Katrina McGrath from Motivation Australia (MA) traveled to Fiji in February this year. During her visit she accompanied Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) Mobility Device Service (MDS) personnel on follow up visits to six clients (four men, two women).
These clients had received a wheelchair either through the SIA, Colonial War Memorial (CWM) Hospital or the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH), with the SIA MDS responsible for ongoing follow-up. Interviews with these clients provided an opportunity to monitor and evaluate wheelchair services in Fiji, which assist MA and our partners to understand the issues being faced by clients, better support the users of MDS services, and strengthen wheelchair services in Fiji.
Follow-up visits are a crucial part of mobility device service provision. Follow-up visits allow for new prescriptions, wheelchair modifications / repairs and user training, all of which can have a significant impact on the function and comfort of users. The follow-ups also provide an opportunity for service providers to better understand the challenges facing wheelchair users and to learn more about the outcomes, good and bad, associated with mobility device provision.
During one of the follow-up visits Katrina met Ruci. Ruci is a 46 year old female who lost her right leg due to diabetic complications. At the time of her amputation Ruci was provided with a pair of crutches. Ruci found the crutches hard to use and was unable to complete all the activities she needed to do around her home. Ruci was also experiencing a lot of pain in her shoulders and left knee. These issues were discussed with personnel from the SIA during a follow up visit to Ruci to and led to her being prescribed and fitted with a wheelchair.
Ruci spends her days completing chores around the house and making Salu Salu’s for her husband to sell at the market. She finds it much easier to do these tasks with the wheelchair. When asked what was the most significant change for her since receiving the wheelchair she said that “before the wheelchair I always had pain in my knee and under my arms, but now with the wheelchair there is no pain and I can do chores in the house”. Ruci also uses her wheelchair to go out into the community. However due to some steep stairs in her yard she requires assistance to carry her wheelchair, whilst she uses her crutches to traverse the steep, high steps. She is happy with this method and there is usually some one around to help. Ruci is very happy with her wheelchair and could not think of anything she would like to change with it, or any thing she would like to be able to do that she can’t currently do.
It was the follow-up visit by the SIA that highlighted the issues that Ruci was having with her crutches. This visit gave her the opportunity to request and be assessed for a wheelchair, thus making her life much easier. Ruci’s story highlights the importance of follow-up visits in assuring that a client’s device continues to be appropriate for them.
MA would like to thank SIA personnel for their assistance in organising and carrying out these follow-up visits. As well as thanking the wheelchair users visited for sharing their stories with us.