Leon is 13 years old and has a condition called Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. He attends his local senior school and loves his Play Station and Lego. He is a keen member of a local Scout group and really enjoys the outdoor activities that they do like camping, lighting fires and cooking on an open fire. And yes, singing the odd camp fire song!! I know that he would like to be able to take part in all of the activities however there have been occasions when this has not been possible. For example when they are doing things like a country hike or shelter building in the woods. On one occasion they were doing a sponsored walk along the sea front and he could not join the others on the beach for a photograph. As you can imagine this makes him feel left out and very upset. His day to day electric wheelchair simply cannot cope with the difficult terrain like sand, mud and tree roots! Even going to the park with his friends was difficult and they often had to help to dig him out of the mud!
We had been to a Muscular Dystrophy conference and Leon had seen an all terrain wheelchair on exhibition. From that moment he went on about them constantly! Leon is a keen internet browser and started to look at and dream about having his own all terrain 4 x 4 wheelchair. As parents however we knew that we could only dream about it too as they were too expensive for our budget.
The Scouts were keen to try and help us get Leon a suitable wheelchair and we began to discuss ways to try to raise some funds with them. I approached the Whizz kids for funding but because they had supplied Leon’s electric wheelchair they were unable to help us at that time. We also had a visit to Great Ormond street hospital and a physiotherapist there said to try some charities. She also recommended one specifically for children in Essex called Wipe Away Those Tears.
Leon by now had narrowed his choice down to the Observer and the Predator. At this stage Leon favoured the Observer. I then began to compare wheelchairs, prices and companies. We needed a company that could come to us without any pressure to purchase a wheelchair. At this stage we still had no funding in place and it was still just a dream!
I decided to try just a couple of charities at a time as I knew there are often lots of forms and funding questions to find answers to. I began with an introductory e-mail to two charities and to my amazement I had a positive response from Wipe Away Those Tears with full funding offered within two days!!!
I contacted Access 4 Wheelchairs and organised a test drive for Leon. As soon as we saw the Observer we realised that it was too big for our needs. It was also too wide for the ramp into our wheelchair access van. Luckily the Predator came into view and Leon simply said “Cool!” He took to it straight away and whizzed off across a local park heading for the woods. All smiles on his return and I knew the Predator had ticked all of his adventurous boxes. Leon’s response to the test drive says it all “It’s just great and makes me feel free”.
He is impressed by the standing feature of the chair and the fact that he feels like he can ‘stand up’, something he has not been able to do for about a year now. It was important to him that the wheelchair could cope with mud and rocky paths so he knew he could do all the Scouting stuff. It took Leon no time to master the controls. The back rest supports him well and he finds it comfortable to ride in. He likes the fact that he can tilt the seat and get himself into exactly the right position. We had lights fitted which will prove useful during the night hikes that the Scout do and no doubt Leon will be leading the way!
Wipe Away Those Tears were fantastic. With just an e-mail and a quotation they had the whole ordering process underway. They are a small charity but do such a lot to help so many children. They provide all sorts of essential equipment for children from iPads to recliner chairs, from trikes to 4 x 4 wheelchairs like Leon’s. This equipment makes so much difference to so many lives and they deserve as much support as possible. Leon and his swimming school have already done a sponsored swim to raise funds for them. The Scouts are holding an open evening soon and money donated from the sale of teas, coffees and cakes will also be sent to the charity. We cannot thank Wipe Away Those Tears enough for what they have done for Leon.
Leon has taken the wheelchair onto a local beach across soft sand, compacted sand, gravel and tidal mud. He cannot wait for the Scouts to go on a hike “so I can go on my own and not be pushed by my Mum” He is also looking forward to taking part in a Scout’s cooking and camping competition so he can get around the campsite independently “without poor Mum having to struggle”. He loves the standing feature of the wheelchair and is looking forward to attending his local youth club so he can talk with his friends “at the same level as me, rather than them talking down to me all the time”. He is also keen to try some cooking so that he can see what he is doing on the work top and I am hoping to get him to do some washing up as well!! Our next planned adventures are a fishing trip with his Dad to try his hand at beach fishing and some “off roading” in our local area to try some woodland footpaths “with lots of mud everywhere”. Oh dear, definitely welly boots for us then! Leon has also got his fingers crossed that it will snow so he can join his friends for snow ball fights!
Access 4 Wheelchairs have been so helpful throughout the entire process. Their website is easy to use and the information about their products is very comprehensive. They are happy to explain the features of each wheelchair and help you to choose the best chair for your particular needs. I felt no pressure to make a decision at the test drive and had no problems contacting them to ask a couple of questions a few days after their visit. The delivery and follow up has been superb with prompt and courteous appointments and excellent communication throughout the process. They helped Leon with some tips about manoeuvring the chair and he is now expert at it (unlike his parents!).
Leon has shown the Predator to the Scouts and his wheelchair football team and they were all amazed at the features of the chair and even more amazed at the price. He is one lucky and happy young man. Thank you Wipe Away Those Tears and Access 4 wheelchairs for making this dream a reality.