We came to Maui in fall 2014 and my heart just sang the day we got Kobey in the ocean! It was the first time he’d been in the ocean or really any body of water in years. In the past – he loved swimming; the freedom and weightless feeling it gave him. But as things have progressed with his disability and he’s lost control of his body he’s felt less secure and worries about his safety – especially in the ocean.
We found that Gammie HomeCare (808) 877-4032 Maui, www.gammie.com) had an amazing beach wheelchair – one we had never seen! The brand is Mobi (http://mobi-chair.com). You’ll see from the pictures that you can push it right down on the beach and it floats in the water! Gammie has other beach chairs too – but if you want to go in the water, we’d recommend this one! You can pick up or they will deliver & pick up right where you are staying. I was surprised at how reasonable the rental was for the whole week and personally I’d skip eating out a couple meals while here to get the experience the chair offers if you are on a budget. By choice we packed lunches most every day and only ate out very little – lunches allowed us to spend all day every day at the beach.
In the Mobi Chair Kobey was supported and felt secure. We did keep an eye on he surf and checked out beaches ahead of time for easy access down to the water. You’ll definitely want 2 people to help you get on and off the beach with a beach chair – even though this chair has sand tires it was a workout at times getting through the soft sands on Hawaii. You can check out tides, wind and surf advisories online. (http://www.tide-forecast.com, http://www.hawaiiweathertoday.com/beaches/)
This year we bought and travelled over with our own beach wheelchair – I wish we could have purchased one a long time ago! We decided to invest in one for several reasons – we live fairly close to the Oregon Coast, we were coming to Hawaii and we plan to travel more and would like to have the freedom this chair offers for choices. After researching more we decided to get a Hippocampe. We have some friends with one who love it and the wheels are interchangeable on it – it has double all-terrain wheels and we also purchased fat wheels for the beach. We purchased our Hippocampe wheelchair from Top Mobility (www.topmobility.com). This chair totally disassembles, lays down flat and stores in a bag for transport. One strong person can carry the bag – it’s big and awkward though and easier with 2 people or a cart. It travelled pretty well to Hawaii – we just checked it as an oversized bag and because it is so light it was under the 50lb weight limit – checking it was free. Yay! There was a small hole in the bag upon arrival but I think I’ll just put a patch on it and we’ll let you know what happens on the flight home.
We decided to leave the big beach tires home for this trip (not sure why?) In hindsight we wish we had just brought the beach tires and left the others. We really only used this chair at the beach and those tires would have made it easier to push the chair in the sand. FYI – They are large enough to need their own bag for transport though. The other tires work well for more “off road”, muddy or rocky terrain and we didn’t do any of that on this trip.
It was fairly easy to transfer Kobey into the Hippocampe – the chair doesn’t have brakes so someone needs to hold it in place to keep it steady (backing it up against a curb worked too). We just used a pivot transfer.
We put a life jacket on Kobey for any water we went into. AND we found we could take the chair into the pool – one person went in and held the back of the chair while the other guides it in from the pool deck. It would be ideal to have a wheelchair ramp into the pool or even stairs – we didn’t have that at either of our pools but we figured out swimming anyway!
The chair floats almost as well as the Mobi Chair we rented last year. It’s not very stable from side to side but we’re excited to see if putting the beach wheels on fixes stability! We just pushed the chair underwater and rolled Kobey out for swimming.
To get him out, we dropped the chair back in the water, rolled Kobey back into it, strapped him back in, put the front wheel up on the pool deck and then pushed the back of the chair up out of the pool. This job was definitely easier with 3 people. 1 on deck and 2 in the water.
Side note: if you need help ask for it. We had so many people offer help without solicitation and made some awesome new friends on this trip. We met a couple of guys who work with people with disabilities and it was a reminder to us that even though we are very self sufficient and capable it doesn’t hurt to let others help. It makes them feel good and it made us feel good too. We had some great conversations and learned about some organizations that work with people with disabilities that we didn’t know about. Hope you enjoy the pictures of Kobey in the ocean and pool – I would love to have you share your experiences with beach wheelchairs, any comments and questions! Mahalo!