Wounded servicemembers get new Segways
ARLINGTON, Va. — As he prepared to receive his Segway on Thursday morning, Spc. David Mayer reflected on what he expects it to add to his life.
“Ease of mobility,” said Mayer, who uses prosthetics after losing his legs to a mine in Iraq in March 2008. “I don’t walk very fast. I’m very slow, very meticulous when I’m in my [prosthetic] legs. With something like this, I’ll be able to get to and from appointments with a lot less stress on myself, on my legs. It’s going to make everything just faster, quicker and easier.
“Once I’m on it,” he added, “I’m just as good as anyone else, two legs or not.”
Twenty-seven other wounded servicemembers received Segways at a ceremony at the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial. These, and another group scheduled to get theirs in San Antonio on Veterans Day, bring the total of the personal mobility devices donated through Segs4Vets in the past four years to more than 400.
“You go to Walter Reed, you’ll see Segways all up and down the hall, guys using them to come to therapy,” said Jerry Kerr, founder and president of Disability Rights Advocates for Technology (DRAFT), a non-profit group that sponsors the program. “They can leave it all on the table there; they know they’ve got the energy to get back. It’s allowing them to really work hard in their physical therapy, knowing they don’t have to preserve as much energy to get back to their quarters or their home.”
It’s more than a tool for therapy, though.
“It’s going to give me a way to chase my kids around the grass, stuff like that,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Letterman, who was wounded in an bomb attack in Iraq in May 2008. “You can be a really good walker with prosthetics, but unless you’re a [below-the-knee amputee], you’re not going to be able to keep up with everybody else.”
Letterman went through the one-day training course on Wednesday, but wasn’t ready to ride off on his Segway. He’ll get additional training at Walter Reed.
First Lt. Joseph Guyton, who lost his legs to an IED in Afghanistan in August, knew he wanted a Segway soon after his arrival at Walter Reed.
“One of the first things I saw when I got to Walter Reed, some of the other amputees riding around on Segways,” he said, adding that a Segway was preferable to a wheelchair. “I’m building up to where I can stand on my legs for short periods of time, but as far as being able to go out with family and friends and do something on weekends or at the end of the workday, you need something else.”
Segways aren’t classified as a medical device, so funding has to come from projects like Segs4Vets. There were over 600 applicants this year, and Kerr believes that points to a need for some outside help.
“There’s really no good reason for our organization to exist,” he said. “If the government gave the men and women who served the nation the tools they need, the right tools — that would be a Segway. And not just [recently disabled veterans] — the guys from Vietnam, all those folks who don’t have access to this device and know it would change their lives. Whether they’re 18 or 80, they ought to have it and they deserve it. Then we can move on to something else. We’d be delighted. It wouldn’t hurt our feelings at all.”