Mary Beth Davis of Guthrie, Oklahoma, is a first year veterinary student at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. She has a spinal cord injury and travels around the veterinary center using her wheelchair. In early October she received a very special delivery that will give her ‘the standing experience’ while she earns her DVM degree. Davis received a standing wheelchair from The Standing Company located in Saginaw, Michigan, personally delivered by the company’s vice president Ray Maczik.
“I’m getting used to it for sure. There’s an acclimation process that you have to get through,” explains Davis. “So maybe 5 to 10 minutes you try and stand up and then you just gradually increase your standing time. I actually have a stander I use at home so I’m already fairly tolerant to standing for long periods of time.
“The best part, of course, is the standing. My specific chair is powered so when we go out on field trips or out on site anywhere, it’s much easier to go through grass, and sand, and rocks instead of manually pushing through it. So that’s a really great added bonus. But the standing is the best.”
The Standing Company has been manufacturing custom made standing wheelchairs since 1990. The model they produced for Mary Beth is a Half-Power SuperStand. It features power mobility, like any power chair to go from point A to point B, using a joystick, motor and batteries. However, to stand, Mary Beth manually raises and lowers the chair.
Mary Beth is a client of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), the employment agency for Oklahomans with disabilities, which provided technical assistance to help her choose the SuperStand. DRS purchased the technology as part of her employment plan.
“The thing I like least about the standing chair is that it doesn’t move while you’re standing, which is actually a safety precaution. You stand up somewhere and realize that you’re not close enough or in the right position. So you have to get back down and re-position yourself. There are some keys on the back of the chair. You flip these keys and you can’t power drive it but anybody behind you can push the chair to get me into position.”
For now, she is using the standing chair primarily in her Anatomy class.
“Obviously you get a different viewpoint on things. I think I’ll see more of a difference when we’re working on bigger cadavers like our ponies and cows next semester. Right now I can see almost the same stuff in the dog and the cat that I can see sitting from my manual chair. But it’s definitely going to be really cool to look in larger sized cadavers next semester. I’ll be really excited to see how that works.”
The Class of 2019 recently spent several hours in an equine wet lab learning about different horse breeds, how to harness them and how to do a physical exam on a horse. Davis arrived at the equine section of OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital in her new SuperStand.
“I got to be eye level with the horses so that was awesome. We worked on harnessing the horses, and usually when they’re trying to get away, they’ll lift their neck up. That would be really hard to do if I was just sitting in my manual chair instead of standing up. So I did get to stand and put the harness on which was really cool. I definitely need to practice though because you are standing but you’re also kind of limited to your reach. But you get the height so that’s the important part. Had I not had the standing chair, I wouldn’t have had the same experience with the harnessing.
“I love animals. I’m not really intimidated by them to begin with but it was really great to get to be at standing level with them. We also got to auscultate the horses’ heart beat, lungs, and GI tract. Normally, I would be up here (she reaches above her head) trying to listen to them. With being able to stand, I was just at a much more comfortable reach listening to everything.”
The Davis family was referred to DRS shortly after Mary Beth was injured in an automobile accident about five years ago. She met with her Vocational Rehabilitation counselors Karen Fowler and later Michael Chongwa, who provided career counseling and coordinated a wide range of services. DRS Assistive Technology Specialist Lesli Lennier worked with Mary Beth to review technological options and choose the best to meet her specific training and future employment needs.
In addition, Dr. Jean Sander, dean of Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, and DRS program manager Jan Hatch reviewed Mary Beth’s degree requirements to be sure that adaptive technology was available to pursue her dream.
“They’ve been helping me with school and everything. They’ve been with me almost my entire injury. They’re really great. They’ve helped provide me with my stander. They’ve helped with school as far as books, tuition, etc. They helped with fuel costs when I was commuting to OSU-OKC for my first two years of undergrad. For vet school they’ve helped with a computer that was required for class. They helped with this standing chair. They’ve done so much.”
In addition to giving Davis the ability to stand, the chair has many health and lifestyle benefits for the user. Research shows that standing helps improve circulation, reduce skin breakdown, improve respiratory capacity, strengthen long bones, muscles, tendons and hamstrings to mention a few. It also increases the user’s independence, self-esteem and social interaction. In some cases, it could afford the user greater opportunities for employment.
“I’m just really excited to have the chair. When Ray from The Standing Company brought my chair, I was kind of taken aback because when he came the first time and brought the demo it was just like ‘ah, that’s cool’ and then you get your shiny brand new one and it’s like ‘oh my gosh, it’s so awesome!’ And mine is orange and black so it’s perfect for school. I’ve just been really impressed with it. There isn’t anything I don’t like about it. There are so many cool features to it. And all my classmates like it, too.”