Freedom Chair riders aren't just our customers - they're part of the GRIT family. Today's Rider Spotlight features Michelle Winchell! Read on to learn about her adventures!
"I just love everything about it!"
Michelle is an energetic 41 year old living in Florida. She worked as a Registered Nurse for many years. In her free time she enjoyed going to the gym, biking long distances, and simply being in the outdoors. She even participated in Body-Building Figure Competitions! About 7.5 years ago, Michelle's back started causing her difficulty. She ended up with rods and screws supporting her spine, as well as needed a leg brace and cane to maintain her mobility. However, about 2 years ago, she experienced a mystery symptom that has not yet gone away.
"I don’t know what happened but 2 years ago I lost my ability to walk. I’ve gone through lots of doctors and testing and no one knows why I lost my ability to walk. We don’t know if it’s a surgery mistake or a progressive illness."
Michelle grew tired of trying to figure out why her body was treating her the way it was, and just decided to let that be and enjoy life.
Why did Michelle decide on the Freedom Chair?
Michelle lost her ability to walk 7 months after moving to Florida from Ohio. Her regular wheelchair just did not work for going into the park, beach or anything outdoors that she wanted to do. Her cousin, an Army Veteran, mentioned the Freedom Chair to her.
"He knew I wanted to get back to being active and thought it would be good for me. When I saw it online I thought, 'I have to get it! It looks perfect!' "
What activities does Michelle enjoy doing in the Freedom Chair?
Michelle has become a well known sight in her neighborhood, often doing 4-6 mile rolls when she goes out.
"Everyone in the neighborhood knows me now because of my chair. They are always stopping me, intrigued having not seen anything like it before."
Michelle loves going to the beach with her Freedom Chair, but primarily she has been beginning to participate in organized races. She recently completed the St. Pete Beach Classic 10K.
"I finished in 1 hour 11 minutes. I cut 3 minutes on my best time just going around the neighborhood [training]."
Michelle plans to participate in another 10K in February, then a 10-mile race in March! The races are new to her, but she is really enjoying herself.
"The race was really fun. I’ve never done anything like that. It took me being in a wheelchair to get me to start participating in something like that"
What is Michelle's favorite thing about the Freedom Chair?
Prior to receiving her Freedom Chair, if Michelle wanted to do something her regular wheelchair couldn't handle, her husband would have to carry her while her son pushed her wheelchair along separately. She now loves the independence she gets to feel on the beach.
"My favorite thing are the beach wheels and being able to go out onto the sand by myself, doing that by myself. Not having to have somebody push me or carry me out there . . . It's really nice to push myself on the beach. The chair makes a huge difference."
Michelle wants to encourage others considering getting their own GRIT Freedom Chair to not wait any longer, especially since you can try the chair risk-free for a month.
"There is nothing to be hesitant about! What do you have to lose? Just do it, just try it. One of the best decision I made. I didn’t think going into a wheelchair I was ever going to be able to be active like I was before."