Peak District’s Naomi champions outdoor exploring for all with fundraised Trekinetic powerchair from Recare

Naomi Wheeler, 27, is championing all-terrain accessible adventures and disability awareness, thanks to a Recare-supplied, fundraised Trekinetic GTE powered wheelchair, which has allowed her ‘to see places I thought I would never see again’.

Naomi, from Matlock, Derbyshire, was diagnosed with the neurological condition ataxia when she was 23, which has quickly progressed. She is now documenting living with the condition on social media and highlighting powerchair excursions in the Peak District and beyond, which she hopes will raise awareness for other disabled travellers. 

The specific cause of Naomi’s ataxia is unknown. With over 200 varieties, symptoms and severity differ with each individual. In Naomi’s case, the condition has advanced to affect her balance and coordination, reflexes, and speech. At the point of diagnosis, Naomi could walk independently; however, she soon required a crutch and support from another person when walking before a wheelchair became essential.

Naomi explains:

“I had a fall a few months before my diagnosis which I put down to clumsiness. With hindsight, I can see that I wasn’t walking correctly. And then it just progressed. I went from having full mobility to struggling to balance. Thankfully, I have great support from the Ataxia Clinic at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital. And when things get too much, my specialist Neurological Occupational Therapist and Physiotherapist from Chesterfield Royal Hospital have been there to support me.”

Initially Naomi used a basic wheelchair for outdoor use. However, being seated in this for longer periods resulted in back and neck pain, so her Neuro Physiotherapist referred her to Wheelchair Services for something more suitable.

She comments:

“At the first consultation, I was told I didn’t need an electric wheelchair but I strongly disagreed. We then saw someone else, and they agreed with me. Unfortunately, the NHS offered me a heavy powerchair which couldn’t fit in our car and would require a lift anyway– and to be honest, I really wanted something that would reflect my personality, lifestyle, and the fact that I’m still in my twenties! I’m young and live in the Peak District where disability can be extra challenging because of the terrain. I didn’t want to be limited. I have plans. I love to go and see my favourite places. I knew the NHS chair wouldn’t allow me to fulfil my dreams.”

Naomi was subsequently referred to Recare Ltd, leading UK mobility and rehabilitation specialists based in Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. Tim Cox, Recare Rehabilitation Consultant, contacted Naomi to discuss her needs and suggested she trial an ultra-lightweight Trekinetic GTE powered wheelchair, which would be a perfect option for outdoor accessibility.

The Trekinetic GTE is an advanced all-terrain powerchair. A three-wheel drive system ensures body weight is evenly distributed across all wheels, which improves stability and traction especially on uneven surfaces. As Naomi was utilising her personal wheelchair budget, Recare arranged a joint assessment with Wheelchair Services at a convenient outdoor location.

Naomi comments:

“The assessment was so helpful. Tim from Recare was great and explained operating the Trekinetic thoroughly. I knew with certainty that it was the wheelchair to get me places! However, I needed to pay some of the cost myself and unfortunately, I lost my job as a team leader in a charity call centre because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a real blow. I’ve spent years saving for a mortgage deposit so that I can live independently in a bungalow. Plus, my parents and I had already paid to alter their drive to make it more accessible. I just didn’t have any funds to put towards the GTE.”

Following this set-back, Naomi’s Neuro Physiotherapist at Chesterfield Royal applied to a charity for funding on her behalf. With a better understanding of the process involved, Naomi continued with applications for funding from other organisations. She was delighted to receive £4000 joint funding from the Barchester Charitable Foundation, a registered charity that helps older people and adults with a disability across England, Scotland & Wales; the Florence Nightingale Aid in Sickness Trust which provides life enhancing grants; and The Headley Trust, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. 

Naomi says: “I am thrilled to now be a Trekinetic owner! I have seen places I thought I would never see again. Before, there were days when I couldn’t be motivated by anything. I just went into my shell. Now, I’m tired as I’m going out so much but I’m so much more content with who I am. My parents have changed their car to a Ford Galaxy because my eye tremors mean I can’t drive – and the Trekinetic goes in whole. It even fits into my friend’s three-door vehicle with one of the back seats down. Everyone has been so supportive throughout this process – including Recare; the hospitals; my parents and boyfriend Jonno – and of course, I’m very grateful to the charities who helped with funding.” 

Naomi concludes:

“I think I’m the happiest I’ve been for a long time, which is why I decided to launch my social media accounts for disabled travellers. I’m so pleased with the response I’ve had in a short time. I want to show the true picture about disability – I don’t want people to think that I don’t fall over, or cry, or have down moments. And if I can help someone else in a similar position then I will. I didn’t know a thing initially about disability procedures and processes, compared to what I know now. So, I’m happy to signpost online options for funding or recommend Recare’s mobility services, discuss my Trekinetic’s capabilities and raise awareness of ataxia – all whilst showcasing the beautiful places I’m now able to access.”

Take a look at Naomi’s online social media accounts: @3wheeledrambler