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Kathryn Spira

Sip and Puffing My Way

This past Monday a technician named Ken came to our house to adapt my power chair which is equipped with a "sip-and-puff" control so I can now control all aspects of the chair. I can now drive the chair myself, change speeds and tilt or recline the chair as needed.

Some years back I tried what's called a head array to control the chair. I also tried a chin controller. But due to my lack of mobility, neither system worked well for me. Both were "left-handed monkey wrenches" when it came to controlling my chair. But so far this system seems to be working out well for me.

Over the past 20 years I've gone through the progression with MS from using a cane with great difficulty, to a manual wheel chair, a power scooter and then a power wheel chair controlled with a joy stick. When I could no longer control the chair with my hand, I had to try a variety of alternatives which were relatively unsuccessful until this most recent sip-and-puff rig.

I enclose a picture of my cat Sally and me reclining in the chair with the sip-and-puff in place. This summer you may well see me sip and puffing my way down East Shore Road along the beach where our house is just south of Sherman's.

It gives me a wonderful feeling of independence to be able to control my positioning, whereabouts and speed instead of always relying on others. While I'm grateful for all the help, I'd much rather be able to do things, as much as possible, for myself.

After this long, cold winter, it will be such a welcome relief to get outside, get some fresh air and back on the beach. I definitely have a bad case of cabin fever as I write this. I hope this finds you all well and ready for spring!


About Kathryn Spira

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland, OH who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County, New York. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site