New wheels. New life.
When Jacob was born in December 2014, everything seemed tohave gone well. His colour was good, he looked like a normal healthy boy. But within 48 hours he started having seizures. Doctors soon realized he had suffered significant brain damage during birth and told Jodie and husband Daniel to call the family and prepare themselves for the worst. But little Jacob was a fighter and didn’t give up.
It took 8 months for the official diagnosis to come through: Cerebral Palsy with spastic paralysis.
After the shock, Jodie and Daniel started facing the future ahead with young Jacob. They began to settle in and accept the facts of caring for a child with special needs. But where they lived at the remote settlement of Franz Josef created a whole new level of challenges, both for them and those that supported them.
West Coast Healthcare provided a loan Discovery stroller before ACC kicked in, but this was by no means the ideal solution. Being practical sorts, Jodie and Daniel added their own modifications to try and get Jacob to sit up. As Jodie says, she thought they’d done a great job until Medifab’s Zippie Folding Iris wheelchair turned up at Christchurch Hospital, coupled with the comfort and support of Spex Wheelchair Seating by Medifab.
“It was amazing, this new chair would support his trunk, his neck, it allowed him to sit and to focus and he could begin engaging with his surroundings.” says Jodie.
Jodie and Daniel now had the peace of mind that Jacob was always in the most supportive posture and seated correctly. As well as this, his Spex Kidz cushion and back support, as well as a Spex Centre-point harness, some swing-away lateral trunk supports, and a Comfi head support, ensured he was always comfortable!
But unfortunately for Jodie and Daniel, not everything was perfect with the new wheelchair!
When they got back home to Franz Josef, they soon realised the wheels posed a problem! They were simply too small for the outdoor trails they wanted to take him on. The small wheels just couldn’t cope with the uneven surfaces and would get stuck in the rocks and dirt. Jodie explains:
“We live down at Franz Josef for a reason, we want to get away from people and get out on the trails and enjoy being close to nature; we also wanted Jacob to experience that as much as possible. Our other boys are going to be out climbing rocks and stuff and we want Jacob to interact – even if it’s just by touching a rock. But these small wheels were just not going to work.”
When Medifab got a call from Jodie and Daniel, the team realised they had a challenge on their hands. The size of tyre required to allow Jacob to get out there in the wilds of Franz Josef had never been fitted to a wheelchair before. Led by Product Consultant, William Mascull, Medifab set about searching for the right wheels.
Eventually they found a pair at a specialist cycle store in Christchurch and got them couriered to Medifab Rolleston. Then William and Lead Product Technician, Ben Whitten, drove the 6-hour trip to Franz Josef to fit the new oversized wheels to the chair. Under the watchful eye of the Whanau (Māori for ‘extended family’), the pair fitted the new wheels, and adjusted the chair for Jacob. They even got an approving nod from Nanny – which according to Jodie rarely happens!
“It must have been a bit scary for them, because we were all standing around them while they worked with our arms folded, but they did it and it’s amazing. They are almost like family now – there’s a lot of finesse to their work, getting everything right and what’s great is it comes from the heart – we gave them a tough challenge and they were willing to take it on and be pushed” says Jodie.
Of course, this story isn’t about wheels – it’s about people going out of their way, literally, to ensure young Jacob can engage and experience more in this world and enjoy being part of a family that loves to get out in one of the most special playgrounds on earth – Franz Josef.