Made of Gray

Permobil Head Array Prototype

Holly D Gray1 Comment
Originally Posted 2-10-12
Updates on Caleigh's new head array coming soon.....

A couple of weeks ago I got a text message from our durable medical equipment (DME) rep asking us if we wanted Caleigh to be a tester for an upcoming head array prototype by Permobil. We said yes, and why wouldn't we? A custom head rest for Caleigh, a room full of experts on her particular power chair; it was a win for us all around. Caleigh is a challenge in many areas regarding access. So if they can get it right for her, think of the people they would get it perfect for.
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It's been about a year and a half since we got Caleigh's power chair. In that time we have tried numerous switches, joysticks and access methods; with none quite right for her. Another company's head array is what Caleigh has been using since last June. As far as I know, Permobil didn't have their own head array....at least until now. Caleigh's endurance has gotten higher with this method and she is gradually getting better directionally. The issues we faced seemed to be hard to overcome with the setup we had. We weren't able to add in a left switch because Caleigh keeps her head laid on the left of the headrest; it's her resting spot. She had trouble holding the switches down for extended periods of time due to their placement within the headrest. Her head would slip and fall off of the left lateral constantly. Reverse wasn't even in our outlook. There were quite a few electrical issues as well, and the back of her chair looked like a bad Christmas light joke. I was always afraid of hitting something the wrong way.
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Yesterday, we spent almost 4 hours at our DME office meeting with two of our regular people and three individuals from Permobil, each with their own expertise. Caleigh was a champ, and patient through it all. We brought her KidWalk so that she could walk around while the installation and adjustments could be made. There was a lot of grown-up talk; so we were very proud of her.
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I won't go into too many specifics, mainly because it is all very technical, but I will say that this head rest is just what we have been looking for. The maneuverability is amazing. The materials used are durable, for our strong girl. You can leave some areas loose with a little play or you can lock it down tight. The rats nest of wires in the back are now down to a minimum. The padding material is really nice and it seems very easy to clean. It also seems to be lower profile than the previous one was. There is actually two switches in the main pad. So Caleigh doesn't have to hit just one spot to go forward. The bones in the back of the head have been taken into account for this feature. Eventually these buttons can help Caleigh with veering a direction. There is an awesome power button, conveniently located, that will disengage the head array without shutting the whole chair off. I'm in love with that feature....you know, in case Caleigh is headed for a group of innocent toes.

There are still a hand full of changes that our suggestions and putting Caleigh in the chair brought up. That's what a tester does after all. The overall look will be cleaner and more polished, but frankly we love how it looks already.
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Caleigh's left turn switch is now on her left arm rest. It is a very sensitive proximity switch, and currently she is loving going left; something she hasn't been able to do for over a year.
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They added two pads on the left side for Caleigh's rest spot comfort. These currently have switches in them. Because of her need for something like this, they will be making pads without switches wired into them. You can see where her head hangs out in the photo below.
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There are so many little, intricate and customized things on this head array already. The final product will be out sometime in May. At that point we will get to trade in the prototype for the real deal. While we were waiting on the final touches, Caleigh told everyone "thank you" and "I love it." In the one day that Caleigh has had this head array, she has driven her chair for longer and more successfully than she ever has. She is thrilled with the changes and so are we. I want to thank our DME rep for thinking of Caleigh when she was asked if she had anyone to try it out. It was a great experience learning about the process and specifics of the head array. We can't wait to see what the next few months brings for Caleigh.
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