Humanitarian aid organisations supplying “garden” type wheelchairs into Africa are unwittingly creating potential death traps for spinally-injured recipients. Rodney Outram, General Manager of South African wheelchair manufacturer CE Mobility, is alarmed that these cheap, lawn chair-type wheelchairs are supplied to spinally-injured patients who are not aware of the health risks.
Spinally-injured patients using these chairs could die within three months due to pressure wound complications. A pressure wound is an infected, rotting lesion on the skin (usually buttock or thigh back) caused by inadequate blood supply. A hard seat is the most unsuitable product for para or quadriplegics, who have no feeling in lower limbs and cannot “feel” the tingling or numbness caused by lack of blood circulation. Severe pressure wounds result.
Rodney’s concerns are echoed in a quote from Bengt Engstrom, a renowned seating specialist: ‘It is a medical responsibility to make wheelchairs function to prevent long term injuries.’ While the efforts of non-profit organisations are commendable, there needs to be far greater consultation with medical professionals who specialise in spinal cord injuries to avoid potentially hazardous conditions for aid recipients.