The Stairclimber People

“Essential” piece of technology delivers safe transfer for more than a decade

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A piece of equipment lent to try a decade ago is still in daily use by one South Tyneside family, and deemed an “essential”- to the extent it is about to move home with the family for the third time.

The piece of equipment in question is one of AAT’s S-Max Sella stairclimbers, used by Paul Wray and his 24 years old daughter April. Born prematurely with Cerebral Palsy, April has never been able to walk and has limited use of her right arm and hand. As a result, Paul has always carried her up and down stairs when she was young, though as April grew this became more and more difficult. The situation was further exacerbated when Paul’s late wife developed cancer some 14 years ago, so he was then carrying both wife and daughter up and down stairs every day.

A new Occupational Therapist to the family suggested a stairclimber and contacted AAT to support in the assessment of the family and their home, to help determine the most appropriate solution. Initially, the Wrays had the stairclimber to try for a week or so to see if it met their needs: said Paul, “It was such a revolution I wouldn’t let them have it back!”

A standard S-Max Sella with padded foot rests was prescribed and purchased through the family’s Occupational Therapy team at the local authority: this gave April the physical support she needed and could accommodate the turning staircase in the family home.

AAT’s S-Max Sella is the only powered stair climbing device that can accommodate almost any design of stairs, however narrow, or however many turns (even spiral staircases). The rechargeable battery-powered unit with integral seat the S-Max Sella steadily, smoothly and safely propels itself up and down a flight- and onward into wherever required. Rate of climb is controlled by the operator, who merely needs to slightly incline and steer the Sella. Little physical effort is needed, meaning even the slightest operator can use the device with appropriate training. When not in use, it folds compactly away. A range of accessories enable it to be tailored to the exact postural support needs of the individual passenger.

More than a decade on, Paul and April still use it daily. It has moved with the family three times, each time managing differing staircase configuration, including turns and flat intermediate landings.

“The stairclimber is essential, I wouldn’t be without it, there’s no other way of safely getting April up and down stairs,” said Paul. “Carrying her up and down stairs was a recipe for disaster. The stairclimber made it safe, for me and April. It’s good for the whole family: when we’re not using it, the S-Max stows away. With three other children too, it can be a very full house at times! It doesn’t visibly impact on the household like a stairlift or through-floor lift would. One of the other beauties is we can pack it into the car for family holidays, widening the choice of where we can stay.

“April is talking about moving into supported accommodation with some friends at some stage in the future, so if she does do so, the stairclimber will mean she can still come home and access all floors without us having a more substantial and disruptive adaptation such as a stairlift that would be redundant if/when April isn’t here.”

Added Gareth Brown, AAT Technical Director, who originally assessed the Wray family, “It’s a common misconception that stairclimbers are only a short term solution, to minimise risk whilst a substantial adaptation is undertaken. The Wray family proves this is not the case. An AAT stairclimber provides a valuable, long-term solution, especially where the physical design or structure of the home makes a stairlift or through-floor lift impractical or unreasonably disruptive.”

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