Five years with Panthera

Is it risky to use an ultra-light wheelchair? Personal accounts from Chairman Industries’s two longest-term users of Panthera dispel the myths and stigmas.

It has now been more than five years since the arrival of Panthera wheelchairs in South Africa. There have been many positives and some negatives said about them, so Chairman Industries decided to consult two of its longest-term users of Panthera, Mathys Roets and Kerryn Fraser (Roodt), to give their opinions and to let us know if the chairs have lived up to their expectations.

Mathys Roets

Mathys (51) was injured in 2009 following a motorcycle accident on his way to Oudtshoorn. He is a singer/songwriter by profession and an adventure/thrill seeker by heart. He will soon be heading to Switzerland on a skiing trip. Mathys received his Panthera X in March 2012.

What was your motivation for buying a Panthera wheelchair?

I think the carbon fibre aspect and obviously the weight of the wheelchair motivated me. Since I bought it, I can honestly say that nothing can beat the advantage of the weight. Moving around, you don’t feel the weight of the chair – or any weight at all really. It’s agile and it “sits smaller” too. The way you sit doesn’t make you feel like it’s imposing. When people see you sitting in it, they kind of admire the chair and its good looks.

Mathys Roets performs on stage with this Panthera X, which is light and easy to manoeuvre.

How does a Panthera compare to other chairs?

Again, the light weight is a benefit. I like the way I sit in it and moving around, especially on flat surfaces. It just seems to glide and go forever when you give it a little push. The disadvantage, in comparison to my stainless-steel chair, is that I can’t be as aggressive on rougher terrain, be it sand, stone, snow, etc. I feel more comfortable really giving my stainless-steel chair a beating. I bought the new U3 Light, which will enable me to be more aggressive, while still retaining a degree of lightness.

Would you recommend a Panthera to another wheelchair user?

I’d recommend it to someone who is active and is relatively skilled in the use of an active chair with such a fine balance point, but once you’ve become accustomed to that, the use of the chair is just so effortless. You don’t need to worry about pivoting; you just lean back and it goes up. Even travelling downhill at speed I just lean back and it lifts – that’s what I like about it. Being so finely tuned, it makes moving around very much easier.

There’s a belief that they are too light to be safe for an everyday user. What are your thoughts?

If it’s too light or too tippy, you simply can’t handle the chair. The entire idea of the chair and being an active wheelchair user is being able to control your balance point as easily as possible. When you get to the point where you’ve learned to control your balance point, it just entirely changes the way you sit in a wheelchair.

I can’t stand it when my front castors feel too heavy and pushing becomes a chore, so I spend most of my time on rougher ground up on my back wheels. In such a case, you’d obviously want the chair to be light and tippy to give you that ease of movement. With the X not having the options of anti-tips you’d have to be a skilled user to use it.

I’ve only ever had one accidental fall, while closing a door behind my back, because I hadn’t yet got used to the fact that it was so light, but I now wouldn’t want it to be anything different.

Kerryn Fraser

Kerryn (28) was injured in September 2009. She was shot in the back during a house robbery. In her free time, she loves everything from sky-diving to swimming with dolphins. She was also nominated for Bride of the Year in 2016. Kerryn received her Panthera U2 Light in July 2012.

What motivated you to buy a Panthera wheelchair?

The main thing was its weight. It was so light, small and compact to sit in.

Kerryn Fraser sits comfortably in her Panthera U2 Light wheelchair on her wedding day.

How does your Panthera differ from other wheelchairs you’ve used?

My previous chair was a proper hospital chair and was big, bulky and heavy. It had armrests and wasn’t very easy to be mobile in. With the Panthera, I can easily get in and out of my car. When I drive, I just put it next to me. At 4 kg, it really is very light and easy to use.

Why would you recommend a Panthera to other wheelchairs users?

It truly makes you so independent. When I drive myself, I take it apart so easily and load it. It really makes you as independent as you possibly could be.

There are rumours of the chair being dangerously tippy, do you agree?

No, you’ve really just got to learn how to use it. There’s a bit of a learning curve at first, but it’s so worthwhile when you get the hang of it.

In a further conversation Kerryn stated that she was originally scared of the weight due to the massive comparison with respect to her previous hospital chair and was even in tears at the initial consultation, but now explains how using it has truly changed her life for the better. She is completely independent and is now back at gym and at work, and is completely mobile both in the chair and while driving herself. She says she could not have made a better choice.

For more information about the Panthera range of wheelchairs, contact Chairman Industries at chairman@chairmanind.co.za or 011 624 1222.

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