Rider Spotlight: John Hollis

Freedom Chair riders aren't just our customers - they're part of the GRIT family. Today's Rider Spotlight features John Hollis. Read on to learn about his adventures!

"When I got my chair it was amazing, I got back my freedom. You can get out and do it!"

About John

John is 70 years young! He is a military veteran having served in the Army for 3 years and the Coast Guard for 21 years. He first hurt his ankle in 1968, and it kept on hurting many years after that. Walking was extremely painful. In the late 1990s he had to give up running. In 2016, he had surgery on his ankle, and they discovered that he had necrosis in the nerves. He’s a photographer, but suddenly he couldn’t walk or bike on trails.

"Not far from [me] is an environmental center with 'real' trails. Even though it’s a couple miles around in a little area there is wildlife. I’d go out and take photos for hours at a time . . . I had to stop because I physically couldn’t do it anymore."

Why did John decide on the GRIT Freedom Chair?

Because John's original injury was service-connected, he went to the VA to discuss mobility options. They first started talking about a power scooter, but John was highly opposed to that idea.

"They make you lazy. Too easy to us . . . I’m totally ambulatory except that it hurts to walk. For short distances I use forearm crutches. For much longer than 20 yards I need a chair.

John's wife works in a disability research center, and talked to her boss who is a wheelchair user about wheelchair use.

"She suggested ultralights, but I also have a bad shoulder that separated in the service. My wife found [the GRIT Freedom Chair] just looking on the internet. So I talked to GRIT and talked to the VA folks.

What activities does John enjoying doing with the GRIT Freedom Chair?

John is passionate about photography, and loves going out on his own into nature. The Freedom Chair has enabled him to get back into doing what he loves.

"When I got my chair it was amazing! I got back my Freedom . . . One trick in photography is making sure you are steady; with the wheelchair I can lock it up and I have my steadying post right there. It gives me the Freedom to go out there. I go out by myself because I really like that. That’s part of the whole experience of taking pictures . . . Being a wildlife photographer you get used to going slow. That’s why I like going out by myself, I can set my own pace."

In addition to his photography, John has been participating in races. This is something he hasn't been able to do in years!

"I participated in three 5Ks since receiving the Freedom Chair. Come Summer, I'm planning on doing one a month . . . I’m typically the only wheelchair racing."

What is John's favorite thing about the GRIT Freedom Chair?

John truly appreciates the physical fitness benefits of the GRIT Freedom Chair.

"It’s a physical healthy thing that you can do, it’s a lot easier on your shoulders . . . I try to do 2-3 miles a day (uphill and downhill). It’s the only way I can get in my aerobic exercise . . . It gives you the opportunity over other chairs to go where you want to go. You can get a lot of power out of that ratchet system, so I have no problem getting exercise. I would have no other way to get the aerobic exercise or strength exercise without it."

What was John's experience like getting his chair through the VA?

John's GRIT Freedom Chair was purchased through GRIT's VA Contract. He advises anyone looking into this option to emphasize WHY they want this chair when going in for their appointment.

"I went to my primary physician, and then to the orthopedic appointment. I said here is what I want. I showed them a picture and gave them the contract number. There was a psychological component that I played on with needing it to continue doing things that I did before the service. My wife could attest to me not being a happy camper for a while. I was Lazy-Boy-bound for a while. Understand why you need this chair, don’t just say you want it . . . I had to convince them. They kept asking why I couldn’t use a regular chair. Well, I couldn’t go off road and take my pictures!

"They don’t care that you want it; they care if there is a medical need. Give them a medical need as to why this chair is important. Just state that this is why you need to go off road: You need to socialization and psychological enhancement. "