Necessity is the creator of many inventions. Another instigator is that so many things are so unreasonably priced that one has to find another solution. With us, that has led to the creation that was actually a 'stolen' idea (perhaps borrowed idea is a better thought) of the 'Bumbo chair'. Emmett loves it but has seriously outgrown this cool device. Then there was the 'Legzerciser 2018' to help him move his legs about. It also has been outgrown and his need for it reduced. There is the backup power supply, which will provide a couple of days of electricity for medical equipment and will always be very useful.
The latest is a wheelchair seat cooler which is absolutely needed for hot summer days. As Emmett cannot twist and turn to shift positions, he is literally planted in one position in a hot, black wheelchair seat. As much as he loves his wheelchair, the heat is sometimes just too much and he is drenched with sweat. This is the current challenge - wondering how to cool down a little boy who gets drenched with sweat in his power chair during the hot days of summer. There are cooling pads that you can leave overnight in a fridge or freezer / immerse in water and then place on the seat - they do help - but they have a limited window of effectiveness. There are cooling shirts and vests that you can purchase - they are rather expensive. And then there is ingenuity. For about $60 we have created a cooling pad that effectively assists in keeping Emmett's seat cool.
Get an aquarium pump, a battery, some pipe fittings, tubing, and some material and 'Presto!' - you have a seat cooling pad that costs about $60. Less if you have some of the materials sitting unused around your house.
Here's what we did.
1. First we found an aquarium pump. Local pet supply stores weren't able to help with the battery powered requirements so we turned to Amazon and found a Robolife Mini Brushless 'Submersible' Water Pump. Having the pump submersed just makes it easier. Having it DC powered is a must as you don't want to be trailing an extension cord along behind the wheelchair. (And don't limit this to a wheelchair, it could be almost anything. We have used it with the chair, his standing frame - so make use of it.) This is a small pump and we were concerned that it might not be able to push water through the 25' of tubing that we used. The flow is reduced when the 25' is compared to just a couple of feet, but we'll let you know how that tiny pump handles the ongoing pressure. UPDATE: it was a 27°C day and the pump and seat cooler performed just as we'd hoped.
2 Month Update: the pump quit so we're trying a different type. It will be arriving shortly and we'll update this with more details. But this does work, this is just a small kink in our project!
This new pump is awesome. More durable and dependable. Do a search on Amazon for a brushless DC40 submersible water pump. There should be a wide range available.
2. This pump had a 5/16" inlet and outlet. That piping was simply too big to be comfortably sitting on for any length of time. I couldn't find a pump with a smaller setup so went to a local auto parts store and purchased some reducers so was able to take that 5/16" outlet down to a 1/8" outlet. That should be better for long term seating applications - we will let you know. First trials there were no indications of pressure marks.
3. The adaptors we found were brass and they were ideal to secure in the lid of the plastic container we are using as a water container. It's a snap lid type of container that we hope will reduce the number of spills! We drilled three holes in the lid. The first hole was one that we could fit the brass adaptor into. This hole was drilled so that the fitting actually had to be threaded into the lid (again, will stop water leaks especially when coupled with a bit of silicone). Next we drilled about a 1/4" hole so that the return water tubing could friction fit through this hole. The third hole was a very tiny hole to fit the power lines through. The container we got is about is about 8" by 5" and 4" deep. Again, we will have to let you know if that is large enough to keep cool for long periods of time. The good thing about this is that you can switch to a larger container at any time for more cooling capacity for those really hot summer days.
4. To connect the motor to the battery we chose simple alligator clips. That way you can just connect and disconnect in an instant. Rather than installing an on/off toggle switch we are just disconnecting the alligator clip. Note that the motor requires consistent power so you have to know which is your battery's positive and negative connection. To make life simple - mark them. Red on red and black on black. Or do what we did which was tape the black one into place to make it impossible to mix up.
Edit: While the alligator clips are simple, if they slip off and cross the positive and negative battery terminals, that will cause damage to the motor and possibly the battery. So we've gone with spade connectors and a simple on/off button switch found on Amazon (where is Radio Shack when you need it!).
