It happens every time I go for a doctor's visit, I can predict the conversation: height? This is an easy one, it hasn't changed in 25 years. Weight? Here's where it gets tricky. I have no idea what I weigh; my weight has always been volatile. “I don't know.” I answer honestly. The Med Tech will always look at me confused. I've been asked to guess my weight; I ask if they'd like me to guess my blood pressure and glucose level too.
Weight is an important metric in our overall health, just like our blood pressure. I can remember times when stepping on the scale at the doctor's office has been a wakeup call that I need to knock off the office doughnuts and truly exercise instead of talking about it. Since my spinal cord injury, being weighed is an ordeal. My doctor does not have an accessible scale and the closest place with an accessible scale is a 40 mile round trip.
Just this past week, knowing my accurate weight was crucial. Diagnosed with sepsis, I needed to take a very strong antibiotic that is known to be toxic to the kidneys and liver. Accurate dosing based on body mass is critical so that I heal instead of ending up with more damage than the infection itself is doing to my body. A guess as to my weight simply would not do. We finally got my weight but it was an ordeal of finding a hospital bed with a built-in scale and transferring me to it. This should be simple.
While I was in Boston last month for the Working2Walk symposium, I met engineer, Molly Farison, a vibrant young woman who may solve the problem of wheelchair accessible scales. Molly is Co-founder and CEO of Lilypad Scales
, a Boston-based startup that has created a home scale for wheelchair users.
The Lilypad scale is an electronic mat that you roll your wheelchair onto and it records your weight on a handheld device. The scale will store the weight of one wheelchair for the life of the battery. Lilypad plans to pilot test their product in early 2014 and accept pre-orders for shipping late 2014. At this time, the device is expected to retail at about $500.
PHOTO: David Estrada, Director of the Boston Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, showing how weight can be read on a handheld device when you are on the scale.
I interviewed Molly about her company and her product by email.
What does it mean that you're pilot testing?
When we do our pilot testing (anticipated January 2014), that means we will be putting at least five scales in people's homes around the Boston area and 1-2 scales in clinics or other areas with lots of wheelchair traffic, like the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Then we will ask the people with scales to report to us how often the scale gets used and what the measurements are, and if the scale breaks they can call us and we will come fix it. This testing will help us make sure our product is reliable when we manufacture a large number of scales and start selling through medical supply stores and other distributors.
What surfaces can it lay on? Only hard surfaces or can you lay it on carpet?
How well the scale works on different surfaces is something we will be testing when we pilot the scales. Ideally it will work on any even surface, but fluffy carpets will likely be a problem
If it's used in the bathroom will water affect it?
The scale will be resistant to water, so it can be used in a bathroom, but because it is 4 feet x 4 feet in size to easily accommodate all wheelchairs in any direction, it may fit best in a bedroom or living room.
How can it be stored? Rolled up? In a special container?
The scale is designed to be as unobtrusive as possible so as to avoid the need for storage. It's very thin, about half an inch high, and is meant to be easily covered by a rug so that it blends in and is easy to roll over when not in use. It will not necessarily be able to roll up or fold. To avoid a screen on the scale itself, helping it blend in better and saving you the work of craning your neck, weight will be displayed on a wireless handheld device that will come with the scale, and the scale can store the weight of one wheelchair for the life of the battery (so that it displays only your weight once you have weighed the wheelchair once).
Will this device be covered by insurance?
We will be working on getting our scale covered by insurance, but it may take some time because there is no precedent for home scales being covered. However, it is our goal to have it covered by insurance, since we want it to be affordable and accessible to as many people as possible, and we hope that insurance companies will see the benefits to people's health that comes with access to a scale.
Will you be debuting this device at Disability events like the Abilities Expo?
We intend to showcase our scale at the Abilities Expo in various locations (as well as other similar events) starting next year, and we will have a booth at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Annual Meeting and Expo in Marlborough, MA on Saturday, October 26th, 2013. We enjoy these events and will try to get to as many as we can.
Certainly, there are still questions that will only be answered by trial and error and user experience. The Lilypad scale strikes me as a device worth watching to see what develops.
I like the idea of a home scale that will store the weight of my chair and allow me to track my weight trends. At an expected retail price of $500, I consider it worth the investment for myself but I hope to encourage local doctors to purchase the scale for their offices.
I'll be watching to see how the LilyPad Scale performs. I have not seen this device in action. If you get to an expo where this device is being demonstrated, I hope you'll come back and share your impressions here.
You can learn more about Lilypad Scales
Follow Lilypad Scales on Facebook
PHOTOS: Lilypad Scale
around the house.
© 2013 Jennifer Longdon |
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