Scooters: Don’t Let Pride Block Your Path to Independence

Scooters: Don’t Let Pride Block Your Path to Independence

MS_Wire_Ed_Tobias

To scoot or not to scoot? Is is better to drag your legs around for as long as you can, or to give in and get yourself a set of electric wheels?

That decision prompted the following vent on a multiple sclerosis Facebook group recently:

“I’m just wondering if anyone has this happen to them. Every time I go to the store I have someone roll up on me in their electric scooter and tell me I need to get one. Every time my response is the same, ‘I refuse to use one until I absolutely have no other choice’ and then they shake their head at me like I’m crazy. Granted, I know how I look pushing my walker (which I refused to use for a long time and just clutched onto walls), and dragging my dead weight of a right leg behind me, red faced and sweating with the effort, but for now I am able to walk so I do, is that really such a bad thing?”

Scooting in Dubrovnik with a cruise ship friend

For many years, I felt the same way as that writer in that Facebook group. It took one trip-and-fall too many to convince me to find some walking help. I began using a cane; first a fold-up, used only occasionally, then a nice-looking wooden cane that I used all the time. That was in the late 1990s, close to 20 years after being diagnosed with MS.

I started using a scooter in the summer of 2000, when a colleague suggested I rent one to get around the large Staples Center in Los Angeles, and at Philadelphia’s First Union Center (now the Wells Fargo Center), while covering the political conventions being held in those cities. Riding, rather than walking, gave me the mobility I needed to do my job. I scooted whenever I was at those venues, and at the the end of each long working day I parked, plugged the scooter into its charger, and walked out of the convention center. Without using the scooter, someone probably would have had to have carried me out.

Four years later, my wife convinced me to buy my own scooter. My Pride Sonic (now called a “Go-Go”) separates into four parts. The heaviest was about 35 pounds, so I could disassemble the scooter, throw it into the back of my SUV, and take it to work with me. That gave me two benefits: I could move around our news bureau in Washington, D.C., which covered three large floors, faster than anyone else; and I also saved a ton of personal energy.

TravelScoot in Helsinki
TravelScoot in Helsinki

That Sonic also came with my wife and me on cruises to Alaska and the Mediterranean, but eventually it became too heavy and cumbersome for travel. So, enter the TravelScoot. This is a 35-pound scooter that can be folded like a baby stroller. I can ride it right up to an aircraft door where it’s stowed (folded in a coat closet, or unfolded in the cargo bay), and it’s returned to me at the door when we arrive. I still use a larger scooter (now a Go-Go) to get around town and to walk our dog. (And when we go grocery shopping, my wife rides the Go-Go and I ride the TravelScoot). But the TravelScoot is, as the name suggests, primarily my travel scooter. It has wheeled me around the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey, and been “tendered” from a cruise ship onto the shore at Santorini, Greece.

I’m not advocating for particular brands of scooters. An online search will turn up dozens, at prices ranging from $900 to $4,500 or so. You probably will have to pay for it yourself. Unless your doctor will certify that you need an electric scooter to get around in your home, it’s unlikely that Medicare, Medicaid, or your private insurance will pay for it.

I am, however, advocating that you not allow pride, vanity, or a strict “use-it-or-lose-it” philosophy to stand in the way of getting yourself some wheels. It really helped to make me more independent, and has made a big difference in the quality of my life.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

15 comments

  1. Debbie Chiumento says:

    I understand not wanting to give in to limitations! I resisted help from outside sources for years! I finally gave in and it changed my life. Having a home care person come in so I could have a shower, someone to help with the heavier housekeeping chores like laundry, vacuuming, washing floors and cleaning bathrooms freed energy for me to do other more important things like play with my kids and cook dinners for my family. Using a wheelchair, walker, cane or scooter in public was a big struggle for me. Again once I decided to do what was best for me I found they all gave me security, lessened stress and allowed me to enjoy outings instead of dreading them! I have all 4 aids and use them all depending on what the activity is and how I’m feeling on any particular day! Please don’t allow fear of what others may think or pride to stop you from doing what you need to do to improve your own quality of life! ?

    • Jana Morgan says:

      Great Debbie and I also use all the items you have listed for different ways I want to travel. They work perfectly and make me able to do all the things I want to do. Would never go back. Why would you care what people think? I have found most people are incredibly helpful and offer to help me get my scooter out of the car. I do it on my own but have said yes to every offer of help as it is hard for them to offer so say yes and help you and make them feel good about themselves! It is a win win situation!

      • Hi Jane, thank you for your kind words of, what i consider to be, faith restoring in joe public! i haven’t got a scooter yet!just relying on my newly acquierd crutches,, i was concerned about how i would feel! & other people look at me!
        i was so wrong!! thank you! xx,
        i live in Cyprus so the footpaths are not good!

