In this entry I will be taking a slight detour from my story. Especially since I am waiting for some medical information that I wanted to share with you all in the next chapter of my recovery. So for this entry my girlfriend Radha was making the good argument that showing off this cool device I created could really help someone whom might have a similar situation. So here it is...
Today I want to talk briefly about assistive technology/devices and more specifically the DIY side of assistive devices, specifically those that have helped me to be a more independent person. This particular device I created is super simple, very cheap to make, and easy to change or customize to suit anyone's needs.
With my current hand and finger dexterity I'm not able to hold on to many things easily. I typically avoid trying to hold on to something that is easily spillable or crush-able because I will inevitably spill or crush it! My hands typically spasm to a closed fist when I hold on to things. Think of when you're interacting with a newborn baby and you place your finger on the palm of its hand. The typical reflex is for the baby’s hand to close and clasp onto your finger. Well, this is what happens with my hands, only with adult force. So anything that I try to grasp that happens to have a larger circumference than what my hand opens, my hand will spasm and ultimately squeeze the item. That's all well and good if you're trying to chug maple syrup, but not so great if you're trying to stay clean and enjoy your maple syrup one spoonful at a time.
Though I do feel I belong in Vermont, I don't typically need to chug maple syrup!
All this considered, what is on my menu 2-3 times a day is yogurt that comes in the small plastic containers that I need to take with my medication. On a side note: not only is the yogurt beneficial in coating your belly, it also aids in digestion, and yogurt is said to have great bacterial cultures that help with bowel care….AND as an added bonus, Greek yogurt has lots of protein (10-15g depending on the brand). If you know anything about spinal cord injury, proper bowel care and nutrition is the top most important musts to live a healthy and independent life. Currently I've been having some tailbone skin issues, and the added protein that Greek yogurt provides will assist in the healing process.
So about my super simple creation:
Because I eat yogurt, and for years have needed someone to feed me my yogurt I have had to deal with the awkwardness of receiving too much, or too little in each spoonful. Then the added aggravation of the person who is feeding me shoving the spoon into my mouth, or annoyingly holding the spoon in front of my face until I have swallowed and ready for the next mouthful. All of this taking a huge amount of patience on my part as you well can imagine…...
I have recently started working with a new occupational therapist at Spaulding in Medford. Her name is Nicole, and she is freaking awesome! I was dependent on someone else to do many things in my life until she came along. Nicole thinks out of the box with me and together we have created a little device that has made a huge difference in my independence!
Here is how my/our creation was born…..
Not long ago my friend Amy introduced a product called Instamorph to me. It is a type of plastic that is moldable when exposed to temperatures greater than 120° Fahrenheit (48° Celsius for those of you in countries that use the awesome metric system). You can get the product in different colors, it's reusable, and it's non-toxic. The creators of Instamorph suggest using boiling water, or a heat gun to melt it. However, I've seen people on YouTube using blowtorches and lighters, not ideal in my opinion, because it tends to leave burn marks on the product and depending on your functionality it can be very unsafe.
So….using Instamorph, Nicole and I came up with a holder for my yogurt containers and my Dixie cups that hold my medication. The product can really be molded to hold just about anything.
Here is a video I made of how to make this particular device:
I'm happy to say that I now eat my yogurt independently whether in bed, or sitting upright in my chair. It is amazing how things taste a lot better when you're feeding yourself! My yogurt happened to be the last and final thing that I was not able to feed to myself and all it took was something as simple as this little cup holder to change that……..interesting how thinking out the box and brainstorming can foster creativity!
Many thanks to Amy for introducing me to Instamorph, and Nicole for creatively brainstorming, and I cannot forget to mention my caregivers that have made, or helped me to modify these holders for me. Last but not least a big thank you to Radha for pushing me to make this video and write this blog. All a case of great minds working together!