5. After much experimentation, we've found that a 12 Volt 4.5 to 5.5 amp battery is the best - this can be recharged too. We did find that a 6 volt 'flashlight' battery that does power our pump. It's light and easy to move about. Internet research indicates that this 6 volt battery will power the 12 volt pump but at a slower speed thus obviously pumping less volume. Then we have a larger 12 volt battery which, even though it's small, is rather heavy. The advantage of this is that it can be recharged with a standard automotive battery charger. This makes an obvious difference in the water flow and speed. Our trial and error found that the 6 volt battery wore out much too fast - we never had a chance to see if it will cause more wear and tear on the motor thus premature failure.
There are several sizes of small, rechargeable 12 volt batteries. More expensive to start but cheaper in the long run BUT you will need a battery charger to maintain it!
6. Mounting the pump was much simpler than I expected. It literally hangs off of the brass adaptors that are threaded into the container lid. Time will tell if this will need to change, but right now it is working. Obviously, you need to ensure that the container has enough water in it that the pump does not start to suck air when you are on uneven ground. Try to have the pump located as close to the bottom of the container as possible, without touching. Just because touching will likely increase the motor's noise level. Notice that the return tubing is not connected to the motor but just returns the water to the container. The motor inlet is left open for the water to enter.
7. Alisha then sewed a rectangle shape with columns that are about 1.5" apart. The ends were not closed. This allowed the tubing to serpentine through the pad. As it's flexible, no couplers were required (couplers would be horrible to sit on). We made it large enough so that it will wrap around his body to provide some cooling on the sides also. For our situation, that meant that the fabric was about 28" long and 14" wide.
8. In addition to sewing the sides from top to bottom, then columns were sewn into the fabric that we kept 1.5" apart. The top and bottom were left open to provide access to threading the tubing through the columns. The columns were started about 1.5" down from the fabric and ended 1.5" from the other end. The reason for this is to provide room for the tubing to bend and enter the next column.
9. Hopefully you will have a helper. Feeding the tubing through the columns goes much easier when you have multiple sets of hands to work on this project. It also helps if the fabric material reminds you of Charlie Brown's shirt - simply because that's cool. Also, choosing a light colour will assist in the entire aspect of cooling (but it will need to be washable as it will stain easier than a black wheelchair seat.
10. We had a used soft-sided cooler that was a perfect fit for out snap top container and either one of the batteries. This is then hung off the back of the power chair. We still had enough room for a food pump/bag and the suction machine. It would be a challenge to hang a spare suction machine but if required then we're sure you can figure out a way to make that happen.
11. Here's a view from the top and from the back of the chair. We have the inlet and return tubing both coming out of the top of the pad and then into the snap-top container. We've started out using the 6 volt battery to test the effectiveness of this lightweight battery. You'll notice that we taped one of the alligator clips to the battery. This is to ensure that the +ve and -ve clips don't touch but also makes it easier to avoid connecting it wrong (and it won't work if the polarity is reversed).
If it is a really hot day, then add more ice to the container (or swap to a larger container). The capacity is only limited by the space you have available. Cooling is only limited by the availability of ice (fast food restaurants are a good source).
Cost: while our first seat cooler cost $60 to build, the 2021 version that I put together for a friend was around $110.
Motor: $15-$45 (but I'd suggest avoiding the $15 pumps you find online), Battery: $30 ($15 for the one time use 6 volt or $25/$50 for a 12 volt), Tubing: $18 (there is cheaper stuff available, this is more expensive but heavy duty automotive tubing that should outlast the chair. Not that that is a challenging feat as chairs don't last that long!), Connectors: $4, clips: $3, Snap top container: $9.50 (this lid literally has snaps to lock it in place; this is highly recommended for the movement that this unit will undergo).
Click on the photos to get an enlarged view (except for the photos of Alisha sewing, I was not even supposed to take those photos so you cannot get enlargements of those).
Emmett has been playing RV all winter and spring. In just a little bit Emmett and his mom and dad are going camping with both sets of grandparents. It will be an awesome time for this little one who so loves camping and time in the RV. We will give you an update on camping in our next blog post. This post is about Emmett and his athletic escapades. First off check out Emmett as he expresses an interest in baseball. In previous years he has come to games but hasn't shown any interest. Not so this year. So his daddy, Uncle Ben, Aunt Alesha, and a bunch of friends from Level Grounder's baseball game helped him experience a game.
Emmett has also been really working hard at sitting up. And that includes swinging!
Sometimes kids ask Emmett why his mouth is open. That is something that he wants to show you that he can now close, but he wants you to know that it takes a lot of muscles and a lot of work to keep his mouth closed. (We love his expression!) So Emmett will often have his mouth open! That's just one of the little challenges that SMA causes.
