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A new kind of independence

Matthew Turnock has gained his independence and no longer needs two carers to take him from A to B thanks to a new piece of equipment that is simply attached to his wheelchair.

Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was just one year old; the condition affects body movement and muscle coordination, Matthew Turnock is often seen around town and at many local events. Now he is able to manage it all on his own.

It was just last month, Mr Turnock received his enhanced set of wheels and since then he has “been enjoying the freedom”, it has brought him.
The whole kit is in two parts.

The front de-clips from the wheelchair with just a few easy manoeuvres enabling him to still sit comfortably by a coffee table or other such furniture when out and about.

The front part, costing £4,000 was funded by the Gibraltar Red Cross and is customised to Mr Turnock’s preference of colour.

The wheelchair is also new with the Gibraltar Health Authority financing its cost of £3,000.

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The battery life of his kit is over 50 hours and can be charged via any electrical socket, at present Mr Turnock charges it twice a week.

“It takes around eight hours to charge but if you don’t want a full charge two or three hours will be alright,” he said.

Mr Turnock calls his new set of wheels the ‘The Mean Machine’, because it has given him a whole new meaning to life due to his independence. He also thinks the piece of equipment itself looks ‘mean’ and “cool”.

Although he does not go fast his kit can reach “a speed of up to 21 kilometres an hour”.

While out with Mr Turnock on the Main Street he met with a fellow wheelchair user who upon seeing the ‘Mean Machine’ for the first time was in awe of it.

Pleased for Mr Turnock he asked many questions about it and congratulated him on his new found independence.

As I observed Mr Turnock manoeuver up Main Street I noticed that a few people looked at him, intrigued by this new piece of equipment attached to his wheelchair.

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Mr Turnock is too busy steering his wheelchair or saying hello to the many people he knows to even notice people looking at him.

Pedestrians move out of the way without batting an eyelid, but Mr Turnock tells me he is still keen on kitting his wheelchair out with a bell and I sense this is more to do with a mischievous glint in his eye than anything else.

Aside from the freedom and independence this has given him there is one difference he was keen to tell me about - “people’s perception has changed” because he does not have carers anymore taking him from A to B. People he says now talk to him directly all the time instead of the carers. He admits that because he is well known locally this has not happened often but it has happened in the past.

Another plus side he said was that he feels his own anxiety has been lowered due to the fact he now has more control over his life.

He thanks his carers for all they have done over the years and their professionalism but admits he prefers his new independence.

Pics by Eyleen Sheil

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