As I walked into the seating clinic, which is held monthly at Sunbeam Centre, I witnessed Sheila Buck working with Jude, age 14, to finalize a custom fitting for the seat of his wheel chair. Sheila directed the positioning and molding of the system by gently holding Jude in a proper posture, while the other technicians molded a bag full of Styrofoam beads in around Jude’s body. When the proper shape was captured, all the air was removed from the bag to hold the shape.
The appointment had begun with an assessment of Jude’s current posture. Sheila determined what could be corrected to optimize his breathing, eating and spinal alignment as he sat in his chair. As the technicians finalized the molding of the chair, Sheila said to Jude’s mom, “Can you see, now his head is up and he is looking around more?” We all saw that, and it was thanks to the proper positioning of the custom mold which optimized his seating. Working with seating in this way is really working against gravity – gravity always takes over. When a person sits in a chair for a long period of time without the ability to shift their posture on their own, gravity will push their spine and pelvis into compensatory angles and curves which compromise their health and sitting posture. The average life span of a wheel chair is 5 years while seating may need to be replaced every two years due to changes in posture or pressure. Other supporting products are walkers, standers, shower seats and commodes.
Jude is one of Sunbeam’s shared respite clients. It was suggested by the front line staff at Sunbeam and Jude’s parents that the time was coming for a review of his current wheel chair, as it was showing wear and tear and he was growing out of it. The first stage of the assessment goes to Ibrahim Eblan (Abe), Sunbeam’s Complex Care coordinator who is responsible to identify client needs related to new chairs, and coordinate all the bookings between the clients and the Occupational Therapist here at Sunbeam Centre. He supports the process from start to finish. Abe identified there was a need for Jude to have his current seating looked at and scheduled the appointment with Sheila.
Sheila is an Occupational Therapist and has been actively working in the field of seating and mobility for over 30 years. She provides consultation, assessment and treatment related to seating, mobility, accessibility and ergonomics, through her company Therapy NOW. Sheila has spoken at National and International seating conferences, and has published a book, “More than 4 wheels ” A Clinical Guide to Seating and Mobility. As well, she has completed training courses in Ontario & Alberta for Occupational Therapists. She also mentors local students. Sunbeam Centre has had the privilege of working with her for the past 19 years.
Shelia shared with me that she feels a sense of satisfaction when the seating system is completed and delivered, knowing it will improve function, comfort and happiness in all activities of daily living that the recipient does moving forward.
If you have any current wheel chair seating questions, please reach out to Abe Eblan at 519-893-6200 x280.