If you’d told me when BJ was little I’d be excited to take delivery of a new wheelchair in the future, I’d have said you were crackers. And yet, here we are today, thrilled to get BJ’s new chair. It’s been a long time coming, given we first signaled it was needed in December 2016. We had an occupational therapy assessment, looked at chairs and put in our application for funding. Then we waited – I can’t say patiently, cause I’d be lying. Seeing this is BJ’s fourth manual wheelchair, I thought I might share our experience choosing a manual wheelchair with you.
Not only is this BJ’s fourth manual chair, but it’s also his fourth Mogo Wheelchair. We are a bit obsessed by this company because they custom make the chairs and come from a place of great understanding when assisting in the design process. Mogo Wheelchairs’ founder, Michael, fitted BJ’s first wheelchair. Every therapist was despairing over BJ’s athetoid movements and his legs going every which way but Michael had great admiration for his movement and at a time when I needed it, he gave me hope. Being a paraplegic he could see the advantages BJ would have with that movement once he was old enough to work out ways of controlling it, and you know what, Michael was right. Over time BJ learnt ways to stabilize and he avoided foot and leg strapping. To be honest, BJ was such a Houdini, no strapping would have contained him!
BJ’s third wheelchair (pictured above) came with bat wheel guards. Although simply an accessory, these became the best wheelchair feature providing an amazing conversation starter. People are often keen to connect with BJ but seem unsure where to start. The wheel guards brought comments from kids and adults alike, “Cool wheels mate”, “You’ve got a bat mobile there, that’s so great!” BJ loves people and is fond of a little attention so we soon realised the bat wheels were genius!
So when it came time to get a new wheelchair, we knew it would be good to include a fun element but after looking at the wheel guards online nothing appealed to BJ. We were almost going to go ahead with a plain chair and then I remembered Mogo offers clients the option of airbrushing. I decided to contact Leon, Michael’s son, who now owns and operates the business, to see what was possible. A surprise plan was hatched and today the Superman airbrushed guards were revealed on delivery of his new wheelchair.
BJ loves them and the result exceeded our expectations.
I watch BJ’s cousins who are close to his age getting cars and putting their own touches to them with fancy accessories and I thought why not. This is a way of pimping BJ’s wheels which reflects his personality.
Leon has done an amazing job of bringing together our vision in a chair which is functional but also fun. I think it reflects BJ’s current age and interests.
I’m more about the comfort and overall look of a chair but if you are a details person and want to know more, I thought I’d share all of the specs.
The new chair is a Mogo Jac which has been custom-made to measure. It’s made from T6 6061 alloy tube, alloy lift-out side guards with custom airbrushing, alloy anti-tip bars and push handles. The back rest is an ADI carbon fibre unit and the cushion is Jay Ion. The rear wheels are Mogo’s new standard wheel made by Spinergy called SPOX, alloy rim with carbon fibre spokes. Tyres are solid 24 inch called SHOX, colour of chair is Dormant light blue sparkle from Aussie company Oxytech powder. An airbrush artist used by Mogo took the picture we provided as a guide and came up with the design. The airbrushing cost $400.
We choose a fixed frame rather than folding because it withstands BJ’s movement a lot better. The seat back can fold which makes it easier for travel. BJ won’t wear gloves and we’ve been finding he is getting calluses on his hands, we are hoping the new rim may assist with this. For travel we need the chair to pull to pieces fairly easily so the handle bars can be removed, anti-tips have a quick release pin and the arm guards are able to be packed into our suitcases. As we have off-road tyres for BJ’s chair, the wheels needed to be interchangeable size-wise. You can read about his off-road tyres here. Storage is always important to us for our travels so the new chair has a zippered pocket under the seat, a net basket underneath and I have Leon coming up with a solution to a pocket for my phone and keys at the back of the chair. I’ll share when I get it.
We decided we could finally get rid of the big foot plate box which we’ve had added to the last two chairs. BJ’s control of his movement has improved enough we thought we’d give it a go. I think he’ll be fine without it but the chair has gone back to the workshop to get a wider footplate, just to ensure BJ feels as stable and secure as he can. This will help him sit well and ensure his movement is more controlled. So next week it will be back all ready for some super adventures.
In this whole process what we hadn’t anticipated was BJ’s reluctance to accept the new chair. When I thought about it afterwards, it’s not surprising. His ‘bat mobile’ chair has been with him for around 6 years and it’s been a part of his day-to-day life and his many adventures. It empowers BJ and is really an extension of him.
It took a bit of convincing to get BJ to settle in his new chair and go for a good wheel. He kept going back to check his old chair was still there. Leon did some adjustments to get the new chair comfy and by the time we’d finished, BJ was happily wheeling all around the offices at therapy.
This is not a sponsored post, BJ’s wheelchair was funded by the NDIS (minus the fancy airbrushing because that is definitely not “reasonable and necessary”) We love Mogo Wheelchairs because their chairs are custom-made, meaning we can tweak and alter things to suit BJ’s needs. I’m an ideas person and I love that Leon is a can-do kind of guy and so far he’s never said “No”.
The old wheelchair will now stay at home as our back-up chair. This saves me bringing BJ’s wheelchair back and forwards from his day program each day. We just bring it home for weekends.
And it seems fitting in memory of all the fun times and the hard work the old chair has done, I share a few pics of where it’s taken BJ over the years.