Why Can’t They All Be a Staxi?

Dream WorldMany of you know that my partner suffered a knee injury a couple of months ago – her medical care has been a pretty screwed up experience from start to finish but there was one shining moment.  The first time we went to the emergency room, we were given a Staxi. To be clear, I’m not a paid endorser for the Staxi, I’ve never even talked to them, I am quite certain they have no idea that I’m writing about them.  I just want to encourage the kind of thinking that they are engaging in.

The Staxi is a wheelchair that was built by people who displayed exactly the kind of thinking that I think we need in medical care.  They created a wheelchair that uses 70% less storage space than the competition, holds hundreds of pounds more, and works better for virtually everyone who uses it. Because of the design, it works for people up to 500 pounds and because the armrest comes up and people can sit down from the side, it’s easier to get in and out. The armrest can stay up allowing a very wide range of hip measurements to be accommodated.  It’s not perfect and it is important that people who weigh more than 500 pounds be accommodated and I’m not trying to downplay that, but compared to the normal scramble to find the one wheelchair in the hospital that accommodates someone up to 300 pounds as long as they have narrow hips, this is a major step forward.  This thing was obviously designed by someone who asked themselves “How can I make this work for more people.”

This may not seem like a big deal, but contrast that with Julianne’s recent trip to the orthopedist.  The doctor prescribed a knee brace.  The medical student responsible for getting her the prescribed brace came back and said, with finality, that they didn’t have one in her size.  When Julianne asked her to order one, she explained that they only order them in bulk in certain sizes and that she didn’t need the brace, the doctor just said that it would be help her, so she wouldn’t be getting one.  Julianne asked for a supervisor and after more than an hour of fighting for the medical care she would have already received if she were thin, they finally gave in.

Imagine if the people who made the braces had been thinking “how can we make these braces work for the most people?”  Or if the person responsible for ordering braces for this huge medical center had asked themselves “How can I make sure that I have braces in as many sizes as possible?” Or if the medical student who was in charge of helping Julianne had, upon finding out that they don’t have a brace in her size, asked herself “How can I get this patient the medical care she needs?” Any of the people involved in this chain could have saved Julianne an hour of fighting, instead, a person training to be a doctor didn’t bother, because she thought that instead of the brace the doctor prescribed, it was completely reasonable to say that it was just too inconvenient to provide Julianne with basic medical care.

Size prejudice should be eradicated everywhere, but medical care would be a really good place to start.  So thanks Staxi, Julianne and I appreciate what you do, and think that other areas of medical care have a lot to learn from you!

If you struggle with what to say to the doctor or how to deal with size prejudice in healthcare settings, you can still get your Doctor’s Office Survival Kit 

Activism Opportunity:

Have you ever been mistreated or underserved at a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic because your were fat? Have you ever been stereotyped by a medical care provider or had your health judged based on your body size? These things happen every day. Thanks to the amazing Tiffany Cvrkel and the Size Diversity Task Force, we have a fantastic opportunity to let our stories be heard by people training to become Medical Advocates. It’s easy to do – if you’d like to be involved please email sizediversitytaskforce@gmail.com for details.  Please spread the word as well! Sunday 4/14 is our FINAL DEADLINE. Thank you!!!

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Published in: on April 13, 2013 at 8:49 am  Comments (17)  

17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m going to go to print out info on that chair & take it to my local hospital! Thanks as always & I hope your partner feels better soon. If her ortho doc doesn’t suggest it ask about an iceman. THEY ROCK for knee pain. Feel free to email me.

  2. Ugh! SO Much Yes to this!!!
    I have broken my foot the same one, (yes I know…learn to walk better, says the dancer)
    The first time I had a traditional cast since it was just one bone broken (5th metatarsal fracture) The Second time I broke the 5th metatarsal lower down, and one of those tiny bones in the mid foot, the ones that are a bitch to heal. SO I was NOT put in a cast, they just couldn’t do it! My Foot was too swollen, and the angles they needed for healing just weren’t going to work, so I was put in the Boot.
    That wasn’t too bad, but before I go forward I should mention I have HUGE calves. I have a slight deformity in my Femur, so form the knee down it rotates out, and since I dance, I have formed the proper muscle mass, but the muscles are just a little off from where they would normally sit, so my calves are large. This poses a problem if you break your foot because while the ankle part would fit just fine, the part on my calf wouldn’t fit at ALL. It would be tight, constricting and to get it adjusted properly it wouldn’t support my foot properly to immobilize it.
    Luckily my Podiatrist was VERY helpful in making sure I had the things I needed to heal properly since I couldn’t be put in a cast, and I was also given a wheel chair since I needed to keep my leg elevated to help with the swelling (I am allergic to anti inflammatorys and can’t take steroids, so getting inflammation down is awful for me)
    The wheelchair I got was pretty nice, I had it in my room so I could wheel myself over to my computer and such, and we were able to take it with us when we went out so I didn’t have to try and hop around the mall or a store on crutches, and it must have been the type of wheel chair you are talking about because it worked great.
    I also at home) took the rout of just using office chairs to roll around my house. Since they didn’t want me on the crutches at night for fear I would fall and break something else, the chairs on wheels worked. We also have tile floor, so that’s helpful as well.
    We made it work for the months and months I was incapacitated, and as I healed I would get a new brace that did something different and every time it was a fight with my larger then normal calf though if you have had any broken bones in the leg and foot we all know that the muscle deteriorates while the part is healing, so even though my calves were smaller due to muscle density loss, they were STILL too big for most of the braces to fit properly

