Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beach Walker: Day 2

We made some adjustments==cut off about 3 1/2" from the pipe stems, and then put the golf cart wheels back on. The result was...well, MAGICAL!

Unfortunately I pressed the picture button instead of the video button on my camera when she first started to use it--still--what a day! I'm so proud of my girl!

Today was a GREAT day on the beach...Elena got to move about freely in packed sand, wet sand, little tidepools--even up to our shade tent in deep sand (she made it most of the way). Another bonus is I got a break--carrying E is hard work. It was wonderful to walk with Elena down to the surf--and not have to carry her. Just a super great day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Beach Walker: Day 1

Here is the beach walker, as shown previously, with just the curved ends as "skids"--action!

The Beach Walker is hard to push here...it doesn't help that it's not exactly level (but close--I had some trouble with cementing around the axle to make it snug). This is too hard for her to push or turn. (By the way, it's not raining here--just humid).

So, my ingenious dad found out that some golf club wheels fit perfectly into 1 1/2" PVC fittings, so he brought some. We outfitted the walker as is with the wheels and gave it to E to try. We knew the addition of the wheels would change the angle of the walker, and we'd probably have to fix it later. We didn't think she would fall right away...but she did.

Here is a side view of the walker with the wheels--very easy to tip at this angle..

BUT--the important message here is, with the addition of the rear wheels, this model can be more easily pushed and turned to work on the beach. I still need to add some hooks for E to hang her bucket while she looks for shells. The new plan is to shorten the rear legs to help the "tipping" angle, and keep the wheels. We brought a hand saw, so I'll update those changes tomorrow.

I can't lie...being the only parent of a physically disabled kid on the beach isn't easy. But E is having a fantastic time, and she's willing to try new things. As you can see, her stance isn't great--up on toes, legs bent--we expect a lengthening procedure this winter. I'm not sure yet what we're going to do...but I just hope it helps her move better. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mother of Invention: Beach Walker

Okay, so here it is! Well, it's not technically ready yet. But here is the "prototype" of E's beach walker!

What I wanted was a walker-type contraption that Elena might be able to push on sand. MIGHT. Sand is THE MOST DIFFICULT solid surface to navigate, so this little experiment might very well end up in a big pile of FAIL.

Ideally I wanted a wheel like the Wheeleez wheel; but those run $40 dollars apiece, for the smallest size, not counting the axle or other fixtures. And since we only visit the beach for a few days of the year, I can't spend a lot of money. I consulted one engineer, two specialists who deal with special needs rehab equipment/beach wheelchairs, our orthotist, my dad, and called or visited every store in town, and several online, that sold wheels. I considered wheels, skis, runners, balls, and plates; I needed something that would maneuver in sand (wheel or something that would glide) and be wide enough not to sink, and ideally be able to turn or be dragged to change direction. And be lightweight enough so a ~30lb girl could push/turn it.

This wheel might be too thin...but it's the best I could find for the price. It's a $20 wheelbarrow wheel (4" wide, 16" high--it's also heavy, but it has inner ball bearings for a smooth roll). The frame is made of 1 1/2" PVC pipe; total cost of the pipe and fittings were ~20 dollars. The axle was $8, I think.

Our orthotist helped me with the design and measurements, and cut the pieces. The PVC cement and primer together was another $8.

I am still considering sliders--large plastic bowls, actually, for the rear of the walker. Or maybe a different type of "runner". I'm also going to add a hook or two on the top of the frame (I haven't decided exactly where yet) so E can hang her sand pail.

Vids trying this contraption in action should be posted before Saturday--that's when we leave for the Beach! Hopefully, we'll find a place to watch the US-Ghana game on the way down (as if the girls will let us sit there for 2 hours...one can dream, n'est-ce pas?)!

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Last weekend it was an amazingly hot 95°F. Whew that's hot!

The local YMCA had its First Annual YMCA Day--a sort of "field day", at no charge--complete with games, sports demos, a raffle, fun runs, bounce house, playgym (on a bus), and free food and information about living a healthy lifestyle with your kids. It was a great idea--I love our YMCA! I've talked with them several times regarding activities for kids, and they've been very welcoming to Elena. While I'm really happy we went--E was the only physically impaired child there. I'm not going to kid myself--hey, I know statistics, but I hate it when they stare me in the face. Some days are harder than others. *ahem* MOVING ON--

We arrive to the site--it's on a high school track field. I decided to carry E rather than use the stroller (BAD IDEA)--she did walk some, but I didn't want her to be too tired once we got to the track. Once we got there, our first stop was the Tumblebus--an old school bus outfitted with all sorts of climbing/jumping/play equipment. It was air conditioned (albeit, not well) and it was full of kids. Everyone was great.

