This past Thanksgiving weekend I got in my car, as many other millions of people did, and headed out on a 3 hour road trip. One thing that I need to think about now, when I travel is how to make my trip as comfortable as possible. The car that I drive is a 2003 Saturn Ion, which is a great car because it is easy for me to get my wheelchair in and out of it, but the driver’s seat has a very hard surface. I often get uncomfortable after driving for about an hour because the car seat is not custom fit to my body, as my wheelchair cushion is. For example, I am always pressure mapped for a wheelchair cushion. I have to remember that if I spend long hours driving in my car, I also have to protect my skin so I don’t get pressure sores.
Over the past 15 years since I have been paralyzed with no feeling from the mid-chest down, my body and muscle mass has changed. I am amazed at how much muscle I still have in my legs, but over the past few years I have noticed more atrophy, especially on my backside. The bony areas on my butt which are called the ITs (Ischial Tuberosities) are more prominent now. I used to be able to travel in the car for long periods of time without worrying too much about pressure on my backside, but I now take the time to do pressure releases, stretch out and take breaks.
For this trip, I decided to make some adaptations to my driver’s seat, to help accommodate my comfort level and alleviate pressure on my back and butt. I put a car seat cover on the driver’s seat, and added a cushion and lumbar support. This way the lumbar support and cushion would stay in place underneath the car seat cover and if needed, I could adjust them. I had tried in the past to add other adaptations to the car seat, but the supports would slide around. These two adaptations really made quite a difference on my 3 hour car ride. The lumbar support helped me sit up straighter and the cushion helped protect my skin from sitting too long. When I got to my destination I wasn’t in a lot of pain and felt pretty good.
My return trip home, due to heavy holiday traffic, turned my 3 hour ride into 6 hours. Due to the fact that I took the cushion out of the car seat cover and used it where I was staying for other needs, I forgot it on the way back. I noticed a huge difference in my pain level without the seat cushion. I did some pressure releases and readjusted myself, but it wasn’t working. I could tell that I was putting a lot of extra pressure on my butt and knew I might have put myself at risk for a pressure sore. Once I got home I checked my skin and I was right, I had a red spot which looked irritated.
It has been a couple of days now and the red spot is a little better, but I am keeping an eye on it. I realize that as time passes my body is going to keep changing, my muscles may continue to atrophy, and it is my responsibility to make sure I check my skin. I have been very lucky over the years and have only had one minor pressure sore, but it still took quite a few weeks of bed rest to heal. I take my skin issues very seriously, because I have friends with spinal cord injuries that have been in bed up to a year because of a sore. I don’t want that to happen to me. Car seats are not designed to accommodate disabilities, so learn from me and take precautions to protect your skin while driving.
~Driving and Sitting Safely~