Our client is a teenager J, who is wheelchair bound and has to be winched in/out of his chair for bed, toileting etc. which isn’t a problem at home as ceiling winching has been installed. The family have access to a holiday property in Portugal where J enjoys being in the pool – but there is only a portable hoist at the property which is unsuitable for that sort of transfer.
As a result, J had to be physically lifted by two people which was getting more difficult as he reached his late teens. Furthermore, J is prone to sudden involuntary movements and is quite strong – so there was a very real risk that if this occurred whilst being lifted, he could be accidentally dropped on the pool side or steps.
The solution is a floating stretcher and purpose built trolley, initially prototyped in a paddling pool, and then fully tested in a swimming pool in the UK, prior to being taken abroad by the family.
The stretcher is ex-army and very strong and thick aluminium alloy, purchased for £30 off ebay. This was shortened a little to fit in the wet room at the property. The fabric has been removed and the stretcher covered with closed cell EVA foam supported by webbing straps, which adds enough buoyancy to make the stretcher float, and additional EVA flotation blocks velcro’d underneath to add enough buoyancy to support J as well.
The trolley comprises industrial braked castors of the type fitted to commercial waste wheelie bins, combined with a galvanised steel tube system called Interclamp – commonly used for safety railing applications. The tubes were covered in heat-shrink sleeve to improve the look, and padding was added to the top rails. The trolley can be taken apart in minutes with an Allen key. Purpose made locators keep the stretcher in place on the trolley until lifted. A commercially available neoprene belt secures J safely to the trolley.
J is winched onto the stretcher, secured, and then lifted easily into the pool. The stretcher can then be submerged by one person whilst the other helps him off it. Exiting the pool is the reverse of the process, where J can be wheeled straight into the house on the trolley and into the wet room for showering.
The original blue EVA foam was showing signs of being less durable and subject to stretching in use, and was replaced for the second holiday with strong military-spec sleeping mat foam donated free of charge by Beacons Products Ltd who make the market leading Multimat camping mats. Drain holes were added to the replacement foam too to help with showering.
The starting point – an ex-army field stretcher from ebay
Initial testing of the prototype in a large paddling pool
Showing the construction of the stretcher, and how the buoyancy blocks can be added/removed and changed
The Interclamp trolley assembled for the first time, prior to locating collars being added for the stretcher, and foam padding for the top side tubes.
Portugal – a snug fit in the wetroom
Portugal – It floats (!) – though for safety reasons, at least one person is always holding it, whilst J is helped off it.
The new replacement tougher foam cover in the UK before it was sent out ready for the next holiday. It is very difficult to get anything to stick to these sorts of foams, so the velcro onto which the flotation blocks are added, was sewn on using very strong thread and large zig-zag stitches so as not to weaken the foam.
J can be safely and easily lifted, and with less risk of injury to those carrying him too.