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Independent at Home Despite Severe Obesity: Karen’s Story

  • 2024-07-08
  • Reading time: 9 min.
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Karen’s Journey with Severe Obesity

Karen is a 68-year-old woman from Canberra, Australia, who lives alone and is severely overweight. Her life has been marked by chronic pain due to spondylosis (degenerative changes in the spine), a herniated disc, and arthritis in her right hip. She experiences daily pain in her lower back, hip, and tailbone, making it difficult for her to walk and stand upright. Karen also suffers from a lung disease that affects her breathing, leading to shortness of breath.

After receiving a VELA Epic Plus Chair, Karen has experienced a significant improvement. She shares that the chair has given her a completely different perception of her body and daily life and suits her activity level well.

I never experience pain when sitting in the VELA Chair, which has changed my social life. I have regained my independence.”

How Karen Manages Daily Activities as a Severely Overweight Individual

Karen needs crutches or support from furniture to move around her home. She can only cover short distances, such as from the chair to the sofa, and can only stand for brief periods.

For moving from one room to another, Karen uses her electric wheelchair. However, this poses some challenges since her large and heavy bariatric electric wheelchair is difficult to maneuver due to space constraints, especially in her narrow kitchen.

Karen also described how visits to and from the bathroom used to be very painful because her electric wheelchair couldn’t fit through the doorway. This limitation affected her mobility and caused pain and uncertainty, but with her VELA Chair, Karen no longer faces this challenge.

The simple act of being able to make a cup of tea or coffee is very freeing. It has changed my emotional and mental state. It changes everything just to have the freedom to do something as simple as that.”

What is Severe Obesity?

Severe obesity can negatively impact breathing and lung function. Excess fat around the abdomen and back can make it difficult for the chest to expand and can also affect the muscles that assist with breathing. This can lead to problems such as rapid and shallow breathing and an increased risk of respiratory diseases in individuals with severe obesity, particularly if fat deposits are stored around the abdomen and back.1

To determine when a person is severely obese, tools like BMI (Body Mass Index) can be used.2

Complications Associated With Severe Obesity
Living with severe obesity can be linked to numerous symptoms and related health conditions.3,4,5 Some of these include:

  • Cardiovascular diseases (heart diseases)
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Breathing problems
  • Osteoarthritis, particularly in the hips and knees
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
  • Pain and reduced physical function

A Chair for the Purpose

Karen has had experience with falling in the past. She previously tried moving around her home using a regular office chair, but as Karen describes, that type of chair was not suitable for her or the purpose.

Firstly, she explains how a regular office chair is not designed for bariatric use. She felt pushed to the edge of the seat, which increased the risk of falling, especially if she lost footing on one foot or a wheel got caught on a carpet edge.

Secondly, she missed having an easily operable brake. When getting in and out of the chair, Karen had to support herself on her surroundings to prevent the chair from rolling away and causing her to end up on the floor. This not only posed a risk of injury but was also problematic since Karen cannot get up by herself if she falls.

How a VELA Chair Helps with Severe Obesity

Body positions affect how our lungs function, and for individuals with severe obesity, the right body position can help improve lung function. The way one sits or lies down directly impacts the mobility of the chest and the muscles we use to breathe.

Research has shown how severe obesity and different body positions affect chest volume, lung function, and the strength of respiratory muscles. For bedridden individuals with severe obesity, lung function improves when they switch to a seated position. The results indicate that sitting, both with and without back support, provides the greatest improvements in lung function, total chest volume, and respiratory muscle strength.

Lying down results in the greatest reduction in chest volume, lung function, and respiratory muscle strength. Therefore, sitting up is essential as a method to prevent and treat breathing problems in individuals with severe obesity.1

In this context, the VELA Chair can be an ideal solution and aid for a person who is severely overweight, as it offers freedom of movement and appropriate positioning for those experiencing mobility limitations and breathing issues.

Karen Has Regained Her Independence

Karen shares that she spends 90% of her time in her armchair. Before she got her VELA Chair, she was unable to move around the house without personal assistants.

For the past 6-7 years, Karen has been dependent on self-paid home care for help with household chores and cooking. But that is no longer the case. With her VELA Chair, Karen can now independently move around the kitchen and make a cup of tea or coffee whenever she pleases.

Karen also loves being social and having guests over, which has become much easier now that she is no longer dependent on others to handle everyday tasks.

The VELA Chair has been an absolute gift from God!

In fact, Karen has managed to halve the time she now needs for self-paid home help since she got her VELA Chair. Now, she only needs assistance with house cleaning and gardening.

Karen is very excited about the mobility she has gained with the VELA Chair and calls herself a “speed hawk”. Moreover, she hasn’t had to adapt her home to accommodate the work chair, which would have been necessary to achieve the same level of independence with an electric wheelchair.

Freedom and Independence for the Overweight

A VELA Chair allows overweight individuals to maintain their independence and freedom at home. It makes it easier to perform activities that might typically be challenging due to one’s size and potential complications.

For those experiencing shortness of breath, which can cause dizziness and discomfort, a VELA Chair can alleviate breathing problems and help maintain an active lifestyle. The chair also provides relief for those suffering from pain in the knees, hips, and lower back.

The purpose of the chair is to minimize uncertainty and the risk of falls during physical activities. For many, this uncertainty leads to caution, which can result in reduced physical activity, often worsening symptoms and related conditions. Therefore, a VELA Chair can be a significant aid for individuals who are severely overweight.

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1 Total and Compartmental Chest Wall Volumes, Lung Function, and Respiratory Muscle Strength in Individuals with Abdominal Obesity: Effects of Body Positions 2019. Rattanaporn Sonpeayung et al.