Today's post is written by Alex Cochran, founder of Australian company Slayer Wheels. I think you'll be interested in the story behind a fabulous new concept and company. You can find Slayer Wheels on the web at www.slayerwheels.com
We had it all organized. After a leisurely sleep in, Desiree and I would hit the laneways of Melbourne to do a bit of window shopping and some serious latte consumption. We had been spending a few days in one of Melbourne’s boutique hotels after attending a wedding.
Desiree had been complaining of a headache the night before, but this was nothing really unusual. It was 8.30am when we woke. Desiree was not her normal self; it was then that she said she was blind in her right eye. I took a look and there was no blink response. She walked to the small ensuite bathroom we had, and then buckled to her knees. I rang reception for an ambulance and in no time we were in the emergency intensive care unit of Royal Melbourne Hospital.
I knew deep down that the symptoms Desiree displayed were classic stroke symptoms. But she was young! Surely she couldn’t have had a stroke.
It was confirmed, Desiree had suffered a significant “cerebrovascular accident” as the doctors called it. The next 3-4 days would be critical. No one would confirm for me that she would survive. The only comment I can remember well was one of the senior nurses saying to me, “You know, your life has changed forever”.
That was 5 years ago. Never a day goes by where I don’t recall those words. I was a senior executive of one of Australia’s leading retailers, living in Sydney, working 15 hour days and travelling the world developing products to sell on our shelves. How different my life is today.
Desiree did survive. After she was stabilized she spent 2 weeks in Royal Melbourne Hospital then was airlifted back to Sydney, our hometown, where she spent another 6 weeks in Royal North Shore Hospital and then another 6 months in Royal Ryde Rehabilitation Hospital. Over this time she progressively regained her speech, and most of her cognitive abilities. However she has never regained any movement in her left arm and only about 20% functionality of her left leg.
When it came to choosing a wheelchair Desiree wanted something that would express her personality. After all her wheelchair would become the first thing people would see. Her chair was now to be part of her life. We spent weeks looking at different chairs. Could we find a “fashionable” wheelchair? No way. It was as if once you became disabled you had to “check in your personality” at the door. The best we could do was a bright red Invacare Action 3 model. But this was far from any “fashion statement”. You could do so much more.
I made a decision at this point to research wheelchair design from the point of view of fashion. The more I read, the more that I became disillusioned. Over the last 20-30 years there had been a considerable amount of research into wheelchair wheel design and wheelchair handrim design. What this research had clinically proven is that changes to the design of wheelchair wheels and handrims can have an extremely positive effect on the long term quality of life of manual wheelchair users. But sadly very little of this design innovation had found its way into wheelchair wheel production.
I continued my research over the next few years and waited for an opportunity to bring these thoughts to reality. Just recently a long-time friend purchased a bicycle wheel building business and he was looking for new products to diversify the business. What better than wheelchair wheels!
Here was my opportunity. We could start a company that produced wheelchair wheels here in Australia. Not only would these wheels use design principals clinically proven to improve quality of life, but we could also inject a bit of fashion. So was born Slayer Wheels. (http://www.slayerwheels.com/ )
It is still early days and we are developing up our product range, but I think we are going to get there. We have convinced a manufacturer to make a range of coloured handrims, we have sourced a range of low weight rims and hubs (also in a range of colours) and we know we can build a better (and more fashionable) wheelchair wheel. We are now working on our pricing and production techniques to get the wheels to market at the lowest price we can.
Now we need to get the word out. Please visit our website at http://www.slayerwheels.com/ and look through our range.
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