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Today’s “stroller-style” manual wheelchairs are so fully packed with positioning options that comparing them to commercial strollers is to shortchange their enormous functionality.
Mainstream strollers do get a few critical characteristics right. Their folding portability makes them easy to transport. They’re family friendly: lightweight to push, with storage space for outings. Attractive colors make parents proud to show them off.
These pediatric wheelchairs take the best of these traits and combine them with positioning features that can be custom chosen and fit per each child’s specific needs.
Mike Serhan is well known in the home medical equipment industry, thanks to his role as Executive Partner at Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare.
What’s newer is his role at Inspired by Drive, the complex rehab division that Drive DeVilbiss launched last year.
Drive acquired Wenzelite Re/hab in 2003, but Wenzelite — with its walkers and basic manual wheelchairs — tended to focus on the “lighter” end of pediatric rehab. Then in 2015, Drive acquired Specialised Orthotic Services (SOS) and Columbia Medical just a few months apart. Both of the acquired companies specialized in pediatric positioning — not just as part of wheeled mobility, but also in the bathroom, car and playroom.
Now, Serhan heads a company with multiple missions: To teach complex rehab clinicians and providers about the value of what Serhan terms “sunup to sundown” postural support, including when kids are out of their wheelchairs, and to support the families who use Inspired by Drive products.
Color Their World
While at Drive Medical, Serhan was intimately involved in product design. With Inspired by Drive, he said, “We found real opportunities to grow the product line with unique products — and these are very unique products.”
Inspired by Drive’s P Pod chairs provide positioning in a design that’s anything but clinically typical.
Take, for example, the P Pod, an activity/leisure chair with a black beanbag base, a neon-colored positioning seat, and a silhouette that charms kids with postural needs (not to mention their siblings). Then there’s Nessie, a floor-positioning system just as brightly colored and with a shape reminiscent of a sea monster. Inspired by Drive’s latest launch is the Tusky Tilt & Recline Chair, an activity chair for the classroom, dining room or playroom.
It’s clear that positioning isn’t the only function that Inspired by Drive takes seriously.
“A couple of years ago,” Serhan said, “we received feedback from families and clinicians that while they liked the many product lines that were offered, they felt it lacked in color options and looked too institutional. A mom called us and said that her daughter’s favorite color was pink and she wanted a pink car seat, but the only color we offered was an outdated blue. It’s such an easy concept that gets lost in the shuffle, but color does matter.” Thus Inspired by Drive products are currently available in Roadster Red, Convertible Pink, Dune Buggy Beige, Speedway Gray, Go Kart Green and Rally Blue.
“Some of the best feedback we received is that parents can put our products, such as the P Pod, in their child’s playroom and it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb because of its medical look,” Serhan said. “It looks like it actually belongs in a child’s playroom, and they haven’t had that option before.”
What Parents Want
While the company does offer wheelchairs — including the Kanga with tilt and the stroller-style, lightweight Trotter — Inspired by Drive’s sunup-to-sundown product line offers kids positioning support in the bathroom (with complex bath chairs and hygiene products) and the car (with positioning car seats).
“We do a tremendous job of making sure the user is comfortable and correctly positioned while they are in the chair, but what about when they are out of it?” Serhan asked.
Since Drive is an international company, Serhan said the Inspired by Drive team benefits from insight and feedback it receives from abroad: “We get insights from all over the world,” he noted. But the idea of 24-hour postural support is still relatively new in the United States compared, for example, to Europe. And Serhan understands that in the time-crunched days of clinicians and ATPs, these “ancillary” products can be overlooked.
“The industry is limited with funding and time,” he said. “Our providers are somewhat constricted in how they can support a family’s needs. Typically, the provider will try to get the child everything they feel they need — and the key word here is need. That’s often limited, unfortunately, to a high-cost power chair or [manual] wheelchair. Maybe a few ‘ancillary’ items.”
Parents, however, yearn for more.
“Parents absolutely want to take care of needs, but they also have wants. They want their child to assimilate. They want their child to feel welcomed in a home environment. That’s where the P Pod comes in, when a parent feels like ‘This is what I wanted for my child.’ They look good in it, whether it’s a stroller or bathing products. That gets lost sometimes.”
Serhan added that these non-wheelchair products are entirely functional: “Everything we start with has a clinical basis,” he said. “We start with the clinical side and work from there to make it look good and feel good. That is what the Inspired division is.”
Motivating Families & Communities
Inspired by Drive is working on educating clinicians and ATPs about its sunup-to-sundown positioning mission, and also is building a community of families that can share their challenges and celebrate their victories together via #LiveInspired online pages.
Ultimately, the message from Inspired by Drive is that this company is wholly committed to the complex rehab space… and also to positioning beyond the wheelchair, and the inclusion that comes with that.
“The best stories we get,” Serhan said, “are from parents who say, ‘We got a P Pod for our daughter, and our younger son is jealous. He wants one, too.’
“That makes the child using the product feel good, that makes Mom and Dad feel good, and that’s part of what we should be looking at. It’s not just about the physical state. It’s also the mental and emotional state for the caregiver and the child.”