At last, people talk to me rather than looking at me like a child
An interview was published on 6 March 2022 between the Mail on Sunday’s Colm McGuirk and our chairperson, Lana Salome Kurasidze. In it Lana speaks at length about her new mobility aid, LifeGlider, which is a revolutionary device to help disabled people to regain independent mobility. Lana is the first user of LifeGlider in Ireland. Although it is not yet generally available in Europe, Lana is hopeful that a distribution arrangement will be made soon.
The text of the interview is reproduced below.
A FORMER model who was a full-time wheelchair user for 11 years is now regularly walking up to 9km a day with the help of a pioneering walking aid. Community activist Lana Kurasidze has been using the LifeGlider to relearn to walk upright since November 2020, after 2006 surgery on a brain tumour left her unable to take more than a few steps unassisted. She told the Irish Mail on Sunday: ‘I was using a regular walker and walking 200m around the block But now I’m doing like 9km in one day.’
Ms Kurasidze came across the LifeGlider — which uses a seat and harness to help keep the user balanced — after an observation from a neighbour about her previous walking aid. ‘He said: “It’s very insecure, it would be better if you had something more secure around you so you wouldn’t fall.” So I went back home and googled “walker which you can’t fall”.’
She found an online community of users of the novel apparatus — only launched in September 2020 and not yet approved for use in the EU — and was eventually gifted one to try for herself by ‘an old gentleman’ in the USA. ‘Of course I paid nearly €400 delivery, but the Life Glider itself is $700,’ she said. ‘So it would be very expensive to buy it here.’
Ms Kurasidze, a Latvian native who first moved to Ireland in 2004 aged 21, said she ‘tried to walk a bit straight away’ when the new walker arrived, ‘but I didn’t know how to do the steps. ‘Then I walked a bit with the help of my neighbour. He said I’ll come over to you again tomorrow and we can walk again. ‘Then I woke u the next morning and saiå I’m not going to wait for him! I’ll try to walk myself. So the very next day I just stood up and walked.’
Ms Kurasidze acknowledges that, aside from retraining her muscles, there have been some teething problems with the LifeGlider itself. ‘The first one I had wasn’t the proper size, and one [LifeGlider] leg broke on me. I’m pretty tall so I needed a taller one. I was always posting videos on social media of me walking with the LifeGlider, so I got friends all over the world, and I got help getting a new LifeGlider that’s the proper size for me. And it works perfectly.’ She said her original device has been donated to a girl in Manchester after it was repaired by her medical engineer boyfriend. Everyone is laughing, but I didn’t plan to get a boyfriend who is a medical engineer,’ she laughed.
Ms Kurasidze, who is chairperson of the Ballymun Active Disability Interest Group and also visually impaired since her tumour treatment, said she has been called a ‘medical miracle’ by doctors. She was given three months to live after her initial diagnosis, and has been told she is ‘the longest survivor in Ireland’ of glioblastoma multiforme, ‘the most aggressive tumour’.
She said she has been treated differently in public since she began using the LifeGlider. ‘When you’re in a wheelchair, you always see people’s bottoms. When you go into the shop, people are not talking to you — they’re talking to somebody who is next to you. But at the moment I’m standing — and I’m pretty tall — and everyone is looking up at me, so it’s completely different. People start to talk to me actually. Before I was something like a child.’
Ms Kurasidze said she ‘would love’ for the LifeGlider to be made available here. Core Mobility, the company that manufactures the LifeGlider, says of their device: ‘You’re the perfect candidate if your legs work fine, but you just can’t walk very far or have a condition that affects your balance. Or maybe you’re recuperating from an injury and need a little support as you regain your strength.’