Michigan Woman Gets First Standing Wheelchair in U.S.

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Emily VanKleek of Stanton, Michigan recently became the first person in the United States to receive a standing wheelchair from TEK from Turkey. But family, friends, and strangers bore the cost of the device because insurance companies refuse to cover experimental treatments, even when they are better for the patient.

Emily VanKleek was paralyzed in a car accident in 2003. She had adapted fairly well to her wheelchair but there were some things – like upper cabinets and hugs – that eluded her.

Then, about three years ago, a family member saw a video online of a Turkish company that was testing a standing wheelchair. The Tek Robotic Mobilization Device (RMD), developed by Matia Robotics, uses gas-spring balances to move a paralyzed person into a standing position.

When the video was released in 2012, the FDA had not yet approved the standing wheelchair for use in the United States. That bought the VanKleek family time. They set up a Facebook page and gathered donations from family, friends, even strangers from Japan, eventually raising the $15,000 plus customs fees to purchase the device.

When the FDA approved the standing wheelchair for doctors’ prescription about three months ago, Emily VanKleek was first in line to place her order. After getting held up in customs, the device finally arrived at her home in Stanton, Michigan in early September. She told Fox 17 how she felt:

“It’s been 12 years since I stood. . . . The earlier you get into something like that, the better it is for your body. . . . I haven’t had the opportunity to do it yet, but [I want to] really hug my husband, because we haven’t had a proper hug in a very long time.”

The price tag on the standing wheelchair may seem like too much of a luxury for some. However, now that it has been approved by the FDA, auto accident attorneys can make the argument that the device is a reasonable and necessary medical expense for paralyzed accident victims.

The insurance industry will likely object that the device is “experimental” and unreasonably expensive, but standing is an important part of any accident victim’s rehabilitation, particularly when paralysis is involved. The standing wheelchairs like the Tek RMD provide an in-home option for patients to improve their health, mobility and blood flow.

Standing therapy is currently provided as a part of patients’ physical therapy using expensive suspension devices under therapists’ aid and control. Even so, auto insurers often argue that such treatments should end once a patient has reached “full recovery potential,” ignoring the long-term consequences of sitting and loss of mobility.

David Christensen and the team at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan believe that accident victims deserve the best in medical care. They have represented plaintiffs in auto accident cases for over twenty years and have fought to make insurance companies deliver on their duty to pay for all reasonable medical expenses. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a car accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.

Image Source: Derek Jones & istockphoto