I got a new personal mobility device last month that has been a major game changer from using my Permobil F3 power wheelchair. I discovered it on a YouTube post and after researching it and talking to a few people in an Omeo Facebook group I called the nearest representative, who lives all the way up in Oregon, to arrange a trial of this amazing machine!
So what is an Omeo?
An Omeo is built on the Segway gyroscopic technology, which eliminates the need for all those wheels on traditional personal mobility devices, and has the option to switch into hands-free navigation! It’s not yet listed as a medical device, but hopefully it will be as it catches on.
I am relatively new to full-time power wheelchair use. It has only been 5 years since I had to give up my lifetime of wearing leg braces after developing osteoporosis in my feet, which caused 20 benign non-operative bone cysts to grow in the bones of each foot. They made standing or walking extremely painful, like standing on pointed little stones.
Congenital Arthrogryposis left me without any manual dexterity, little arm strength and no control of my legs from the knees down, Becoming a full-time wheelchair user was my only answer to maintain my freedom.
I lead a pretty active life, but since using the Permobil wheelchair full-time, even with the multi-chambered air filled Roho Quadro cushion and the tilt feature on my wheelchair, I still kept developing pressure sores. Those sores would land me in bed anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months!
It was during my last pressure sore flare up that I did some research on alternate personal mobility devices that would enable me to offload pressure and also have more fun outdoors with my dear partner, and my grandchildren.
After contacting a representative from OMEO I arranged my first trial run and it was beyond my wildest dreams! The ability to move a wheelchair without using my hands was a pretty awesome new paradigm for me!
Getting on and off the Omeo is easy! It has four little feet/legs that are raised and lowered by pushing a button on the back side panel, The feet make transferring, sitting at a table, or taking a break very easy. Additionally, the Omeo is partially controlled by a multifunctional fob the user wears on a lanyard around the neck. Buy pressing different buttons you can power the Omeo on/off, track your time, distance, lock it and more! It has a security system that will set off an alarm in the event someone tries to move it.
The responsiveness of the turning action is adjusted by turning a knob on the back. There’s a joystick and a turtle mode, for beginners. But as one becomes familiarized and more proficient navigating with it, the real icing on the cake melts into your life!
The Omeo is propelled forward by body movement. Leaning forward propels you forward, leaning back takes you in reverse. Because of the gyroscopic technology, your body remains vertical, going up/down hills, so you don’t feel like you’re going to fall out of the seat.
The seat back on the Omeo is contoured to support and hug the back, By leaning forward and back, and side-to -side to turn, the user is constantly engaging core muscles, and all the supporting muscles that are required for those movements. Those movements intrinsically offload the weight from an otherwise stationary derriere, which greatly reduces the risk of developing pressure sores. The bonus is you get toned and have far superior posture than in a traditional wheelchair, and can remain out adventuring far longer than in a traditional wheelchair.
One of the things I have noticed when going out on the Omeo is the attraction people have to it. It is immediate and socially engaging. From the first time I went out on the Omeo I noticed a huge difference in how I was perceived as a human being.
The first thing I noticed was people did not talk down to me or use their pity voices and attitudes. No one put their univited hands on me to pray for my healing. When they did stop me, it was to ask me about the Omeo and how it works. It was akin to going out with a service dog, people just walk right up and start engaging in really positive ways. I find I want to go out more and have less anxiety about how long I have been sitting in my chair. I have spent so many hours out in it in this first month after my initial training sessions that I just want to go out exploring everyday!
I feel much safer in the Omeo. With just a lean forward it can take off in regular speed mode at 12 mph or 6 miles per hour in turtle mode, which I use the most. I go out on my own often and times being what they are feel very safe knowing that if someone tries to accost me in some way, all I have to do is lean forward really hard or lean backward really hard and zoom I am in a safe zone. It works well to knock people off balance or run them down in the event of someone hell bent on doing me harm. It is truly is a beautiful thing!
I drive a Sprinter van that has been adapted with a wheelchair lift, so it’s easy peasy for me to load it in my van. For users that do not have a van, it will work with a trunk lift/hoist and fit into something as small as a Honda CRV. Some manual wheelchair users utilize two lightweight motorcycle or a briefcase ramps and are able to push the OMEO up the ramps and into the rear of a vehicle by putting the Omeo into Stow mode, and with the light touch of a hand will almost magically roll up the ramps!
I purchased the off-road package for my Omeo, which consists of two beefy wide all-terrain tires and fenders that can be changed out for trails, beaches. With the increased traction offered by those larger tires navigating on soft sand, over rocks and unpaved trails is a breeze. The standard size tires fly over large gravel, harder sand, grass and some unpaved paths.
The Omeo is made in New Zealand, however they recently opened a plant in Tucson, Arizona here in the United States. This will hopefully result in lower shipping fees and shorter wait times for their American customers.
They are just now becoming popular in the United States, and have been selling like hotcakes overseas. I am hoping to find other Omeo users in the northern California area to go exploring with.
There is a little lever on the back of the Omeo that when switched to the vertical position disengages the joystick, and engages the seat for seat steering. In seat steering mode the seat becomes the joystick. The Omeo is turned just by leaning into the direction you are wanting to go.
This leaves users hands-free for all kinds of activities that were much more difficult, and not even possible before the Omeo. Users are now able to traverse deep sand, gravel and rough terrain, play tennis, or basketball, walk their dogs, mow their lawns, and chase their grandkids with so much more comfort and freedom while getting more exercise than any power wheelchair can provide.
If you want to know more about the Omeo, ask away!
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