Disability Foundation
History and purpose of the Foundation Affiliated Societies How you can support the foundation Newsletters Phone: 604-588-6464 Email: info@disabilityfoundation.org
Archived Articles
  Sam Sullivan
MLA
Vancouver,
British Columbia
  Gordon Anthony
ADA Compliance Officer

Sam Sullivan
MLA, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
www2.gov.bc.ca

• C4/5 tetraplegic
• Finger movement: zero
• Wrist extensors: partial
• Wrist flexors: zero
• Triceps: zero
• Some sensation


Innovations:
1. Warm Undergarments
2. Abdominal Belt
3. Suction Leg Bag
4. Extended Clothes Hanger Hook
5. Parking Door Opener
6. Bell Boy Attendant Help

1. Warm Undergarments
Like many tetraplegics living in northern climates, Sam spent much of the year feeling cold and trying to find a warm place. One day he decided that he was through with feeling cold and that he would develop clothing that would ensure he was warm. He purchased the thickest polar fleece possible and made it into an undershirt and leg warmers that would cover his legs from his ankles to his thighs. He found he was still cold. Then he asked that a new pair be made that was double layered. He tried them and was still cold. He then had a triple layered undergarment made and at that point was able to go through his day without feeling cold. He keeps the single layer polar fleeces for the late spring and early fall as he overheats if his dressing is not appropriate to the weather

Top of Page

2. Abdominal Belt
Sam was concerned about his lack of abdominal muscle tone and tried several commercially available abdominal belts. These belts would quickly ride up to the chest when he got in his wheelchair. He then had a thick denim belt made specifically for his seated position and found that it also drifted up to his chest. He had felt straps placed on the belt that would go around his legs to hold the belt down. Fortunately he had some sensations and could tell that his blood circulation had been cut off and that he no longer had sensations in his legs. He was able to remove that belt in time to prevent serious damage. He then had spandex bicycle pants attached to a commercially available belt and this worked perfectly. Although the original motivation of the belt was vanity he soon discovered amazing benefits that he had not anticipated. The belt helped keep his blood pressure higher than normal as it prevented pooling of blood in the abdomen. The belt also helped with balance as when he started to fall over he could breathe in and obtain more rigidity in his trunk. Most valuable of all was that when he would lie down, tighten the velcro straps and lean in certain positions, he could void 100% of the urine in his bladder. Bladder infections, as is common for most paralyzed people, were a significant issue for Sam. Being able to void completely at least twice a day had a marked improvement on the health of his bladder. Urologists expressed concern that this action might back flow urine into the kidneys but a cystoscopy and check-up confirmed that this was not happening. Many paralyzed bladders have a certain overflow point where the pressure inside the bladder causes voiding. This belt dramatically increases the pressure on the bladder.

Top of Page

3. Suction Leg Bag
Another contributor to bladder health is an innovation Sam had made through Tetra. He noticed that regular condom drainage using gravity was not very effective. The urine would pool in the condom until gravity kicked in and then, even after the drainage, there was still urine pooled in the condom. As most bladder infection bacteria originate from the bowel he suspected that this pooling of urine had something to do with the ongoing infections. He obtained some rubber bulbs commonly used on blood pressure testing devices and, in combination with some one-way valves, constructed a leg bag system that had suction in the condom when the black rubber bulb was squeezed. When he started to void and the urine began to fill the bulb he would once again press on the bulb and create another suction. He also discovered that constant suction throughout the day could lead to skin breakdown and developed a release valve, which he took from a common car tire. By pushing on that device air would fill the cavity. The combination of the abdominal belt, voiding, and the suction leg bag, called Urivac, has enabled Sam to live relatively free of bladder infections.

Top of Page

4. Extended Clothes Hanger Hook
Sam has a clothes hanger that has been unraveled. On one end is the hook and the other end is a ball of metal that he can grasp, more or less. He uses this constantly for reaching things, like pulling down books from bookshelves, but the most useful application is when he drops things on the floor. He has a grocery store bag with handles. He puts the bag near the object that has fallen and then pushes the object into the bag, sometimes using the clothes hanger reaching device. When the object is in the bag he hooks one of the handles and is then able to lift the bag up with the object in it. He has even been able to pick up coins with this technique.

Top of Page

5. Parking Door Opener
Sam lives in an apartment building with heavy parking doors and a security key fob system. He has a rope connected to the back of his chair with a hook on the end. He puts the hook around the door handle, uses the key to release the lock and then drives his chair forward, thereby opening the door.

Top of Page

6. Bell Boy Attendant Help
Sam often travels by plane to different cities in North America, Europe and Australia and usually travels alone. The biggest problem he finds in travelling alone is using toilets. He has found that by staying in mid-level hotels he can engage two bellboys to assist him getting on and off the toilet by paying them $20. The cheaper hotels did not have bellboys, or possibly only had one, while at the expensive hotels the bellboys might refuse to give that kind of help. The mid-level hotels had bellboys who were eager to make the extra tips, although sometimes guerilla tactics were necessary to convince them.