Chicago woman's electric wheelchair causes pain, says Shirley Ryan and manufacturer slow to respond

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, April 12, 2024
Woman struggles to get help with electric wheelchair causing her pain
A Chicago woman's new electric wheelchair caused her pain, but she said she struggled to get help from Shirley Ryan Ability Lab or National Mobility and Seating

CHICAGO (WLS) -- What if you relied on a wheelchair but it was uncomfortable, or caused you pain?

One local woman said she was dealing with this exact issue, and when she couldn't get the fixes she needed from the rehabilitation center and the wheelchair supplier, she turned to the I-Team.

"The bottom seat leans forward," said Michelle DiGiacomo

The Lincoln Park resident is frustrated with a relatively new, custom-made, power wheelchair she received late last year.

"The back of the seat sits straight up and it's incredibly painful," she said.

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DiGiacomo relies on a wheelchair because she fell and crushed her spinal cord two years ago.

"My body became crippled and my hands became tight and gnarled and I couldn't walk anymore," she recalled.

The new chair was covered by insurance, but DiGiamcomo said because she couldn't get it adjusted properly she had to spend $800 on another, used chair which she sat in during our interview.

"It's not properly aligned to my body. The back of it leans forward and the bottom leans down so it's constantly putting pressure on your bladder and places that you don't need it when you're sitting in a wheelchair 18 hours a day," she said.

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The Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Streeterville helped her choose the chair and connected her to the supplier, National Seating and Mobility. DiGiamcomo said attempts from both businesses to help her fell short and that adjustments made by National Seating were not working.

"I live on my own, I run a significant charity I do a lot of work from this chair," she said.

After months of not getting results, she called the I-Team and we reached out to both companies.

Shirley Ryan responded, saying, "Our team is committed to helping patients achieve their mobility goals." They added that the lab supports patients as they work with the suppliers on needed adjustments.

The supplier, National Seating and Mobility said, "Our team cares deeply about our clients and mission to provide mobility solutions...We are committed to doing our best to ensure our clients get what they need to keep them moving through life."

Weeks after our inquiries, DiGiamcomo said both organizations helped her with new appointments and the supplier made the proper adjustments to the chair.

"I'm incredibly happy because it's my life, you know. This chair is everything to me it's my throne," she said.

DiGiamcomo said she will hold on to that $800 used chair as a back-up.

She also said that the wheelchair supplier has been helping with even more adjustments and that she is no longer in pain in the new wheelchair.