    Don’t get me started on knee braces, ugh…
    I can NEVER find a knee brace of ANY kind that fits. God forbid I am doing floor work for my dancing that needs flexible knee pads…

    And it sort of bothers me that the medical intern who is learning to be a Dr would be so blase, about “oh that was just a suggestion, you don;t really NEED this medical device” WTF?
    Are you saying your x number of years in medical school and minimal training which you are still IN are better then the Drs countless years as an actual practicing physician? Seriously?
    I would have said that to her straight up.
    And I have before when nurses or interns get uppity. I have some really complex medical problems and hell sometimes I have to put the Doctors in the place. Ugh..the medical industry is a freaking JOKE
    Fat, thin, healthy, unhealthy, it doesn’t matter. Today’s medical industry is just an over saturated, covering their asses, pill pushing, Big Pharmasudical Joke. There is NO real health care anymore because it is either push this product, or don’t treat at all because you are afraid of a lawsuit. It ties the hands of the Drs, and allows these outside factors to be the final say in their medical practices instead of you know..actually doing what is best for the patient.
    Ugh!
    -puts away soap box-

  3. The Staxi sounds like a big step forward! Yay! for medical professionals thinking about how to provide more convenient care to more people!

    Boo! to the office where they don’t bother ever having knee braces that might fit a larger person! And with all the crap I hear about how being fat destroys your joints all by itself, wouldn’t it make sense that doctors would need more knee/ankle braces for us fatties? Don’t they know that our larditude means we cannot move without medical aid?????

    Oh, I forgot! The answer is simple, universally successful, and proven to cure all disease and injury including the heartbreak of psoriasis and halitosis: Just Lose Weight! It’s super easy when you have an injury, too that has a major effect on mobility, too. (/sarcasm)

    But truly, more doctors and more designers of medical equipment need to think more along the lines of the folks at Staxi. We’re not one size fits all, and we never will be. That doesn’t mean that outliers don’t need effective, responsible, dignified medical care. And I say that as a death (possibly super, I haven’t done the calculations) fattie so narrow-hipped that she fits almost comfortably in most airline seats.

    What can I say? I’m short and I carry my weight in front. Good news for me, apparently, if I ever need a wheelchair.

    • Oh my goodness, I snort-laughed at larditude!

  4. I wish they would think of these things. It’s an issue everyone faces. I am thin and once I hurt my knee on a road trip and then we had to go into a Wal-Mart–limping around the gigantic store seemed intimidating so I tried to use the scooter they have–but I didn’t weigh enough to activate the engine! My friend had to put me into the shopping cart b/c I didn’t want to wait in the car.

    I have also been given a leg brace in the past that would slip off (not doing its job). They should try to make sizes for all patients or things that have a wider range of adjustability.

    It’s just these places trying to “save money”. But I bet they would save more if people got necessary care the first time they went to the doctor instead of maybe re-injuring themselves. I know it is worse for larger people but it’s like you always say commitment to accommodating accommodating all sizes would help everyone.

    • Wait – the body weight activates the engine??? As if only superfat folks need those carts?? Talk about ignorance!!

  5. The way that medical care in this country works only makes sense if you look at it from a profit-making angle (which is stupid, because human health and lives should not be a matter of profit- it’s damn near psychopathic to make money off of suffering folks). Insurance companies string together a system that is confusing and impersonal at best and negligent and heartless at worst.

    In fact, it’s kind of like most of our other systems- highly inflexible unless you have the capital to “grease the wheels.”

    I think that this is a very important part of the puzzle. If you are willing to drop a stack of cash, you suddenly become higher priority, and you have more options available to you. Many, many of the people of size who struggle with the medical community are not only larger than “standardized” equipment, but they also tend to be poorer, which means that they have fewer options of the few options available.

    And the medical institutions, which make money from our suffering, fight us tooth and nail every step of the way.

    For example, I had a baby in October. January 1st, the Affordable Care Act went into effect, which (among other things) now placed breast pumps as fully covered under all insurance plans (breast feeding for at least 6 months is considered a great way to have a good, healthy baby that puts on plenty of weight to stay healthy and thrive- funny that when it comes to babies, doctors see the rolls and chubbiness as adorable and signs of good health). As most women work, it’s very hard to sustain breastfeeding unless you have a good pump, and good hospital grade pumps are expensive ($300-400 bucks!)

