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Mother's wheelchair products are a big hit

NewsBy Eugene Masterson
Mother's wheelchair products are a big hit

A mother has set up a thriving business specialising in wheelchair accessories after she found out there was nothing on the market to accommodate her handicapped son.

Ursula Boland had problems keeping her young son Gary warm and waterproof in his wheelchair, with nothing available for children such as him and an estimated 400,000 wheelchair users in Ireland – 80,000 of whom are children.

“Gary, my first child, was born prematurely at 27 weeks,” explains Ursula. 

“He spent six long months in hospital and has many, many complications.

Ursula lives in Swords, Co. Dublin, with her husband Glen, Gary (15) and two younger children, Sam (11) and Leah (5). She is a full-time carer to Gary, who weighs six stone and needs help to get him into hoists and into bed.

His level of disability forced her to invent her own solutions to everyday difficulties.

“Gary has global development delay and he is quadriplegic, cerebral palsy as well, which affects all four limbs, so he can’t really move at all, except flapping his arms and legs. His brain never really developed properly.

“He is now wheelchair bound and suffers from multiple disabilities, including chronic lung disease, which makes him susceptible to chest infections.

“He was very, very sick when he was born. He was two pounds seven ounces and spent nine months on a ventilator, which even for a premature baby is very long.

“All Gary knows is if he’s happy or comfortable. He wouldn’t really watch television, but he enjoys music.

“He doesn’t communicate, he doesn’t eat and he doesn’t sit up. Just entertain him and he’s happy or he’s sad. But he doesn’t really make eye contact.”

Ursula found an interest in sewing and a desire to keep Gary warm led to her inventing a product to fill a gap in the market.

“When Gary was small, when he was aged about six, we were going away and anything that I wanted to keep him warm in his wheelchair was either too babyish and too small, or the stuff for older people was either too boring or too big. There was nothing in between,” she says.

“At that particular time I just made a blanket out of a Disney towel and put a duvet inside. So then my friends liked it and I made some for them.”

Ursula got to know other parents of handicapped children at St Joseph’s school for the visually impaired in Drumcondra, Co. Dublin, which deals with children with disabilities.

Gary is now in St Michael’s House special school in Baldoyle.

“The lack of suitable products on the market made life in bad weather very difficult for Gary, so GaryB Wheelchair Accessories was a business I set up to serve this need,” she says.

“Gary inspired me and the concept for my products was born from a desire to offer him more warmth, choice and colour in his wheelchair accessories.

“Eight years ago I developed the first GaryB Blanket and I have gone on to develop a range of other related products, like the range of specialised GaryB Dribblers. 

“I now produce a range of blankets and dribblers specifically designed for the disabled and elderly. My blankets are warm, waterproof and fashionable and my dribblers are super absorbent, completely leak-proof and are age appropriate and discreet.”

The GaryB Universal Blanket is a lap blanket that envelops the feet to ensure they are not exposed and they Velcro behind the knees to give a snug fit and extreme comfort.

The GaryB Blanket set is a two-part blanket set, consisting of a foot well for the feet and a separate blanket. 

This combination provides extreme heat, ensuring the feet, lap and legs are not exposed. The GaryB Wraparound is a lap blanket that leaves the feet free and simply Velcros behind the knees. 

Although Ursula has her set ranges, she can customise for certain orders.

“There are some for adults on the market, but they’re all plain and they’re more just a waterproof jacket over your feet,” stresses Ursula, who is originally from Santry.

“Mine are colourful and funky and for people who like to be fashionable. But there was none for kids until I started making them. I’m now getting orders not just from Ireland, but also all over the U.K.”

The ranges start off at €30 for children and up to €120 for an extra-large adult.

For further info see www.gary-b.com