In my 58 years as a paraplegic, I have owned a boatload of cushions, but none have been as eccentric, unique and surprising as the one I am now trialing — the Vicair AllRounder O2.
Headquartered in the Netherlands, Vicair makes several wheelchair cushions. All have in common a unique system of small air-filled packets called “smart cells” that fill five connected sections of the cushion. Each section is formed to protect a particular area — one for the coccyx, one for each ischial area, and one for each trochanter — five sections filled with a total of about 435 air-filled, pyramidlike packets. You can hold a few in the palm of your hand. You can set one on a table and move it by blowing. The four tips on each smart cell feel pointy in your hand, so my first impression was that they would not be comfortable to sit on, but the tips fold over with just a minimal amount of force and there is no discomfort. When you cram more than 400 of these into five strategically placed compartments and sit on it, they conform with one another to create a seating surface that is relatively lightweight, supportive and yet not solid, with just enough space between packets to allow for movement. You can add or remove smart cells to adjust for the feel and protection you want.
The surface of the cushion is a meshlike material that allows air and liquid through, and is machine washable. The AllRounder is aimed at active wheelchair users who want to get out of their chairs and sit on noncushioned or minimally cushioned surfaces, especially for sports and recreational activities such as sailing, handcycling, kayaking, mountain biking, etc., but the cushion works for anything that requires sitting on a relatively hard surface.
Now here’s the best part: The five-part cushion zips into a durable, surrounding fabric cover with adjustable straps that fit around your waist and thighs, so you strap the cushion on your butt. It’s almost like wearing custom shorts that are open on top and have padding that covers only your weight-bearing skin surfaces. Wherever you go, your cushion goes with you, like your own personal bucket seat, minus arms and back.
The AllRounder is not meant to replace your regular wheelchair cushion, so it is recommended that you transfer into it and then strap it on. At 78, I can no longer do pivot transfers safely by lifting and swinging my butt over the target surface and then letting myself down. I now use a two-piece sliding board called the Buckingham Glideboard, which is what I used when trialing the AllRounder.
I wanted to drive an old adaptive golf cart I still have from my golfing days, but there is no padding left in the seat. Rather than go to the expense and trouble of removing it and having it repadded and covered, I ordered the AllRounder from Vicair in the Netherlands, which ended up costing about the same — $282 — shipped to my door. Hooking up was easy with adjustable waist strap and thigh straps, which have loops for easy tightening. I was able to slide into the golf cart and land easily on my AllRounder. My initial fear of not being able to slide into the seat without pushing the cushion off on the ground was unfounded.
I was off to the races, my course a three-acre piece of farmland with rows of hops towering 15-20 feet overhead, kind of like driving down lanes flanked by skinny trees. The ground was grassy and rough with divots and small hills, so I went slow. To my surprise, the ride was comfortable despite being uneven. As I tooled around inside and outside the hops field, my confidence grew. I felt safe and stable strapped into my cushion and secured to the driver’s seat with a seat belt. My butt was protected. I was able to make small adjustments to sit straighter by using the fold-down arms of the golf cart seat.
I stayed in the cart for about an hour-and-a-half as I inspected a crop in the field, something I’ve not been able to do for the last seven years — a period with multiple pressure sores and infections. It felt like I reclaimed an important part of my independence. I may tinker around with removing a few smart cells to get deeper immersion, but the AllRounder works fine as is.
To my surprise, when my field inspection was done, I was able to transfer back into my chair using the slide board with the AllRounder still strapped on. It was easier than I had anticipated. I landed on my chair cushion, a JAY Union, so I was considerably taller than normal, which made the chair a bit tippy. I had to be careful when wheeling. Before going up a ramp into my house, I unstrapped and my wife was able to pull the AllRounder out from beneath me. Now I know I can remove my regular chair cushion and slide safely onto the sling of my chair with the AllRounder strapped on.
For me, this was a proof-of-concept trial. I can envision any number of possibilities for wearing my AllRounder in everyday situations, such as getting into a nonpadded shower chair, an airplane seat, a car, if needed, or possibly an accessible exam table.
Safety and Purchasing Info
Vicair cushions are available in 45 nations and can be provided to vets through the Department of Veterans Affairs. A para-vet, T12-L1, whom I have known for more than 30 years, has used Vicair cushions and likes the stability they offer when being active. The Vicair website has posted 10 “clinical cases” of their cushions that claim to provide specific benefits. However, very few involve wheelchair users with spinal cord injuries, and the descriptions of the cases do not read like scientific case studies. It is advisable, especially for regular sport or competitive uses, to pressure-test any cushion and routinely do skin checks.
Original article: https://newmobility.com/testing-the-vicair-allrounder-02-cushion/
Author: Tim Gilmer