Warmth and Technology:
Quadriplegia makes it very difficult for the body to regulate its temperature. As you would expect, quadriplegics are subject to temperature extremes. Whether overheating in warm weather or numbing cold in the winter by the time we realize what's going on we can already be in a life threatening condition called Autonomic Dysreflexia. One of the characteristics of quadriplegia is always being cold. I wear a knit hat year round, even in the house, and most often have several layers of clothing on even in the summer.
Technological improvements are occurring almost daily and they impact all of our lives. Equipment is constantly being developed which improves everyone’s lives as well as those in the disabled community. While some advances are developed specifically for the disabled there are many, designed for the general public, which can easily be used as is, or adapted for use by the disabled community.
One advancement easily applied for use by individuals with disabilities is battery heated clothing. For those of us who spend a lot of time in the out-of-doors, staying warm is a major concern. Although most of these products are pricey there cost can be justified by the safety and comfort they provide.
Several years ago I purchased a pair of ThermaCell Original Heated Insoles when they were offered at half price on Good Morning America's Deals and Steals. While I can't feel them working it's obvious when I return from hunting, they have done their job. They have 2 settings medium (100 degrees) and high (111 degrees). The heat will last up to 5 hours on the medium setting. Once charged, which takes about 4 hours, they are totally wireless and are controlled by a remote you carry with you.
My hands are a constant worry for me when I'm out in cold weather. I am unable to move my fingers much, to stimulate blood flow, so they can get very cold very quickly. I have gone so far as to try using Soapstone in a muff, but while it works it is heavy and cumbersome. After returning home this year with exceptionally cold hands, I decided to buy myself an early Christmas present. At Cozy Winters I found what I was looking for, a Battery Heated Hand-warmer. A small rechargeable lithium ion battery is plugged into a standard outlet for about 4 hours. When charged, it is plugged into the hand warmer and you're ready to go. There is a choice of 3 settings depending on the amount of heat you want. The setting you choose will heat continuously for 3 hours on the highest to 7 hours on the lowest. Unfortunately, when I tried to use it, I could not get my hands, which are in a loosely clenched fist, through the knit cuff. A friend of mine who has Raynaud's Syndrome told me he stuffs his regular hand warmer with HotHands and is just fine.
My friend Andy Dahmen has used a battery heated jacket for several years now. He is extremely satisfied and feels that the jacket was well worth the investment. It also run off a rechargeable lithium ion battery. More information on winter concerns can be found on Winter In A Wheelchair.
Another technological product is the Dual Sided Heat Blanket. Being cold the majority of the day and night is no fun. Electric blankets seem to develop problems from having the wires bent when the bed is made. It is also dicey leaving it on all night. I had often thought about getting and using a well-made space blanket as a sheet, but never got to it. Make Life Easier stole my idea. This clever design lets you become your own heat-generating furnace. One side is a foam-lined, NASA-inspired metallic material ( space blanket) that reflects your body heat. The other is a plush, thick poly/acrylic blend that’s soft to the touch and holds warmth as well. (Cost $22) Place underneath your fitted sheet or on top of your flat sheet as you sleep in cold weather. I am using one and it works great.