    So, I wanted to get my prescription for my breast pump. But I didn’t know where to start. I got the prescription from the doctor but she didn’t know where I could fill it. I went to several pharmacies that had no idea what to do and turned me away. I even went to a local medical supply store and they told me that they couldn’t do it- I had to call a medical supply company that was in the next county over, fax over a ton of information two times because they lost the first one, and finally after a couple phone conversations, they mailed it over to me and it was delivered to my front door.

    But when I talked to a bunch of fellow moms at work, they had no idea that they could even get the free breastpump from their insurance. Luckily, with my help, many of them were able to get a breast pump, but many of them who heard about it thought that they could buy it from anywhere and just get a reimbursement (which makes logical sense). Unfortunately, this is not the case, so many of them spent that money, thinking they’d be reimbursed only to be told that no, they couldn’t.

    The system is complicated ON PURPOSE, especially when it comes to medication and supplies, and ESPECIALLY when it comes to medication or supplies outside of “normative” levels. This is to ensure that the fewest people actually get proper care unless they’re willing to deal with the System or have a rare ally in the system who is familiar with it.

    Of course, many so-called medical professionals are discouraged from being overly helpful for navigating the bureaucracy because it loses money.

    All of these things are problematic, but I highly recommend that if you do have the time, the best thing is to keep pushing, because it honestly does pave the way. Once one person knows how to access care, they can use their knowledge to help others, and that helps more people get the care they need.

    I wish it didn’t have to be that way, but unfortunately it is.

    It would be nice if we could compile some sort of list of size friendly medical supply companies, especially for those people who do not have insurance to cover the cost of getting one from the doctor. But I wouldn’t be sure where to start. *sigh*

    • Wow, that is a ton of BS to go through for a breast pump. I got mine very easily, but that was only because my son was in the NICU and the nurses there did all the paperwork and crap for me so we could start pumping milk ASAP for my son. I would have killed someone if I had to deal with what you dealt with.

      You’re quite right about poverty reducing the choices you have and the kind of care you receive. I have gallstones and my gallbladder basically doesn’t work anymore, I’m also 26 weeks pregnant. I have been sick since the very beginning, they didn’t find the gallstones until I was 21 weeks, by that point I was throwing up multiple times a day, couldn’t eat, couldn’t even keep liquids down and was in so much pain I couldn’t move. Being into my second trimester surgery became an option, however the doctors didn’t want to. They wanted to try medication (which hasn’t done anything at all) and wait as long as possible. Well here we are 5 weeks later, I’ve been to the ER and OB triage 5 times, lost 13 pounds and am still throwing up, unable to eat and in severe pain. Once I get into my third trimester surgery is no longer an option because the baby will be in the way. I just saw a GI doctor who told me my gallbladder was inflamed, infection was imminent, and if I didn’t have surgery now it will put me and my baby at a very high risk. They knew this was likely, probable considering I got appendicitis at 37 weeks with my first child and now I’m stuck hoping a surgeon will agree to surgery and that I don’t get an infection. I receive pregnancy related Medicaid because neither my job nor my fiance’s offers health insurance, I wonder how differently I would have been treated if I weren’t on Medicaid.

      • I saw breast pumps at Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada for cheap, like less than $50. Maybe these are the low quality ones? I’ve never had a baby so I don’t know. How much do those prescription ones cost?

  6. I’ve had several knee injuries. Years ago they ordered a brace for me (when I was probably in the 350 lb range) and it had to be custom made. The width of the thighs at the top and bottom are so vastly different, that my leg shape is “exaggerated cone.” Anything premade will just roll down. Anything custom made will do so as well. Now after bursting both bursa sacs 3 years ago, I now am dealing with a nasty slow healing sore on my leg. The skin is too delicate for bandaging with tape and the leg cannot be bandaged by wrapping gauze and taping that instead. It’s been a nightmare dealing with both the sore and the bursitis (including having to stand b/c there were no armless chairs at the urgent care, the knee specialist and the wound care doc). And people wonder why I get so pissed when “we” are not accommodated.

  7. Got told by the ortho that his office couldn’t MRI my bad knee because my leg wouldn’t fit in the machine. Asked if I’d considered gastric bypass. Didn’t quite take the hint when I told him it’s contraindicated for people with binge eating disorders. Have since discovered the existence of open MRI machines. Will look for another practitioner when convenient.

    (Aside: If weight loss surgeries *aren’t* contraindicated for people with eating disorders, they should be.)

    • “contraindicated for people with binge eating disorders”
      I am so using that phrase next time I visit an unfamiliar doc!

    • They are, unquestionably. It’s not completely prohibited, however, and it should be. A full psych consult is usually required.

  8. Good news, according to the Staxi website, the Staxi Max has a capacity of 1000 lbs!

  9. Sooner or later someone is going to figure out that making knee braces to fit a larger range of sizes is a cash cow waiting to be milked. Hopefully their head will not explode at that point, because for some people the only force as strong as fat prejudice is the love of money.

  10. I think I used a Staxi at Presbyterian Hospital in Whittier when I went for an outpatient test. A tiny 80 year old lady was able to push my 350 lb. person with apparent ease.


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