Freddie’s Wheelchair

Freddie van der Walt. Photos and video:

Freddie van der Walt needs a new wheelchair. The one in which the 37-year-old tetraplegic from Milnerton sits, is already 16-years-old. It still works but parts are breaking and they’re not available anymore. Van der Walt is not looking for a top of the range wheelchair. He is looking for a middle of the range, serviceable wheelchair.

“It’s called the Quickie Jive R,” he says. The only thing is it costs a steep R165 000 as the wheelchair has to be imported from Britain, where it sells for ‎£11 200. This is an amount that Van der Walt does not have, and for which he is seeking funding.

The wheelchair that he uses is his life; his everything. The chair comes with a control board and a directional joy stick that Van der Walt manipulates with his mouth, as he can’t move his arms or hands. A remote control for his room is attached to this control board.

He opens his bedroom door by pressing the remote with his chin and he manipulates the joy stick the same way. The joy stick adjusts the height of his wheelchair; raising and lowering it. It is important that he does this in order to prevent bed sores. Bedsores are a bogeyman as they can turn infectious and cause long periods (think a period of a year!) in bed, or even death. Van der Walt has had a few of them, and does not want any again. And how not to get bedsores when one spends one’s life sitting down or lying down!

“I got up at 7 am,” he says, describing his current daily pattern. “And I sit in the chair until 5.30 pm or 9 pm. I sit and work the whole day for an outbound call centre in Durban for whom I do quality assurance. Then I go to bed.”

Freddie van der Walt and his friend and ‘sister’ Anri Nel.

I’ve embraced this
Van der Walt has been a tetraplegic for the past 21 years. He’s not allowed his disability to get him down. “Everyone looks at me because I’m in this chair,” he says. “I just got to the point where I decided to embrace this. Falling apart won’t do. This wheelchair gives me independence. You’ve got a problem when you’re confined to your bed.”

More information is available on Freddie van der Walt’s fundraising page on Facebook and on his crowdfunding page.



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