Legless Zombie. That’s the description beside Dave’s name in the credits for Land of the Dead, one of the movies he worked on as a stunt double just 6 months after having both of his legs amputated. In that movie Dave fought with the living and lost. A very different outcome compared to his real life battle with a systemic condition that devours his muscle and bone from the inside out. Dave may have lost his legs to the condition but not his zest for life and it’s apparent within minutes of meeting him. He has a twinkle in his eye and a quick, dry sense of humor that he’s not afraid to use…even on strangers.
Dave admits that his attitude wasn’t always so positive and who could blame him; he spent 6 years receiving life support as a result of his condition. When told he would need a double leg amputation with poor odds of surviving the surgery, Dave decided he was ok with that. He said goodbye to his family and friends and went into surgery at peace with the possibility of not waking up. But he did. When asked how he felt when he realized he was still alive Dave responds bluntly “I was pi–ed”.
He stayed that way until a good friend gave him the push he needed by telling Dave to “either get off you’re a– and get on with it or go stand in front of a truck”. Dave chose the first option. That meant getting back to the land of the living which, for Dave and his wife Lillian, meant the rugged terrain and brutal winters of rural Timmins, Ontario.
Dave needed a wheelchair that would stand up to his rough, outdoor lifestyle. When asked to list what he wanted in a wheelchair Dave doesn’t hesitate: he needed to feel stable when chopping wood, the chair had to handle going into the bush, and he was sick and tired of getting stuck in his driveway (a long, uneven path of mud and gravel). The first couple chairs failed badly. Then Dave met his new OT who recommended the Helio. It passed the test.
Dave estimates that the Helio is about 25% lighter than his previous manual chair and he reports that it is significantly easier to propel. Getting stuck in the driveway is no longer an issue and Dave reports feeling safe and stable when chopping wood. Dave gives the Helio a 10/10 for performance in the bush compared to a 2/10 for his previous chair (1 is poor and 10 is excellent). His wife Lillian is also a fan of the Helio. She reports that lifting the Helio in and out of their truck is easier than the previous wheelchair because it is so lightweight.
Whether it’s attacking the living or attacking life Dave enjoys hard work and the Helio allows Dave to do just that. In fact, when I tell Dave that we could make an adjustment to his chair that would make it even easier to propel his response is not surprising – “Leave it the way it is. I like to work”.