Case study: Retired wheelchair shot putter regains zest for life thanks to assistance dog and ‘super’ powerchair
Retired Team GB Sportsman and Wheelchair Product Specialist Simon Cook, 59 from Bicester, has discovered a new level of independence through the support of Axel the dog and Oxfordshire assistive equipment supplier Recare.
Simon demonstrated sporting prowess at an early age, particularly in golf, and developed to professional status during his late teens. However, when he was active, Simon commonly experienced ankle breaks, which eventually led to him using callipers so he could walk. Simon’s challenges progressed in his twenties as he developed spinal problems, which ultimately led to full time use of an active manual wheelchair.
Nevertheless, Simon has achieved great success in field para-athletics including holding the British record for F7 shot put. He has won several gold and silver medals at the sport along with sporting hero trophies during the late 1990s.
Simon was diagnosed with a progressive neurological condition, which means, today, he needs a powered wheelchair to remain mobile. As his mobility continues to deteriorate, support from a PA and carers is essential, however being able to own an assistance dog and a Recare powerchair has given independence back to Simon.
Simon was provided with a powerchair through NHS Wheelchair Services, however he felt it was not right for him. Before taking early retirement, Simon had worked as a specialist product assessor for several respected wheelchair manufacturers around the world.
Working closely with occupational therapists in seating clinics, Simon had become highly proficient in prescribing the right equipment for adults and children with disabilities. His 20 years of service in the mobility industry meant he got to know the founders of Recare, Tina and Richard Holland-Oakes, so when he became frustrated with his situation, he called them for help.
Recare sent Senior Assessor Ray Wright to evaluate Simon’s needs and a bespoke Permobil F5 Corpus powered wheelchair was recommended and supplied. With the extra support from Axel coming at the same time, this combination of help changed Simon’s life forever.
Simon explains: “Before I had my powered wheelchair from Recare, it was impossible for me to get comfortable and get my legs in the correct position. My new Permobil powerchair has raising and articulated footrests so I can stretch my legs into different positions which feels so good. I am sat correctly, I feel upright, and my hips are in plain.
“The big plus though is my powerchair’s seat rise and sit-to-stand. Before I would have to rely on people to reach up high and get stuff for me, either in home cupboards or from supermarket shelves, very frustrating. I’d always have to wait for my carers to come to my home or when out I’d have to ask other shoppers for assistance, not anymore – I just activate my seat lift, the elevation is fantastic. Anything low down Axel gets for me, so the combination of him and my powerchair means nothing is out of reach.”
Axel was trained by the Banbury-based Dogs for Good. This charity creates life-changing differences for people living with a wide range of disabilities and conditions through the help of a specially trained dog.
Simon was introduced to Axel and fell in love with him right from day one. Axel now helps alongside Simon’s powerchair by fetching and picking up items, helping with the washing, opening doors and turning on the TV and lights. Bluetooth technology built into Simon’s powerchair controller is also invaluable for turning electric equipment on and off in the house. With this combined assistance, Simon is able to live alone and enjoy life on an attractive, newly built estate near Bicester shopping village.
Simon is so happy with Axel; he has given him ‘real purpose in life again’, and the comfort of his advanced wheelchair amplifies this positivity. The 8mph Permobil F5 Corpus is a popular, high-tech electric wheelchair that combines contemporary styling with advanced functionality.
With his vast industry knowledge, Simon appreciates the chair’s quality, as he continues: “You can just tell by looking at the mechanisms and components on my Permobil that it is built so well. My previous powerchair just kept breaking and wasn’t up to scratch when it came to heavy duty performance. Whereas my F5 is so robust, and the suspension is fantastic, so smooth when I take Axel for a walk. I could feel every bump and bang in my other chair which played havoc with my back. Now I don’t and I can go quick if I need to.
“Not only do I feel stable when out and can glide around indoors, the ability to stand in the chair is massive for me. It’s like stretching out on a bed which is very important for muscles and organs. It makes me feel so much better. Putting myself into the reclining relax mode, which I can activate by just touching one button, helps me distribute my weight which is important as I sit all day. By reclining back in a tilt-in-space position, I can reduce pressure and the risk of developing sores, which every wheelchair user knows is an absolute must.”
Simon is not only happy with his Permobil powered wheelchair, but he is also highly complimentary about the service he has received from Recare.
“Recare as a company have been great,” he enthuses. “When I first contacted them there was professionalism from the office lady I first spoke to right through to when the representative came out to assess me. It really didn’t feel like they were trying to sell me a wheelchair, it was literally just explaining about the product. Also, when I trialled the chair and we were doing the prescription form it felt like they were not trying to sell extra components, they only recommended what I required. I really felt this chair was bespoke to me. It’s just a super chair.”
Now Simon is able to enjoy more from life with Axel by his side; they are inseparable. Added to the peace of mind his Recare powerchair brings, Simon can drive his wheelchair accessible vehicle and plans to help raise funds for Dogs for Good.
In conclusion, he says: “Life is so much easier now for me, I am definitely in a better place and very lucky. Dogs for Good and Recare have both been simply amazing. When it came to my powerchair I knew it would be difficult to assess someone like me who has been in the industry for such a long time… over twenty years. However even with all my knowledge I didn’t have to question anything. Ray was great who came to see me, and I was lucky enough to know Tina and Richard (the co-founders) before they set up Recare. Recare’s outstanding service shone through, and I’d recommend them to anyone.”