Freedom Chair riders aren't just our customers - they're part of the GRIT family. Today's Rider Spotlight features Angela Weddle. Read on to learn about her adventures!
"It's priceless to me . . . I don’t feel 'disabled' in it. I feel enabled. I do feel empowered."
As a professional visual artist, Angela learned in adulthood that she is a "medical anomaly." Living with a variety of conditions including Cerebral Palsy, Fibromyalgia, exercise-induced Asthma, and Autism, doctors never expected her to be able to even draw. Recently, however, she got a job teaching art, as well as a position doing animation on a film about Autism. She also enjoys doing stand-up comedy in her spare time.
"I did it partially because I was funny, but I wanted to know if other people besides myself and my friends and family thought I was funny. So, I went up at open mic, and I just killed it. I’ve only done it twice but people are begging me to come back."
After losing everything to Hurricane Katrina, Angela relocated to San Antonio, TX to rebuild her life. In August 2017, she underwent surgery to repair a massive herniated disc in her back that had further limited her mobility.
"I was getting to the point where the walker was more hassle than it was worth, but I needed to sit down, and the chronic pain was getting too much. "
Why did Angela decide on the Freedom Chair?
Angela was struggling in her daily wheelchair.
"I already had a regular manual wheelchair, but I didn’t have enough strength to push it myself, and my [74-year-old] mother struggled pushing me. I’d get stuck in cracks and had to get construction workers to help me out. I already knew how difficult the manual chair was . . . Looked at motor assist ideas, but they were all so expensive."
Because Angela could still walk and stand short distances, doctors had reservations about her beginning to use a wheelchair more often. However, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
"Doctors and physical therapists don’t like the idea of someone using a wheelchair, but I have friends using wheelchairs for many reasons, and they are in better shape than me! I was thinking 'this is not a death sentence.' My quality of life was diminishing. I wasn’t going to art openings; I wasn’t participating because it was too painful and too difficult. I thought, 'To hell with what doctors think!' They may study pain, but they are not in pain, and I wanted to reduce the medication I was on . . . I just decided I’m not waiting anymore, this is my life and no one can make that decision for me. I had to get over hang ups like, 'She looks fine from the outside; She looks young, she’s faking!' "
She began researching different wheelchairs, and discovered the GRIT Freedom Chair.
"I came across GRIT, and I thought, 'I wonder if I could do this' . . . I liked the idea of not having to worry about a battery. I knew a lot of scooters and wheelchairs didn’t do well with all terrain, and I like to go camping. Even the streets can be bad enough in the cities, and so in a way this is a lot safer than a scooter because I can be on the sidewalk most of the time; I don’t have to go in the street and risk getting hit."
What activities does Angela enjoy doing in the Freedom Chair?
Angela primarily uses her GRIT Freedom Chair to commute around town and run her errands. However, she also truly enjoys the satisfaction of the physical activity itself.
"I never used to get an endorphin release from walking like a runners high. But when I had my adult tricycle it did give me that feeling of endorphins because I was actually moving. When I started using the Freedom Chair I’m getting the same kind of endorphin feeling. On the days I’m using it it’s decreased my need for sleep and feels like it’s working my abs without hurting my back. Once I got it and got the hang of it I was thrilled. It’s been great for my mental health . . .
"I’ve never been able to do sports, but with this it’s actually making me think that maybe I can get into some athletics!"
What is Angela's favorite thing about the Freedom Chair?
Angela enjoys the independence she feels when she's out using her GRIT Freedom Chair.
"It’s priceless to me. I can’t drive, and just to have that little extra sense of speed seems to make some type of difference. I don’t feel 'disabled' in it. I feel enabled. I do feel empowered . . . Things I would put off, now that I’m in my chair, I’m OK. It’s like a modern day chariot. I get tons of compliments on it from the bus driver to people on the street.
"I love that I can push myself. I’m not getting that look of pity either. You’re not getting that, 'Oh look at that poor person, that’s so awful!' . . . Now people feel like they can talk to me. I tell people, 'I’m bench pressing myself across the city.' It’s a great workout, but it’s not nearly as hard as you would think. I’m really glad to have this now because when I get older I’ll still be able to be doing it myself. I’m trying to maintain the things I do have as much as I can. I’m just thrilled with it!"