Then we went to the bounce house...no one was in it. My kind of bounce house time! Then I took E on a big inflatable slide--I really think she could have gotten to the top by herself, but not with an army of 10-yr olds waiting for her to get to the top. I also have my doubts that she could have descended the slide without injury or uncomfortable twisting--so we went together.

Did I mention it was HOT!??

The local fire department was there with one of their engines. So, they helped everyone cool off!

They hooked up the fire hoses, put the ladder all the way up, and created a sprinkler! The kids went NUTS. Elena joined in a crazy mess of wet kids (with her crutches, me right by her side). I told her I wanted to get "sprinkled, not soaked"--well, you can imagine how that went. We were both giggly waterlogged messes after that. That's E's first sprinkler experience...not going to top that one! Unless the fire truck was PINK, I guess.

We went to check out the firetruck, and Fireman Todd took E on a personalized tour!

Preschool Graduation

It's official! E will go to kindergarten this fall!

Elena has been very excited--amazingly excited--to be a kindergartener. She has been in public pre-K for a little over two years now. It was a hard decision at first, to send her to public school so early--but a fantastic decision.

Happy Graduation Day, E!

There will be a lot of changes come this fall, many of which I am nervous about--but that's inevitable. She'll eat in the cafeteria with the rest of the student body, and have to navigate that room (with moving people, chairs, bookbags, etc.--I feel like it's the "lunchroom field of land mines" in terms of fall hazards). The kindergarteners have classes in several different rooms, all over the school--including one in an outside trailer. She'll have to walk nearly four times the distance this fall that she has this spring in pre-K, which is no small feat. She is expected to carry her own backpack, which she has never done. And then again, the playground, where integration is difficult.

Note I didn't say I was worried about E's interaction with her peers, or she making friends; the kids at school--including older kids, boys and girls, have been nothing but encouraging to Elena. I'm serious about this. I know it will happen some day, E being teased for how she moves--but there are lot of kids around her who don't care, and will stick up for her. That is extremely reassuring to us parents. I owe it to her teachers, and her peers, for fostering that environment. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Children's Hospital Walk For Kids: Holy Smokes!

I found out on a local events board that the Annual UVA Children's Hospital Walk for Kids was today. I knew about that, but they had a "Wee Walk" option. I really didn't pay attention to how long it was; I figured we wouldn't finish anyway. I called about the course--it was smooth, flat, paved, and had water and help available. Hmm.

I asked E this morning if she wanted to go on an exercise walk with me. I said we could be partners, teammates, and see how far we could walk. And that there would be babies and dogs there, and that we would be helping little babies in the hospital by our exercise. She quickly agreed.

Our whole family went. It was H-O-T. 90°F, actually.

We started with the rest of the walkers. E was the only one impaired walking--that I saw, anyway. Everyone was so incredibly supportive. My goal was for E to use one crutch, and hold my hand in the other. We got about 100 feet, to the turn where the Wee Walk started, and there were a few kid games--E stopped to play and she had about had it. She started whining that she wanted to be carried. I wanted to see if I could get her to walk a little farther--just to the shady spot on the grass. We took a few breaks to get there, but she did it. Then she saw everyone across the park finishing the Wee Walk.

"What are they doing?" E asked.
"They are finishing the walk--the course ends over there," I told her, as we sat in the grass. E asked to get up.

"I'm doing it."

"Doing what?" I asked. "Do you want to walk more?"

"YES! I am going to do the whole thing." My eyes got huge. I nodded.

We had about 3/4 of the course remaining. We took breaks often--some were just standing breaks, some were to switch hands, some were to sit down and have water or a goldfish cracker. I let her be in charge--never again did she asked to be carried. There were two ladies who came behind us, and introduced themselves and asked if they could walk with Elena. She took Britney's and Rachel's hand, and kept on going.

SHE DID IT! Jason and I were amazed! The course was 1/4 mile long. Once E decided she was going to do the whole course, it took us ~25 minutes to finish, and a minimum of 10 breaks. GREAT JOB E!