"easier, safer, more dignified and enjoyable"
London - UK
My name is Gary Evans. I am a 51 year old Englishman who broke his neck at C4/5 28 years ago playing rugby which has left me paralysed virtually form my shoulders down.
I first flew approximately 25 years ago to Florida from Gatwick airport not knowing what to expect when it came to embarking/disembarking an aircraft.
The first experience was quite a rude awakening finding that I was literally manhandled by lifting me on the waistband of my trousers and any other way the handling staff could manage to lift me, from my wheelchair onto an aisle chair (an extremely narrow type of wheelchair with no proper armrests or foot rest) precariously wheeled along the aisle of the plane, my legs spasming and kicking out and feeling like I was going to slide off the aisle chair on many occasions.
About three years ago I saw a Lifter call the Eagle Lifter II on Facebook. A Lifter that could transfer you safely from your wheelchair to your aeroplane seat without being manhandled or the need for transferring to an aisle chair thus finally providing a safe and dignified way to get your aeroplane seat. I was so impressed that I made a comment about the product and was contacted by the director of the company John McGuinness who invited me to see the Lifter first-hand at the Virgin Base near Gatwick Airport.
I went along to the Virgin Base and got to see the Lifter and even try it on one of the dummy aeroplane set-ups Virgin have at the Base. For the first time since I started flying my experience of being transferred from my wheelchair into an aeroplane seat was comfortable, safe and dignified and furthermore I was left in a good position on the seat when I was lowered which I know would make the whole journey that much more comfortable.
I cannot stress how much easier, safer, more dignified and enjoyable this made my experience of flying. It also made the transfers much quicker taking only about 6 minutes instead of the usual 20 minutes to half an hour.
It is hard to put into words the difference that this device makes to the whole flying experience not just for me but also for my family who travel with me as the experience of transferring me was usually shared by them and was extremely stressful to myself and them worrying if I was ever going to get hurt during the transfers and ending up in casualty due to an injury before I even got on holiday.
Apart from the obvious benefits to myself when it comes to improving the safety and comfort of my transfers, it is undoubtedly much safer for the people transferring me as well as I was always amazed that the were allowed to manually handle someone in such an unsafe way for so many years.
I my opinion a device like the Eagle Lifter II should be available at every airport in the world to transfer severely disabled people like myself safely and with dignity.