Wheeleo®: the experience of Antoine Zaczyk, physiotherapist

Antoine Zaczyk, a physiotherapist and rehabilitation manager, works at L’ESPOIR, a functional rehabilitation center near Lille. Committed to innovation, he uses the Wheeleo® in the rehabilitation of several of his patients.

Feedback.

First of all, could you introduce yourself and the organization you work for?

Trained as a physiotherapist, I worked as a private practitioner for several years, assisting patients with neurological disorders. Since 2019, I have been working as a physiotherapist and in the Research-Innovation-Development unit at the L’ESPOIR functional rehabilitation center. Technology watch, tests, research projects… Our team is involved in a cross-disciplinary approach to evolving practices, to provide the best possible support for patients and the professionals who work with them.

You’ve used the Wheeleo® before. Can you explain how it works?

Indeed, I bought a Wheeleo® in 2019 and have been able to use it in my practice. The principle is quite simple: it’s a new-generation walking aid. The main advantage is that the patient can move around without having to lift what might also be called a “walker-cane”. The result is a clear gain in fluidity, making it easier to keep to the necessary times, and freeing up one hand for carrying small objects.

In your experience, what needs can Wheeleo® meet?

Wheeleo®, like all technical aids, does not meet the needs of all patients. Patients with severe attentional or cognitive problems are often unable to use it. But it is a relevant solution for improving the mobility of a certain number of profiles, right from the start of a care program. Because the fact is, once a patient has established habits, it’s hard to change them. To build up your confidence, it may be worthwhile training with a Wheeleo® from the outset.

For which profiles is this solution most appropriate?

The choice is necessarily made on a case-by-case basis, according to the patient’s pathology, needs and personal feelings. For example, this could be someone who has difficulty walking following a stroke, or who has balance problems due to poor control of a lower limb, or a loss of sensitivity in the foot. I had a patient with this profile who gained a lot in terms of fluidity by using this walker-cane. Ditto for a patient with Parkinson’s disease and postural disorders with Pisa syndrome – posture tilted to one side. With the Wheeleo®, she was able to move around her apartment independently, with the ability to grasp small objects, which was not the case with a 2-wheel rollator.

In fact, regardless of the pathology, it is above all people who suffer from paralysis or paresis on one side of the body, due in particular to neurological disorders, who are concerned. I’m obviously only talking about the patients I have the opportunity to rehabilitate. Cane, rollator, Wheeleo®… To make the right choice, you need to assess your patients’ executive and attentional disorders, risk-taking and ability to evolve independently. And I’d like to point out that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to test two canes, one on each side, to see if this formula might be relevant for certain patients.

What are the differences between a cane and a rollator?

A unilaterally impaired patient using a simple cane with a runner will walk less “quickly” than with the Wheeleo®, and with less endurance – the cane requires more effort and concentration. It also offers a smoother gait than a tripod or quadripod cane.

What about patient handling of Wheeleo®?

Depending on associated cognitive disorders, an adaptation period of at least one or two sessions is required. If a patient has difficulty lifting his foot, for example, we need either to compensate with an orthosis to support it, or to help him focus on it so that he finds the right rhythm. For example, a patient who had a stroke a few weeks earlier will have difficulty putting weight on his leg. The professional will need to prepare the patient, holding on to him so that he dares to put his leg down, and preferably as soon as possible to encourage recovery.

The presence of wheels makes some people fear that the Wheeleo® may cause loss of balance. What do you think?

The Wheeleo® seems very stable to me. He can sometimes stray a little, but I’ve never personally seen him go over the edge. The important thing is for the patient to understand that he needs to keep it close to him. The main focus is on the paretic side of the body: as walking is “faster” and more fluid, you need to make sure that the other leg keeps up. To avoid this risk in the early stages, the professional needs to be well positioned in relation to the patient. But there’s no reason why you can’t take it slow and steady.

The important thing, I think, is to try out this new technical aid. A solution that could prove beneficial for a number of patients should not be overlooked. All the more so since, contrary to what you might think, the risk does not appear to be any greater than with another rod. This is an interesting complementary offer to the classic cane or rollator range.

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