Thanks to a generous donation from Swissport, Spinal Injury patients at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) are able to prepare themselves for air travel in the comfort and safety of the rehabilitation unit with the support of the team and a very special wheelchair.
Spinal Rehabilitation Physiotherapist, Emilie Gollan, said the donation of the specialist wheelchair used to transport patients from the airport to the plane is a great inclusion to the rehabilitation facilities at PAH to help prepare patients for their transition back into the community.
“We are a state-wide service, so a lot of patients have to get on a plane to return home from PAH, so travel is something that comes up a lot,” she said.
Travel is one of the most common things that can cause anxiety in spinal injury patients due to the unfamiliar environment and busy nature of airports.
“There’s lots of things going on at airports so getting patients confident with the process is one thing they can actually control in that environment.
“Before receiving the chair, we could only show patients a picture and talk them through it but actually having it and physically doing the transfer process relieves some of that anxiety about what it’s going to be like travelling for the first time post spinal injury,” she said.
The Unit was gifted a row of aeroplane seats from Ansett Airlines several years ago, so the donation of the aisle seat is the final piece of the complete travel journey preparing spinal injury sufferers for each stage of their flight from transfer into the aisle chair then into their aeroplane seat for take-off.
Spinal Injury Unity patient, Luke Rampal, said practicing the transition eases some of the stress that travelling can cause.
“Having the chair here does make me feel more comfortable about travelling in the future, especially the first time travelling with my injury.
“I’m excited that it’s here, it shows me what’s available to me when I leave the unit,” he said.