Life with MS

Mobility Devices Provide Freedom

By Rudy Yanuck

I’m too young.” “It will make me look disabled.” “I’m not that disabled.” These are some of the excuses I have given when various assistive mobility devices have been offered or suggested to me. Do any of these excuses sound familiar? If so, then you and I have something in common.
Multiple sclerosis has affected me nearly my entire life, even though my own diagnosis didn’t come until I was 27. My father and three of my aunts all had MS. I was 12 when my father began using an electric scooter to get around outside of the house. His model was cumbersome, heavy, and hard to assemble. I must admit, it was a hassle for my mother and me to unload the scooter from the car, assemble it, then disassemble and reload it every time we went somewhere. Not for my father though, who would wait in the front seat.
Fortunately, for those of us with MS, technology has made great strides since then. During the last 23 years, I have experimented with many AMDs. I found some, such as walkers and three- or four-pronged canes, actually made me unstable, hindering my mobility. While others, such as Lofstrand crutches (forearm crutches) and ankle foot orthotics, help me tremendously with issues of balance and stability, as well as foot drop and ankle rolling.
As a cocky, young physician, I first resisted using a scooter. However, I soon found traversing the long hallways at the hospital far too daunting. I quickly changed my tune and happily accepted the first of many scooters to come. With the newer models being much easier to manage, I promised myself I would not allow the scooter to become a burden for my family, as it had been for me during my teen years. I decided to make loading and unloading the scooter my responsibility, for as long as I am able.
At that point, I was still walking on my own at home and in the office, but I found that the scooter
reintroduced me to many things I had taken for granted in my pre-MS life. I rediscovered activities that I had not even realized I was avoiding. I started going shopping, to the mall, to the park, and on "walks" with my family again. I became part of their lives once more.
The scooter was, and still is, very freeing. Today, the scooter is my main form of transportation around my home and neighborhood. I frequently, if not daily, take my scooter to grocery stores, restaurants, the library, and, in the summer, to the pool to swim two or three times a day. Over the years, I generally have had two or three of my children with me – standing, sitting, or hanging off the scooter as I drove by. I became known in the neighborhood as ‘the scooter dad with those happy kids.’ Their riding positions became a rite of passage. Starting as infants, they sat on my lap. As toddlers, they stood or sat in front of me. Finally, by the age of six or seven, they stood behind me holding onto the
seatback for dear life.
Scooters are not the only AMDs to have a tremendous effect on helping me remain
independent. A little more than 10 years ago, while driving, my oldest daughter caught me grabbing the hem of my shorts to lift my leg, moving my foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal. The look of horror on her face informed me it was time to make a serious change. I had a digital accelerator ring hand control system installed in my car and it has been a godsend. Once again, an AMD has kept me from being housebound and has enabled me to maintain my independence.

I can't tell you the number of new friends I have made just by cruising around on my scooter, or from people asking me about the ring on top of my steering wheel. People generally want you to succeed and love engaging in conversation. As a matter of fact, I recently went on a Caribbean cruise with my scooter and became somewhat of a rock star by the end of the trip.
However, a word of advice to new scooter warriors: never leave home without a fully charged battery, charger, and cell phone. You don't want to run out of juice, or those new friends of yours will be pushing you and your scooter home.
Rudy Yanuck would love to hear about the trials and triumphs of your MS journey to share in his talks and blog. He believes that together, we inspire and empower each other. Contact him via email at or visit his blog