On a total impulse, my husband bought me a Topro Taurus at a Naidex exhibition, about 18 months after I left hospital with an incomplete C6/7 spinal injury. He had seen my attempts to rehabilitate and mobilise tail off since I had lost intensive in-patient NHS physiotherapy. Only the very wealthy could replace that with private physio – and we weren’t.
The Taurus has been, without exaggeration, a game-changer and a psychological life-saver. It’s the single best bit of kit we’ve bought since my accident – an unpaid, ever-ready physio assistant. Without it, I would spend morning to night in a wheelchair. I use it every single day and would be utterly lost without it. It allows me to stand, pressure-relieve and exercise — both on my own, or with carers and family.
Every morning, with my husband guiding the machine in front and my carer following with the wheelchair, to catch me if my knees buckle, I stagger up and down our living room as many times as I can for 20 minutes. It’s non-functional walking, in that I daren’t do it alone, and I can’t use my arms to do anything else while I’m standing, but the benefits are incalculable.
It allows my organs to fall into their proper place; gets my cardiovascular system going – I puff and my heart races; stretches leg tendons and muscles; straightens my back; encourages bone density; and helps my paralysed bowels and bladder function better. There is no doubt it eases pain and stiffness in my legs and torso, and reduces the ache from pressure on my buttocks.
Mentally, it lifts my sprits enormously, lets me see the world the way I used to and staves off depression.
I also use the device during the day — by myself, which means so much to me. I park my chair in front of it, brace my knees against the battery, and it raises me to a standing position where, alone, I’m quite safe. If I collapse, I can only fall back into the chair. Here I can stand, weight bearing, using my elbows only as support, for up to five minutes.
At night, I use it to get into bed. I stand next to my bed and my husband then removes my chair and pivots the frame around me, so that I turn and sit down on the bed. This avoids using a transfer board. I also use it whenever I have to change wheelchairs, avoiding transfers.
The Taurus has been significant in reducing my use of painkillers, antispasmodics and antidepressants. It has helped to reduce my bladder infections and constipation.
I stress this wonderful aid won’t work for everyone. Every disability and spinal injury is subtly different. Although I’m severely disabled, I’m fairly incomplete and have tone and muscle strength. I can lock my knees and weight-bear a little bit. Not everyone has as much.
But if the Topro Taurus works for you, it’s priceless. And it’s dependable. After seven years of daily use, mine has only needed a new rocker switch and a battery. My husband and I fondly call it The Norwegian. We even took it to France on holiday in my mobility van.
Melanie Reid writes Spinal Column in The Times magazine every Saturday. She has received no payment or benefits in kind for writing this.