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With Multiple Sclerosis Sometimes It's Better To Roll With It - Martin Baum
The sales blurb for the byACRE Carbon Overland rollator is impressive. It’s got these big pneumatic wheels, it's lightweight, foldable and even comes with a handy seat. But perhaps best of all, for an ex-petrolhead like myself to bond with this state-of-the-art walking aid, how liberating it was to discover that not only was it inspired by the Range Rover Defender, but it also comes in two serious colours: Defender Green and Bentley Brown. I got the Brown which I felt was more than appropriate if I was going to go off-roading with this bad boy.
I was impressed. Who wouldn’t be? Well, in a word (and for full disclosure), me. Although I have MS and have been an MSer for the past forty years, progression of this condition has been a slow burner; however, progressed it has. I now find using a walking stick more of a hindrance than a help. I am certainly not a pessimist, but I have to be realistic and have always known the inevitable MS progression of further mobility problems was bound to happen. With that time getting closer, the very thought of evolving from one walking aid to another mentally feels as challenging as being a contestant on The Crystal Maze.
But giving the Overland an initial trial run made me feel like a trailblazer, a guinea pig for other Msers caught in a similar situation who – like me – have been living in fear of needing to use a rollator. So there I was, given this mode of transportation to try over the Christmas period, which was fortunate actually as I needed this time to mentally get over ‘it’. ‘It’ being defined as: What if I meet somebody I know? Will they judge me for being disabled and needy? Do I really need people’s pity (or likes on Facebook)? This really was a big deal.
Biting the bullet, together with my wife/carer, it was an easy enough task to load the folded up Overland into the boot of our hatchback, drive to our local park and to hell with the consequences. As my wife pointed out, there’s no need to be humiliated. This is who I am. I’ve conquered embarrassment before, as I also have prostate cancer and self-catheterise twice a day. Leading up to and after my diagnosis I have shared intimate parts of my body with such a plethora of medical experts who have prodded, poked and inserted things in places you don’t want to know, that being seen out and about with the type of walking aid I’ve been dreading should be – literally – a walk in the park by comparison. As always, of course, she’s right. This was not a time to be a wimp.
For context my main reason for baulking at the idea of using a rollator is because – whilst I’m now a 64-year-old man who has declining mobility issues - I’ve grown up with an imagery of skeletal walking frames being cautiously accompanied by frail older people. Yet here it was - the Carbon Overland with considerable meat on the bone and as far removed from a conventional NHS aluminium walking aid as I could possibly have imagined. Here was a stylish, sturdy-looking rollator, metallic brown in colour, with a crook in its carbon fiber metal knee bend, just above the front wheels, which dare I say gave it a touch of the Nike ‘woosh’ logo.
Although I was yet to take it over hill and dale, I was immediately disarmed by something more stylish than I ever imagined possible of its ilk, (after all, it’s still just a rollator, right?) that spoke to me saying, ‘Hey, don’t worry dude. Relaaax’. Today, products are about aesthetics. Walking aids have been slow to catch up but even I had to admit this futuristic rollator was far removed from the Jurassic era of mobility dependency; It oozed beauty and artistic taste.
Aesthetics are important; I know this from my traditional walking sticks which vanity prevented me from using long before I did. I detested the aluminium NHS model as much as I did anything collapsible but that all changed after I inherited my late father’s cabbage stalk walking stick, grown from actual cabbage, would you believe. Its uniqueness gave me confidence to walk with it ever since, such was its allure to others who admired it. In much the same way I was seduced by the attractiveness of the Overland and how easy it was on the eye; this stylistic walker wanting to escape the shackles of its unattractive past and be at one with the 21st century.
At this stage, though, without yet having stepped out with it I had no idea how it would perform, trying not to be too judgemental about the front wheels which I was concerned may have aspirations to behave like a dysfunctional supermarket trolley. Looking at it, for all its graceful seductiveness, I had not the foggiest idea if it was a beauty or a beast. There was only one way to find out. It was to get the rollator to the park, make like Rawhide and go rollin’ rollin’ rollin’.
Once taking the walker from the boot, unfolding it, adjusting it, I was set to go. Initially I was taking baby steps, trying too hard to concentrate, keeping my head down, trying not to draw attention, but once I was out there, so was my confidence in the rollator. It was doing what it was meant to by keeping me steady and sure-footed. After keeping to the path, I decided to take it off roading onto the muddy grass. It was a challenge but not so much for the rollator as it was for me. It cut smoothly through the damp terrain without issue, although the same could not be said of my now inappropriate and sodden footwear, such were the wet conditions of falling snow. Note to self: with the confidence to walk more, wear better shoes.
As far as this new experience went, it reminded me of the first-time I used my father’s cabbage stalk. The positive effect of using (and being seen to use) an aid did wonders for my mental health and being able to finally get over ‘it’. Thanks to the uniqueness and aesthetics of dad’s plant-based walking stick, this was the reason I could connect with the Overland which has been instrumental in helping me to begin getting over another ‘it’.
It looks good – sexy might just be pushing it a bit, although it takes all sorts – without screaming ‘look at me, look at me’. This is important. ByAcre should be praised for abandoning the ladder frame and making their rollators more accessible to sexagenarian MSers like me, who want to blend in without looking like the stereotypical old geezer shoving an ugly rickety walking frame about.
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About the Author
Martin is a renowned and respected blogger, publisher and influencer in the MS community.
Learn more about the author on Martin's website.