What’s the Big Idea?
What’s the Big Idea?
Towards understanding the progression of Motor Neurone Disease
Gong Life Care Solutions is a family owned and operated business in Wollongong, South of Sydney. We are mobility and rehab equipment suppliers.
Last week some of our team had the good fortune to attend a fabulous event – the Festival of Big Ideas . The evening was a showcase of ground-breaking research and outstanding academics from the University of Wollongong (UOW), NSW. We immersed ourselves in riveting presentations from the UOW professors, and one other guest presenter from the University of Queensland.
The first speaker set the tone for a night of amazement and gratitude regarding the work that is being done in several fields to advance our knowledge and to find cures or preventions for diseases and conditions, as well as solutions to problems in diverse areas of endeavour.
“An Infectious Idea”
This was the title of the opening presentation. The speaker was Professor Justin Yerbury - well-known in our area - Professorial Fellow in neurogenerative disease at UOW. He’s a molecular biologist, and he and his team are changing the way scientists understand disease progression, in particular the most common type of Motor Neurone Disease (MND), for which there are no effective therapies. Motor Neurone Disease is the name given to a group of diseases in which nerve cells, which control the muscles that enable us to move, speak, breathe and swallow, fail to work normally. Muscles then gradually weaken and waste, as neurones degenerate and die.
Justin Yerbury was a professional basketball player who studied science so he could understand Motor Neurone Disease, the condition killing members of his extended family. He developed the disease just as his research was attracting international attention. His condition at first declined gradually since his early symptoms in April 2016, and then in 2018 began to deteriorate dramatically. He chose to have lifesaving surgery - complex, invasive surgery that would leave him permanently connected to a ventilator and unable to speak in the usual way. Last week, Professor Yerbury made his presentation from his wheelchair, and spoke about his and his team’s work. He was using assistive technology, including a specialist wheelchair, eye-gaze technology, computer and a voice synthesizer.
Professor Yerbury and his Wollongong-based team have made a number of significant discoveries that have helped pioneer a new field, showing that
“mis-folded and aggregating protein can be propagated cell to cell, possibly explaining the focal onset and regional spread of symptoms in MND” (as shown in animal trials).
The next phase is to find out whether their work holds true in human MND.
Professor Yerbury has been the subject of, and active participant in, two ABC Australian Story programs, The Enemy Within and No Surrender.
The importance of mobility equipment and assistive technology
At Gong Life Care Solutions we hear a lot about the challenges people face in living safely and independently and last week reminded us about the need for access to the right equipment and assistive technology – just for you.
Stephen Hawking was one of the most prominent people in history to use a high-tech communication aid known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). This is what Professor Yerbury now uses. This is highly specialized equipment which is costly, and people using it require on-going specialist support.
The most comfortable, most healthy, off-the-shelf ergonomic wheelchairs
If you or someone you care for needs a light but strong folding wheelchair to increase safety and mobility, we have products to suit both home care situations, and aged care facilities. Our products are the latest in assistive technology and rehab supplies - designed in Europe for quality and safety.
We are suppliers of the award-winning Strongback Wheelchair, it’s an ergonomic, posture-support folding wheelchair. It was a big hit at the Independent Living EXPO earlier this year in Sydney.
Gong Life Care Solutions had an exhibitor stand, and we demonstrated many of our quality European-made products.
Our Swiss design Strongback wheelchair attracted a lot of attention, particularly from Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Physiotherapists, because it’s an award-winning lightweight, folding, manual wheelchair (It won a German design award in its class, last year!). It’s practical and comfortable for both users and attendants/carers.
We were demonstrating two models, our Strongback 24, which can be propelled by the user or by an attendant, and the Strongback Excursion transit wheelchair. Both chairs are known as posture support ergonomic wheelchairs, due to the inbuilt structural design, which supports the lumbar area, encouraging improved posture and reducing pain and discomfort. All the OTs at the Expo just had to sit in the chairs, and commented favourably on their comfort and great support. One OT actually said - “It’s so comfortable! I want this for my office!”
All our visitors could see the benefit of the design and the light frame and easy folding. One person browsing for new ideas for a family member stated:
“the design is really impressive! It would really increase the comfort and tolerance for my mum, even though she wouldn’t be sitting in it all the time”
“It’s much lighter than the chair we’ve got. It’s so easy to slip the big wheels off and lock the footrests for getting it into the car. I really have to watch my back”
We consider that the most important feature of the Strongback wheelchair is that it encourages healthier sitting for the wheelchair user, with natural spinal positioning so that constant readjustment is not required to remain comfortable, and chronic discomfort and pain can be minimized. The integrated lumbar support can be adjusted to suit individual need with regard to placement and firmness.
The STRONGBACK has also been designed with carers and attendants in mind. The push handles are ergonomically designed, and are spaced wide apart to maximise control when pushing. The wheelchair folds up in a matter of seconds and requires minimal storage space. The backrest folds completely flat against the frame as do the footrests, which easily fold and lock to the side, no need to remove them. The Excursion attendant model weighs 10kgs total, or 9.00kgs if footrests are removed for lifting.
Independent wheelchair users can also enjoy the benefits of an ultralight folding chair, with our new STRONGBACK 24 manual self-propel wheelchair, which has 61cm/24” quick-release wheels. This model won the German Design Award in its category, in 2018. It weighs just 7.9kg with wheels and footrests removed – for example for putting into a vehicle - however it has a user weight capacity of 135kg. This means it suits a wide variety of users and can be easily lifted and placed in a car boot.
Gong Life Care Solutions is an Australian owned and operated supplier of active mobility systems. Our team is dedicated to assisting you with your enquiries. You can order directly online, or contact us for other options. We deliver free, anywhere in Australia. https://gonglcs.com.au
We invite you to look at the models on our website: https://gonglcs.com.au/products/3-strongback-24-wheelchair-18-inch-seat-width
- UOW Media: Festival of Big Ideas: https://www.uow.edu.au/media/2019/whats-the-big-idea-researchers-reveal-the-inspiration-behind-their-work.php and: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3QNAvaEpDg
- Direct quote from the presentation
- Australian story The Enemy Within: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxnVxkIZ5TI&t=0s&list=PLn2RjxYNpcazuZ1zmOrdO7dtjvgaWxWHt&index=23
- Australian story: No Surrender: https://www.abc.net.au/austory/no-surrender/10456238
- Hemsley, B, Professor of Speech Pathology, UTS, in The Conversation, March 16, 2018. https://theconversation.com/the-technology-that-gave-stephen-hawking-a-voice-should-be-accessible-to-all-who-need-it-93418
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