CHICAGO (CBS) — Sometimes the simplest of concepts can make a world of difference in someone’s life.
Take, for example, a new wheelchair that allows users to move in both a standing and sitting position.
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole witnessed how it has already changed one man’s life.
“I can think of many things I can do now that I was not able to do in my wheelchair that I could not do before,” said Jonathan Annicks.
Jonathan Annicks has been testing out a new adjustable wheelchair, which allows him to alternate between sitting and standing positions manually by pushing on his armrests.
“It’s a little bit of independence that I did not have before,” Annicks said.
Now he can easily reach tall cupboards, search through drawers, work at a kitchen island, and even pour out a cup of coffee for a guest.
CBS: You must feel a certain way inside?
A: “It feels awesome. Before what would take me five or six minutes to get a coffee, took five or six seconds.”
“Going from sitting to standing is a very big deal,” said Dr. Todd Kuiken, Shirley Ryan Ability Lab.
Dr. Todd Kuiken from the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab’s Center for Bionic Medicine began working on the concept decades ago, but his team of engineers and doctors helped perfect the chair.
“I am working muscles I can’t in my regular wheelchair,” Annicks said.
The chair’s chains and wheels kind of function like a bicycle, the exercise encourages bone health, and the elevated position for the users’ heart helps cardiac function.
“There’s a lot of physical, functional and psychological benefits,” Dr. Kuiken said.
Let’s get to that psychologic part. Jonathan was paralyzed in a random shooting outside his Little Village home last spring.
“He shot me eight times – only hit me once, but one bullet is all it took,” Annicks said.
But in a matter of months he moved forward, to study communications at DePaul.
“I didn’t push through four years of high school to be stopped,” Annicks said.
Even with his positive attitude, being eye to eye with others makes a difference.
“Psychologically it’s a confidence booster. Looking up can make you feel weird,” Annicks said. “It’s super exciting to know that I can finally do the things I have been missing out on for a year.”
Getting the chair to this phase was made possible by a grant from The National Institute on Disability. It weighs 55 pounds but Dr. Kuiken and team want to get it down to about 35 pounds. The hope is to have it available for general use in two years.