Ugandan Priest Rides RoughRider Back to his Duties

Father Thomas outside a classroom at Sacred Heart Seminary in Mubende, Uganda. 

Father Thomas outside a classroom at Sacred Heart Seminary in Mubende, Uganda. For nearly 30 years, Whirlwind has been dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the developing world. We recently received an update from Father Thomas Gabula, a Catholic Priest in Uganda, and avid user of the RoughRider. In October 2009, barely three months after his ordination, Father Thomas was in a motorbike accident which left him paralyzed from the waist down and unable to fulfill his duties with the Church. Through the generosity of sponsors, he was given the opportunity to receive rehabilitation therapy at Shepherd Center; an Atlanta, Georgia based non-profit hospital, which specializes in the medical treatment and rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injuries.

Help was first reached out to Father Thomas through sisters Mary Goss and Connie Kay. Connie had previously attended Shepherd Center, while Mary is Director at Catholic Relief Services, which partners with a diocese in Uganda. Through their hard work, the two sisters were able to start the process of arranging Father Thomas’ rehab trip to the United States. Furthermore, Darci Pernoud, an Occupational Therapist at the Shepherd Center, served as Thomas’ caregiver during his month’s stay. Recognizing that a traditional hospital wheelchair would not hold up against the rugged conditions in Uganda, Darci contacted Whirlwind about getting Father Thomas a RoughRider.

After his month of therapy, Father Thomas had learned many new skills that allowed him to be nearly independent.  He now has the freedom to live an active life and return to his work with the Church. When we talked with Father Thomas, he happily mentioned the many things he can now do with Whirlwind’s all-terrain wheelchair.  At the Sacred Heart Seminary in Mubende, outside Kampala, he teaches classes on the Bible and Latin, and is able to traverse most of the uneven and stony terrain when traveling to the different classes, chapels and churches. He also enjoys getting out into the community and working with parishioners.  He is committed to helping other Ugandans with disabilities and sharing what he learned at the Shepherd Center.  We wish him all the best, and look forward to hearing from him in the future.

Customizing and Ordering My Roughrider

Seat Width

To find the distance between your hips, first position yourself seated with pelvis upright on a firm surface. Then, measure the distance between the widest points of the hips and thighs without compressing any tissue. Finally, record your measurements. It is important not to have a chair that is wider than necessary as it will be harder to push and may prevent you from passing through narrow doorways.

Seat Depth

Position yourself seated upright on a firm surface. Measure the length of your upper leg, the distance from behind the knee to the back of the pelvis (back of your lower leg). Subtract 1/2” to find the maximum seat depth, to allow for space between the back of the knee/upper leg and seat fabric. Record the final measurement.

Backrest Height

Your preferred backrest height is determined by your personal comfort level and physical ability. Whirlwind recommends, generally, that the top of the back support should fall just beneath the bottom of the shoulder blade. For less active riders who require more torso support, the back support should be higher, falling just beneath the armpit. Position yourself seated upright on a firm surface. Hold your hands flat against the surface you are sitting on. Measure the distance from the seated surface to the desired, most comfortable point for support on your back. To this number add the height of your cushion when you are sitting on it. Record the measurement.

Preferred Backrest Angle

Backrest angles are determined by the torso control of the rider. Whirlwind recommends that those with less torso control, such as quadriplegics, sit with a backrest angled further backwards to avoid falling forward in a wheelchair. Those with more torso control, such as amputees, can sit with the backrest more upright. Proper backrest angle is best determined by an occupational therapist or healthcare professional. Although there is only one option – 8 degrees – in the drop-down list below, you can adjust the backrest angle by adjusting the backrest straps (i.e. looser at the bottom and tighter at the top for a more erect position).

Now please enter your measurements into the fields on the product page before ordering. For more information about measuring, please refer to the RoughRider Fitting Sheet. You are responsible for choosing the right chair for yourself. If you are uncomfortable with determining your wheelchair size, please consult a professional.