdoors.’
‘The main benefits of the Ottobock Neuro Wheelchairs are their ability to adapt to my changing needs. I’ve already had the hand switch altered as I’ve lost strength in my arms and I am about to have further adaptions added to the chair. All of this means that I can retain my independence.’ I am very grateful to the Department of Health and the MND Association for supporting the development of this wheelchair.’
‘My advice to anyone diagnosed or living with MND is to ensure that you are comfortable with your wheelchair. I found you may lose some confidence so take the time to ask your wheelchair service therapist to try a few chairs out to find the right one for you – and be honest with yourself when identifying your needs; talk and prepare for the future. Finally, don’t be afraid to use it! Go out, book a holiday, take public transport – have the confidence to use all of its features to your benefit.”
The Ottobock Powered Neuro Wheelchair was developed in partnership with the MND Association. In addition to being compact enough to fit in the home environment and sturdy enough for outdoor use, the chair has been designed to support accessories and technologies where required and has many options for seating position and cushioning.