Mobility – Tools to get around
The mobility tools we used are durable medical equipment and readily available for sale or rent from a medical equipment supply store. We live in a city with a population of about 200k and two major hospitals. An Internet search brings up many sources for medical equipment within the city.
We purchased a used wheel chair on Craig’s list. As much as I’d like to ignore it, I am getting almost one year older every twelve months. We bought it before we had a specific need and it was comforting to know we had it if we needed it on short notice. We paid less than $100 for a very nice quality chair, about one-third of a typical retail price.
My Wife used the wheel chair during the early portion of her recovery. She used the memory foam/gel seat cushion on both the wheel chair and her office desk chair.
There are two accessories we still need to get for the wheel chair: a cup holder and a bag or basket. Both of these need to mount on the frame of the chair to leave both hands free for mobility. We’ll get those before the next time we need to use the chair. Do an Internet search for these items. There are many options available.
We ended up buying two used walkers from sellers on Craig’s list. They were very inexpensive and it is convenient to have them at the ready at various locations in our home. One is regular sized and the other one is a wider model that provides a bit more lateral stability at the expense of being harder to maneuver in close quarters.
For the standard sized walker, we bought a basket that hangs on the front of the walker and a plastic tray that fits down over the two handles. The tray has a circular cutout to hold a cup and both accessories have been very useful. The Internet has lots of accessories available to trick out your walker.
My Wife has been the principal user of the walkers and she prefers to have wheels on the front two legs and plastic sliders (that look like tiny snow skis) on the back two legs. There are lots of other options and none are very expensive.
I am renting the knee scooter. If I only need it for 6-8 weeks, that makes the most financial sense. I looked for used scooters on Craig’s list and Ebay, but there are fewer of these items available in our area than wheel chairs or walkers.
The knee scooter works really well for me, right from the first day home after the surgery. It is comfortable to use and easy to maneuver around the house. I am glad that I have a small pickup. When I start driving, it would be harder to get the scooter into a car trunk than into the back of my pickup.
I have crutches but am not very competent with them. The last time I was skilled moving on four appendages, I was about 12 months old.
If I am able to drive before I can put weight on the foot, I suspect I’ll be using both crutches and scooter to get from home, to vehicle, to destination.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
With the above medical equipment items, we practiced using the equipment prior to our surgeries while we were still fully mobile. It was time well spent.
Use the equipment to travel everywhere you will need to go in your environment while you are recovering. Try all the doors, hallways, corners, and be sure you can get around all furniture. If you need to move or remove furniture, rugs or anything else, the time to do it is before your surgery.
If you are the patient, sit in the wheel chair as you propel yourself and also as your caregiver pushes you around. If you are the caregiver, practice pushing the chair with and without the patient to make sure you are both comfortable and you have worked out any potential problems.
- Backing up
- Making U-turns in narrow places
- Getting over the small threshold bumps between rooms
- Transitioning from carpet to hard flooring, and back again
- Transitioning between wheelchair/scooter/walker/crutches and your bed/chair/toilet/tub/shower. No fair using your surgery appendage during practice. If you won’t be able to use it after surgery, practice without relying on that appendage.
Notice that I have not mentioned stairs? We are fortunate because we have a single level home and do not have to contend with stairs and limited mobility.
My only recommendation is to temporarily reconfigure your home so that you can live on the accessible levels until recovery is complete. When our daughter was in grade school, she had knee surgery. Her bedroom was on the second floor, so we moved her entire bed downstairs and set her up in the middle of our living room. Her friends thought it was pretty cool when they came to visit!
GETTING HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL
We have a small pickup as our family vehicle. It was easy for me to get in and out of the truck for the trip from the hospital to home on the day of the surgery. I had a cast on my left leg that only came half way up my calf and I had full use of my knee. The trip home for me was easy.
My Wife had knee replacement surgery. On the day I brought her home, her surgical leg was still swollen and there was very little flexibility in her knee. It was extremely difficult to get in and out of the truck and I was not sure we would be successful. For the next few weeks when she had follow-up appointments with the surgeon and physical therapy, we used local taxi companies and specifically asked for large vehicles to make her travel easier. The vehicles were larger than our truck, but entry and exit was still nearly impossible.
I don’t have the solution is for this. I would have rented a larger vehicle if I knew it would give easier entry, but most available rentals are about the same size. If anyone knows of a better transport vehicle, please weigh in. I’m sure lots of patients face this problem.