        • Ed Tobias says:

          Hi Julien,

          Scooters can handle the Cyprus footpaths. I’ve ridden my lightweight scooter through the ruins of Ephesus, Turkey and over the cobblestones in Crete. They’re really very sturdy and having one will make it easier for you to travel than always trying to walk with crutches. Each of these tools has its own use each day.

          Ed

  2. Phil Longford says:

    Have resisted all admissions that PPMS is causing me problems. But it steadily happens. One stick, then two. Using the Blue Badge. First time in a wheelchair was through an airport. Still hate that! Buggy through Gatwick does not look specifically for disabled. Perhaps they could make scooters that are entertaining? Rather than so obviously a disability aid! Like everything else, would get used to it, but sure they could be made more fun. Remember those awful blue 3 wheeled disability cars of the 1970s? Now, with a few adaptions, any car is useable.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Phil,

      My little TravelScoot is really cool. It’s very fast, looks sort of like a kids scooter and people stop me all the time to ask “where did you get that?”

      There are also larger scooters that are fun to ride. Some even have interchangeable panels so that you can vary their color. Today’s scooters are not that obviously a disability aid.

      BTW, I love using my TravelScoot in an airport. It gets me to the front of the security lines and I can quickly zip from gate to gate if a gate is changed or between connecting flights. If I was walking I’d probably miss the flight! (The last time I connected at Heathrow I was escorted to a magnetometer that was out of the main flow and had absolutely NO line. I’d never seen no line at LHR).

      Try it, you’ll like it.

      Ed

      • Kris Buchanan says:

        I found Travelscoot 6 years ago when I went to Spain. It was fabulous and I was the envy of many. The regular size is a bit heavy for me to handle by myself but was sturdy enough to handle to stone streets. Last year bought the junior shopper. 15 lbs ( includes the lithium battery) I go everywhere, works great flying ( gate check guys love me cuz scooter is so light- even lighter cuz i take the battery with me) and I don’t even have to collapse it as it fits in a trunk or back of SUV … just lower the handlebar. Plus it’s a lot cheaper than the regular one. Win win for women or kids that want their freedom. Love it!

        • Ed Tobias says:

          Oh, yes. The baggage guys love it. And, on one overseas flight, the cabin crew suggested that I just fold it up and put it in the coat closet. It’s a winner.

  3. Sheri goggin says:

    Could you add study info on non drug therapies to the therapies area? I’ve run into some interesting things re 2 companies very close to coming out w neuro stim devices, both for function as well as spasticity. Then there’s always diet and nutrients. Those treatments could all be part of our care.

    Something at UMaryland now reversing mouse ms by retraining only myelin killing issue via lymphnodes. Gen immunosuppression terrifies me

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Sheri,

      Thanks for the information. Since your comment isn’t directly related to the subject of this column, I’ll pass your suggestion to Ian Franks, our Managing Columns Editor, so that he’s aware of your request.

  4. I LOVE my TravelScoot Although I don’t need it for many of my daily activities, it is extremely helpful when I need to travel more distance such as air travel in larger airports and day trips to participate in a walk/hike or similar activity. Not only does it allow me to keep up with other walkers, but it assures that I won’t trip and fall, which is a biggy. When in public, I also receive many inquiries about where I got my TravelScoot. It appears to be coveted by many 9 year old boys! And a benefit that I never anticipated – I’m an avid amateur photographer and the scooter puts me at a lower vantage point so I can acheive a more iteresting perspective on many shots, plus I can put my camera equipment in a bag that sits in front of me on the TravelScoot, making it easily accessible and no weight on my back.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Thanks for your comment, Ingrid. I, too, get lots of “where did you get that?” comments, some from able bodied travelers who’ve been dragging themselves around the tourist sites. And our granddaughter, who’s almost three years old, loves to ride on my lap.

      Oh, did I mention that I use both of my scooters to walk our dog?

      Ed

  5. Laurie Warner says:

    Oh, yes, that river in Egypt called DENIAL! I, too, fought it for a long time, walls, cane and walls, walker, scooter. I used to sit on a bench in Disneyland centrally located near the bathroom and the rides. My family would run back and forth to check on me. My husband eventually talked sense into me and I rented a scooter in Disneyland. After that I had to have my own! It gave me freedom! I was finally able to enjoy my life with my husband and children. Now I have a travel scooter (Tzoro, around $1,700) for the car so it won’t break my husband’s back, and a heavier scooter for my house(Go-Go) which was paid for by Medicare. Medicare will not pay for the travel scooter, I tried, they will only pay for the heavier scooter. I guess they don’t ever expect you to have to leave the house!

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Good for you, Laurie. Yep, Medicare is very strange. As I understand it they’ll only approve a scooter if it’s necessary to get you around the house. If, for example, you only need a cane in the house but you need the scooter to get to work they won’t approve it. So, yes, they don’t expect you to leave the house!

      Ed

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