This International Wheelchair Day we spoke to Stephanie, mum to Maisie-May, who received a Bugzi funded by generous donations from our Ladies Spring Lunch. Bugzi is provided by MERU which is part of QEF, and is a small powered wheelchair for children that offers independent mobility often for the first time. Read what Stephanie has to say about how Bugzi was transformational for Maisie-May.
Hi Stephanie, thank you for chatting with us today.
Firstly, we were wondering if you could tell us a bit about how you came across QEF/MERU?
We were relocating and were looking at what options there might be for Maisie and what the local offers were, we originally came across another wheelchair designed for children and thought about how great it was seeing children get independent mobility. We used to talk about how amazing it would be in the future for Maisie and thought about it as a long term goal.
So when we did relocate from Devon about two years ago we went to see Maisie’s new school and they had Bugzi’s in the hall. They said to us that for most of the children, if they can, they will secure a Bugzi for them. They would also integrate both the mainstream school and Maisie’s school for school plays and the children would often be in their Bugzi’s, so we found MERU through that really.
How was the experience of going for the Bugzi assessment?
It was brilliant and really thorough. Maisie tried out a friend’s Bugzi in class and we didn’t get to see that so I was really excited to see what she’d do and how she’d take to it.
I was concerned at the start because with Maisie and equipment, the effort of having to sit is so difficult for her, she can’t focus on anything else, so she has to be supported in a really good postural position or she will struggle. So, I just thought it was excellent to see that all of that was considered, everything from her hips to her neck and everything.
Maisie had quite a big team, I think there were about five people there, I think some might have been in training, but that was really nice. Maisie loves the attention, so if all eyes are on her, she’s quite happy.
Just to see her in action was amazing, she sort of had the freedom to just go. It was actually quite emotional because it was the first time seeing her just move so freely. I think everyone felt that with me. It was a really lovely experience, definitely one that’s stuck with me.
Can you tell us a bit about the impact that Bugzi has had for Maisie-May?
The impact the Bugzi has had for Maisie-May is the independence generally and to see her gain that is transformational.
Maisie is fiercely independent of mind and when you meet her you immediately see she’s very sassy, she’s got her own agenda, she knows what she wants and what she doesn’t want. It can be really hard for her to put that in to action, and to imagine her being able to use a piece of equipment like the Bugzi was impossible beforehand.
I think something that is amazing about the Bugzi is you make it accessible. Maisie can only use a switch as she is limited with her hands, so anything like a joystick or anything of that nature would be really difficult for her. The buttons and the switches she’s had practice with in the past and so immediately recognised that and was able to access that very quickly. Once she gets the hang of it, she’s off!
The summer was actually amazing, it was the first summer where her brother was on his feet and able to get involved more. We would go out onto the lovely green we have in the muse where we live and every day Maisie would be driving around in her Bugzi freely and Ollie would be able to run around with her…
*Ollie, Maisie’s younger brother in the background says “Bugzi” in an excited tone*
Stephanie: Yeah, the Bugzi! You love it when Maisie’s in her Bugzi!
Whenever we have family down, that’s where we are, we’re out there because she has her own freedom then. Although, she does seem to aim for the potholes and sometimes her brother!
But yeah, I would say it’s transformational, to be able to see her so independent and free and I know that she’s only going to grow with it.
She won the Bugzi race at school Sports Day and I was so proud of her, she was able to really get involved in a way where she wasn’t relying on anyone and yeah, it’s wonderful. It can’t be underestimated
Stephanie: Yeah, you love it don’t you? You love chasing Maisie in it…
*Ollie giggles in excitement*
You can see his excitement when Bugzi gets mentioned because it’s something we can all do together. I like when family come down, we’re immediately like ‘let’s get Maisie and her Bugzi’ because you can just see on everyone’s face how amazing it is to see her using it. It’s completely priceless.
A lot of the time, equipment for disabled children isn’t funded by the NHS, and we’ve found equipment that would really benefit Maisie but it’s just impossible for us to fund and if we thought about everything, we would need a lot to be able to get that. So, the fact the Bugzi is accessible in that you can just put down a deposit and you’re given everything you need is incredible.
Also, the fact that she has one at school as well, meaning she gets the opportunity to practice both at home and at school is great. I think for us generally we have to practice something 100 times in order to achieve it and for children with additional needs, if they don’t have the access to that constantly they tend to have to start again. So the fact that you work with the schools and make it accessible for families is incredible. I shout about it all the time to friends and they’re all desperate to get one for their little ones. I think what you do is absolutely amazing.
I think it’s amazing what you guys do and how accessible everything is, I think it’s really important to mention that.
QEF will be fundraising to build more Bugzis at our annual Ladies Spring Lunch on Thursday 27th April where Stephanie has also been invited to talk. More information about the event can be found here: Ladies Spring Lunch 2023 – QEF