“My Swifty Set Me Free” – How a Scooter Transformed an Amputee’s Life
As we often point out, kick-scooting is an excellent form of exercise. Recently, though, we discovered something surprising – it’s also great for leg amputees.
And as anybody who has had any kind of injury or impairment will tell you, it can be really difficult to maintain your independence. So to help someone achieve that is truly special.
Inclusivity, accessibility, and safety are important to us, so it’s heartening to hear that our scooters have helped someone in this way.
Many people with injuries or limb difference have found their Swifty an invaluable tool. Among their number are speed skater Elise Christie, bobsledder Toby Olubi, and para-athletes Jon Gildea and Jack Eyers.
Poli Paterson, a volunteer for charity LimbPower, is somebody we find extraordinarily inspirational. In her teens, Poli was diagnosed with septic arthritis in her knee, and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome type 2 (CRPS-II).
She needed to use a wheelchair for the next 20 years of her life, and had difficulty leaving the house. She requested an amputation to allow her increased mobility, and at the age of 38, doctors finally approved her request.
Poli's scooter of choice here is a SwiftyONE in Black Anthracite, which she's named Anthi.
Learning to walk again following an amputation can be difficult, and the prosthesis can take some getting used to. Studies suggest that amputees walking with prostheses expend much more energy walking and undertaking day-to-day tasks.
Using a kick-scooter with limb difference
Poli said that after the amputation, walking a long distance is “a workout”. She continued: “It’s knackering, and you end up with a lot of back pain.”
She realised that a kick-scooter could aid her ‘walking’, but had to search for something to suit her 6’1” stature.
She soon found Swifty, and once she tried her foldable adult scooter, her mobility was transformed.
It was especially important that it could fold, because she needed her scooter to fit in the boot of her car.
“My scooter has given me my freedom, because now I can get out and enjoy summer again, which is the first time I’ve been able to do that in years… I don’t have a limit.”
Beforehand, she needed to plan every detail when she went out, to make sure she was fully prepared. “I don’t have to worry about any of that now,” she said.
Hip contracture - how a scooter eases the condition
Many amputees suffer with a complication known as a contracture; the muscles shorten or become inelastic from lack of use, inhibiting movement. But Poli found that scooting relieved this by engaging many key muscles that she couldn’t otherwise have exercised.
Her doctors had told her there was no way to assuage hip contracture at that stage – but Poli managed it.
She was able to do this because scooting engages your hip muscles, glutes, and core. Crucially, it opens up your hip flexors, which is the collective name for the muscles responsible for lifting your knee towards your body. You can find out more in our interview with Alex Lawson.
For an above-the-knee (or transfemoral) amputee, the hip flexors are the most susceptible muscles to contracture, as the hip is the closest joint to the amputation. But Poli was able to dodge this common complication with the help of her Swifty.
Getting active – scooting in rehabilitation
It really was a surprise to find that a scooter could be so helpful in limb loss recovery.
Thanks to its low-impact nature, riding a scooter is particularly good as rehabilitative exercise. Plus, it gives variable cardio (meaning you control how hard you work).
It targets muscle groups that may not be reached otherwise.
Many people who have physical disadvantages - not just amputees - are limited in their ability to walk or cycle. Unlike walking and cycling, scooters can reach a broader demographic, because the movement is often easier to perform.
The posture on a scooter is more forgiving on your back and neck than cycling, and it’s easier for many people than walking, allowing you to travel further without needing a car.
Naturally, a higher-quality scooter is best for the job, and proper brakes and bigger wheels ensure safety from bumps and potholes.
LimbPower and Swifty Scooters
That’s the reason we’re working with organisations like LimbPower on a charitable donation for amputees.
We wanted to help a group of people who may be limited in their abilities to walk or cycle, and provide an alternative.
We recently conducted a study which determined that approximately a quarter of our customers have some form of physical disadvantage, so it’s evident that scooting is a viable option.
So we’d like to harness this and help people to become more active.
Research indicates that people with disabilities are twice as likely to be physically inactive than able-bodied people, which is why LimbPower was founded.
Launched in November 2009, the organisation aims to improve the quality of life of amputees and people with limb impairments through physical activity, sport, and art.
“There is an estimated population of 450,000 people living with limb loss and limb indifference in the UK and approximately 5,000 - 6,000 amputations take place a year in England.” – Activity Alliance
Not only does this facilitate physical rehabilitation, but it helps psychologically and socially too. In July 2014, LimbPower became a National Disability Sports Organisation (NDSO), joining organisations like British Blind Sport (BBS), Mencap Sport, and Special Olympics Great Britain (SOGB).
LimbPower help people to become more active by engaging with sport, and they also organise arts-based activities like photography clubs. You can find out more about their events here.
We'd like to give a special thank-you to Poli for sharing her story with us! You can find her on Instagram here.