SF State News {University Communications}

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First Whirlwind wheelchairs reach riders in Haiti

June 16, 2010 -- Whirlwind Wheelchair staff recently returned from Haiti where they helped distribute their first shipment of wheelchairs to people injured in the Jan. 12 earthquake. Whirlwind's physical therapists also trained rural community health workers to fit and adjust the wheelchairs to individuals' needs.

A photo of Vladimer, a teenage boy in Haiti, sitting in his wheelchair reading the chair's instruction manual

RoughRider recipient Vladimer reading the manual for his new wheelchair.

More than 200 of Whirlwind's RoughRider model--an innovative chair designed for use in developing countries--have been distributed in Haiti so far: a second shipment of 100 chairs, made in Whirlwind's Mexico factory, have just arrived in the country.

"Patients with severe injuries from the earthquake are now being released from hospitals and sent out into the community," said Marc Krizack, executive director of Whirlwind Wheelchair. "But without durable wheelchairs that don't get stuck in muddy ground, tip over on the rocky terrain or break quickly from daily use on rough ground, these people will soon find themselves confined to their homes, which are usually little more than shacks or tents."

Photo of RoughRider recipient Vladimer and Whirlwind Wheelchair co-founder Ralf Hotchkiss using their wheelchairs to explore a rocky trail

Vladimer and Whirlwind Wheelchair co-founder Ralf Hotchkiss use their RoughRiders to explore a trail in Haiti.

In rural Haiti, five hours from Port au Prince, a teenage boy named Vladimer was among the first RoughRider recipients. He sustained a spinal cord injury in the earthquake when his bedroom ceiling fell on his neck.

"Vladimer had fun on the trails around his hospital, learning how to use his wheelchair to navigate rocky, grassy and muddy surfaces," said Krizack. "With his new RoughRider, he will be able to get himself to school each day."

Find out more about SF State's Whirlwind Wheelchair program at: www.whirlwindwheelchair.org


-- Elaine Bible


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