First Steps

mayumi-sideIn our wheelchair clinics, we are witness to countless special moments: the first time a parent sees their child sit up independently; the joy of a sibling pushing their sister or brother; the tender way a father holds his daughter while they patiently wait. One of the most exciting events is when we seat a child in a wheelchair and they propel themselves for the very first time.

Watching a child discover that they can propel a wheelchair by themselves is like watching an able-bodied toddler begin to walk without holding onto anything. There’s a tentative beginning followed by increasingly rapid progress as the kid realizes that they can move under their own power, no assistance necessary. Both parents and child know that life will never be the same.


From left: Mayumi’s OT Emma (left), translator Claudia, Mayumi’s father Victor, and wheelchair tech Scott Valentine.

Such was the case today when Mayumi, age 6, came into our clinic. After waiting patiently all morning for her therapist team, Emma and Anna, to customize a chair to her measurements, it was finally time for Mayumi to try out the chair. Almost immediately, she reached down to grab the wheels. After a few hesitant pushes, her father beckoned to her, and Mayumi began to push herself his direction. As she got nearer, he backed up and she quickened her pace to reach him. A group of Eleanore’s Project volunteers watched as she zig-zagged across the floor in triumph until she bumped into a mat table. Without a doubt, this was a highlight of our day.


Mayumi’s team celebrate the completion of her wheelchair. (From left: Anna, Emma, Mayumi, Tim, Alan)