Name: Jay Anderson
Condition: Spina Bifida – operational spinal cord injury
Tested the WheelAir: Whilst training for wheelchair rugby & generally during the heat of the summer
Jay was one of the first people to use the WheelAir last summer, when she was a key feature in our product video. Jay is a sports coach for the local council.. and it’s the job for her because she lives for sports! She plays pretty much every wheelchair sport out there and is part of several teams around Scotland who compete nationally. We managed to catch her off the court for just long enough to ask her what challenges she has with overheating and find out how the WheelAir is impacting her life.
Jay's current challenges with overheating
My condition makes me overheat due to a combination of different factors. I’m a bit of a mixed up cookie!… I have nerve damage so the messages from my brain to my body are a bit all over the place. Also, my medication makes me overheat a lot. Playing a lot of sport means I am naturally heating up my body constantly, and my body finds it very difficult to return to a normal temperature and cope for days afterwards.
Overheating makes me feel very nauseous and confused. When I’m hot, I feel like I’m going to be sick and pass out. The room starts spinning and I see little white lights. This happens a lot when I am playing sport, which is very distracting. In fact, I remember the very first time I played at a Scottish open day – I had to ask the organisers if they could open fire exits. I have to come off from games and even stop them so I can get in control of my temperature and refocus.
As you can imagine, this impacts the game. I physically am not able to play to the best of my ability. When confused, you think you are thinking clearly… but in retrospect, your mind was somewhere else. In team sport, you need to be able to immediately strategise and make a snap decision – both a whole lot harder when confused from overheating.
When I overheat I also get heat rash on my back, cramps in my hands and I get a banging headache after. It makes me feel so tried and unwell that I sometimes am recuperating for quite a few days after a match day or training session.
To stay in control of my temperature, I drink cold water. Drink and drink and drink. Which actually makes me feel more sick. I would drink half a bottle of water then put the rest over my head. This makes the court slippery which can affect the game. For example, if the tags on our shoulders we use for wheelchair rugby are made wet accidentally from water cooling, it is sometimes harder to pull off the tag. Which is unfair for the opposing team.
Naturally, drinking also makes you need the toilet more often… which interrupts the flow of the game (and life for that matter!).
I also use wet cloths and ice packs to cool down – and this isn’t just in summer, it can be all year round. These solutions aren’t particularly effective since even if they do help in the short term, I still have longer term ramifications on my body from overheating. For a few days I lose my appetite, I find it difficult to sleep and have a headache. It’s tough… but I just accept it and get on with it.
When Jay went on the 2.5 hour walk in 19°C with her wheelAIR, it was different from walks before. She didn’t have to drink nearly as much to stay cool, she didn’t have to stop 5 times to rest and she didn’t have any heat stroke side effects afterwards. Success!
Jay's WheelAir Experience
Since getting my WheelAir, I’ve had it on my day chair all the time and have been using it a lot to keep me cool in the sunshine.
In truth, I can’t honestly say that my body has felt noticeably cooler from using the WheelAir… I’ve just noticed that I’ve not overheated. When I moved out my chair I realised that I was freezing. This coolness is transferring throughout my body and removing previously experienced side effects.
Recently, I did a 2.5 hour walk. It was a warm, summer evening of 19°C. I should have overheated… but I was actually quite cold! I even did 3 intense, quick pushes uphill – something I often do to help for sports training – and I was cool! It definitely had an impact on my enjoyment of the walk. I drank less and didn’t have to stop to rest as often – we only stopped once and usually would have stopped around 5 times. Also there was no banging headache after!
And after training there is an ‘ahhh’ moment when I switch the WheelAir on. To be honest, I’m probably already taking it for granted. It’s subtly blending into my life and making things easier.
I’m looking forward to further testing the WheelAir during matches to see how much of an impact it’s truly going to have on my performance… But it will hopefully lead to not having to take two days off after the games(!) or my partner Kirsteen needing to put an IV line into me to get fluids on board. I think the best test for the WheelAir will be when I don’t have it for some reason… then I will be able to tell the true difference.
And it’s not just me the WheelAir has been helping keep cool… Kirsteen put her blistered toe on it last night to sooth it!
I find the WheelAir a lot more supportive and comfortable than my old cushion – it stops me slouching and my posture is a lot better.
The only think that worries me slightly about the WheelAir is the prospect of getting mud and rain in the filter. This hasn’t happened yet though so will wait and see! Also, because the WheelAir is so much thicker than my old backrest, it pushes my seat cushion forward. Because it was overhanging, I was sitting too far forward on their chair and I didn’t feel as secure. However today we sorted it out – we jammed the seat cushion at the back so we aren’t using an inch of it and it is all working well again!
A Note From WheelAir
We love hearing your constructive feedback and solutions! It means if anyone else has the same problem we can let them know how to fix it. Thanks for this, Jay!