Learning to Navigate the World in My Permobil F3

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by Alyssa Silva |

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The SMA News Today Forums heard it first, but I’d like to introduce you to my brand new Permobil F3 wheelchair. Her name is Rizzo, and yes, I am one of those crazy people who assign genders and names to their vehicles, including wheelchairs. I wanted something sassy and fun for my new ride, and my friends on Instagram helped me pick out the name. Isn’t she a beauty?

The process of getting a new wheelchair isn’t as smooth as I wish it were. The adjustment period requires patience, pain, and unlearning what has become so routine with your old wheelchair, only to become familiarized with the new.

Being a creature of habit probably doesn’t help, either.

I had some reservations about getting a new wheelchair. I don’t like change and will latch onto something for as long as possible. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I personify objects with names (let’s not go there). But I don’t like to shake things up. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” as the adage goes. However, my old wheelchair was nearly broken, and there was no denying that it was time to fix it.

To avoid too much change, I convinced my physical therapist to let me transfer my old seat cushions to the new chair. I have a custom-molded seat padded with gel, and it fits like a glove. It took several weeks of aches and pains for me to adjust to the seat in the first place. The seat still met my needs, so she agreed.

Changes are inevitable when getting a new wheelchair, as is the adjustment period. I’ve had my chair for 10 days and am still adjusting to all it entails.

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Alyssa and her new Permobil, Rizzo. (Courtesy of Alyssa Silva)

Right off the bat, the seat we transferred from my old chair wasn’t mounted in the same position. My body feels the smallest changes, down to a millimeter. We’re working on tweaking it, but my neck ache is reminding me that it still isn’t quite right.

The mini joystick also has come with some difficulties. It is even more sensitive to the touch than my last one. I’ve been giving myself whiplash and motion sickness, of which my vertigo isn’t very fond. Some walls also have fallen victim to my subpar driving skills. Clearly, I’m still learning.

But Rizzo is still pretty awesome. I have a feeling we’ll create many memories together in due time.

Right now, I’m familiarizing myself with all she has to offer between intermittent bouts of frustration. I still need patience and practice as I learn to navigate my surroundings. And I’m still very much feeling the discomfort that comes along with it.

But, at the end of the day, my wheelchair is the gateway to my world — a world in which we’ll conquer together.

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Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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