Alex O'Brien


Smart wheelchair enables terminally ill patients to visit beach

Smart wheelchair enables terminally ill patients to visit beach

When we think abstractly of what we want our final days to be like, many of us turn to thoughts of family, friends, our favourite foods and visiting our favourite places. For a long time, that final wish was unable to be fulfilled due to limitations in wheelchair technology. Today, however, that’s all changed.

A Gold Coast palliative care facility has been gifted four all-terrain wheelchairs (worth $50,000) to help terminally ill patients live out their final days with joy, enabling them to once more visit the beaches they used to love.

Before he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, 65-year-old Tony Lambert enjoyed few things more than a stroll along Main Beach with his family. Unfortunately, after losing the use of his arms and legs to the disease, this was no longer a possibility. “He just [sat] on the boardwalk and [watched] his family enjoy that time on the beach without him,” Gold Coast Health Community Palliative Care team leader Julie-Ann Hendry told SBS.

Today, though, things have taken a positive turn. Thanks to the “beach wheelchair”, Lambert can finally return to some normality. “This has meant so much to me – I’ve had my swimmers ready for weeks,” he said. “Just being down here, to smell the beach, feel the sand, is great. It means we can be a family again, being together [at the beach] instead of all spread out.”

In addition to the two owned by the local council, there are only six of these special wheelchairs available along the Gold Coast for use among up to 1,000 palliative care patients. Hendry hopes that Lambert’s story will inspire other councils to purchase the chairs, making them available at every beach club in Australia. “If we can replicate this across hundreds of thousands of surf clubs, it would just really help people going through really tough times,” she said.

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