In Kelly’s Words – Building a Monoski Bucket
One of the first things everyone with an SCI learns right away is the importance of skin management. Because I’m sitting all day (despite my 1 year-old’s new request that I “stand” [read my Dylan Update below]) and can’t feel what I’m sitting on, it’s incredibly easy for any pressure point to cause skin breakdown and cause a skin sore.
Think about any time you’ve sat for a long time in a single place (car, movie theater, classroom, etc.) and how fidgety or shifty you get. If you didn’t shift, that uncomfortable spot you’re sitting on would get really sore! And of course you’d never let it get that far, but it could cause a bruise, sore, or wound! I can’t feel that discomfort, so I need to think about it other ways.
Skin sores can leave people in the hospital or in bed for months. While this is something I’ve (thankfully) avoided, it’s something everyone with an SCI spends a lot of time concerned with.
While it’s a huge concern in my everyday chair (I have an air cushion), I’m even more at risk in adaptive sports equipment. Think about the difference between sneakers and ski boots! To achieve that ski boot fit in a skin-safe environment, there is some pretty incredible technology and people making it happen.
A couple weeks ago we were in Colorado for Inspire!Denver (read recap here) and I had the opportunity to go to Aspen Seating, a maker of custom wheelchair seating as well as custom sport seating. I was there to get a new bucket (the seat part) for my monoski. And they rolled out the red carpet for me….
To take a step back, there are really three components of any monoski: 1) the ski, which can be any ski I choose that anyone else would ski on; 2) the monoski, which is a highly engineered piece of machinery that includes a shock; 3) the bucket, which is the seat and back that I actually sit in. Aspen Seating helps create the custom bucket.
The process at Aspen Seating was really awesome to watch. They use some space-age technology to take a mold of my body and make a bucket to fit my body perfectly, making a skin-safe seat that provides the responsiveness I need for skiing.
The process starts in a room at their shop with a standard plastic bucket attached to my monoski with a soft foam insert that they put in the bucket. I transfer from my chair onto the foam and sit there for 30-60 minutes to take my exact shape. Once it’s set, I transfer out and they vacuum out all of the air so that the foam becomes solid. Then the fun part: with a special camera attachment to an iPad Mini, they take a 3D image of the entire bucket and send it to the computer engineers down the hall who use some fancy program to create the perfect rendering of an ideal seat shape. The rendering then gets sent to the warehouse out back where they insert foam blocks into these big router machines (I’m sure that’s not the technical term…) to carve the exact shape rendered by the programmers. We weren’t even allowed to take photos of that process!
Mind you, all of this took place in 2 hours and we got to follow the process around the building and get a tour of the entire warehouse. It was incredible to see. Once the seat was spit out, the actual fitting, skin checking, strap placement, etc. of the bucket fit took a few more hours, but I walked out of there in one day with a new bucket (disclaimer: the process usually isn’t that quick, they made an exception for me because I only had one day. I am forever grateful!).
I have talked about going to Aspen Seating for years and I’m so glad I finally did! I’ve skied in my new bucket only once since I got it (the next day in Vail with a big group, I was terrified!). There are still some tweaks I need to make but I think it’s going to allow me to take my skiing to the next level while keeping my skin safe. Definitely a win-win!
Dylan is all about being in charge! She is always very particular about where Zeke needs to sit when reading a book or where to sit when we are playing with her. The funniest thing for me has been when she’s asking me to do something that I clearly can’t. The other day she kept asking me to stand! I was sitting next to her but she just wanted me to stand. If you’re reading this with a shocked frown, don’t, I just thought it was funny. I managed to talk her out of it 😉
She continues to grow her vocabulary and string two word thoughts together. And she obviously gets everything we are saying. And she likes skiing!