Emmett wants to be a helper when he grows up. Here he is checking out Cliff to ensure that he is healthy and happy. Emmett also likes going outside for picnics with Ted E. Bear. As long as he doesn't have to touch grass. Emmett still doesn't like the feel of grass and is not really sure that he appreciated when his grandpa (yes, that would be me) took him out and lay him down on the grass. First to look up at the sky and see shapes in the clouds. Then another day to lay down on a hill to watch grandpa roll down a hill ... however since grandpa lay Emmett down on the grass on the hill it was actually Emmett who rolled down. And then when I picked him up and set him down again, it was still on the hill so he rolled down again! And it was awesome to hear him giggle. But if you ask him, he will tell you that he doesn't want to do that again (but he did whisper to me that I could roll him on the hill again, he just won't admit it out loud! Ha ha ha!)
So Emmett has decided that he wants to be a helper when he gets bigger. I have to tell you that he already is a helper. He helps everyone who spends time with him appreciate life so much more. When you see his expression as he realizes that he has just completed something that he has never done before, you cannot help but appreciate the everyday things that you do without even thinking about it. Simple things like closing your mouth and holding your lips together! When you hear him giggle as you climb up creative playground equipment and then slide down the slide - or maybe even going down one of those twisty, enclosed tube slides with your grandson and getting stuck in the middle of it (and hoping that you get out before Alisha or Josh find you there with their son!) as he laughs and calls out 'Again! Again!), then you find enjoyment in so many more things. (Emmett and I weren't really stuck, I just stopped us so that I could rearrange both of us so that we exited the slide in a dignified manner.)
Emmett loves his cat, but there's certainly something wonderful about being able to take Lucy, Grandma Willms' dog, for a stroll! Emmett absolutely loves animals.
Sometimes Emmett watches baseball from right behind the backstop netting. Other times he sits with his mom and grandma and friends. Other times he forgets about baseball and heads over to the playground to do some playing. Here he and grandpa were testing out a spinning thing. Grandpa got dizzy. His friends wondered why he couldn't walk and needed a wheelchair. This spring Emmett has been going to Sunday School and playing with the kids. It's a great opportunity for him to get out! Life is a balance between heading out and exploring and staying safe. Obviously, there is sanitizer everywhere at our church and the kids are great at using it. If there is someone who is obviously dealing with a cold, then we have to leave or steer clear. The church sent out a lovely letter to all of the parents in the Sunday School class about how illnesses can be extremely challenging for Emmett (for that matter, for new borns and elderly and lots of people in between) as they assist us in trying to stop the spread of germs. It is a learning opportunity for all of us.
Daniel Tiger is a great incentive to stay on his tummy and hold his head up. Otherwise, he cannot see the screen to know what is happening to Daniel Tiger!
While spending some time at Canuck Place in Abbotsford, Emmett got to check out a McLaren. It got his approval! Emmett loves his wheels. In the next post we hope to tell you about the next chair modification, a seat cooler! As you can imagine, sitting in this chair during a hot summer day can get incredibly hot. Cool vests/shirts are available at a rather high cost, so we're going to see if we can build a cool seat cover for him. Stay tuned for updates on this project. Emmett's own set of wheels, his power chair, has been causing some problems. It has been in and out of the shop for repairs and technicians have been out to both Canuck Place Abbotsford and Emmett's house as they try to solve the issues. They are getting closer, but the bottom line is that this second (or third) hand chair has been well used over the years and it is either going to need a complete rebuild or Emmett is going to need a brand new chair. There is funding available for a basic setup, but Emmett is going to need so much more. For example, Emmett still requires a parental joystick at the back of the chair for things like crossing busy streets. That's optional. Being able to change the seat height from a child sized table to an adult table, that's optional. Yet these optional items are really mandatory for Emmett to participate fully in daily activities. That is so crucial as we all want Emmett to be involved in life.
There are so many people and organizations that are involved in supporting Emmett and we so appreciate them. Emmett is still part of Biogen's drug study on Spinraza and we cannot thank Biogen enough as he has been receiving this medication for 3.5 years now. This drug is truly an amazing and miraculous drug and slowly Canadian provinces are making it accessible. It is exciting to see that another even more innovative drug has just been approved in the US for treating SMA.