Phil Burman knows his worth. He values his health, and knows he can remain comfortable and active with the right equipment. Last January he suffered a telemark ski injury that would leave him on crutches for six months. Phil didn’t hesitate to trade in his hospital-issued crutches to purchase a pair of entry-level SideStix. “The standard crutches are not great,” he says, “so I was pretty keen on finding something better.”
As a physiotherapist, Phil has watched his clients with mobility challenges stay active with reliable, well-fitting walking devices such as SideStix. His athletic background, paired with his engineering brain, kept him on the lookout for what he thought would be the best tool for folks who needed long-term solutions, even if it was a bit more costly. “Some people seem reluctant to spend money on themselves,” Phil says. “But who knows what tomorrow is going to bring?”
After his accident, Phil took his own advice and ordered a custom pair of SideStix, despite not being covered by insurance. “It was my decision to spend the money because I value being comfortable,” he explains. “It’s certainly easier to be active if you’re comfortable. It’s hard enough to hop around on one foot without the added barrier of wrist pain.”
Phil is a self-proclaimed outdoorsman, who loves to spend time outside skiing and biking. He was born in Australia, and spent most of his childhood in New Zealand before moving to British Columbia, Canada. “I was chasing snow around the planet, and one thing led to another,” he says. “Six months became thirteen years!” Being outside brings him the most joy, and he loves to share this passion with his family. “My kids and I ski and mountain bike together,” he says. “We live close to a lake so we’ll walk to the beach a couple times a day, or go out and sail.” It’s no surprise that Phil is also a big advocate for others to experience the outdoors, and encourages them to find the motivation to get outside, even if it seems hard. “I think whether you’re using mobility devices or not, it’s quite easy to say ‘no’ to things,” he says. “In my lifetime, I’ve been on thousands of bike rides and ski days. I have never once regretted being out there. Sometimes it’s hard to get out the door, but 100% of the time, it’s worth it.”
If you ask him, Phil won’t shy away from sharing why he loves his SideStix. “I’m keen on these things, and I’ll tell you why: The grips are super amazing and super comfortable. Being lightweight is awesome. The tips on the end are like magic; they stick to the ground much better than anything else. And because I work with my hands all day, every day, I’ve found that regular forearm crutches or elbow crutches don’t fit around here [gesturing to his forearms]. Having something custom-sized works for me!” He also puts a lot of stock in reliability. “Having equipment that you feel like you can trust is huge. I didn’t trust the crutches I was using for the first few days, in part because they didn’t fit me well. I didn’t feel super safe because they were a bit wobbly.”
Ultimately, Phil wants all of his patients to be comfortable and happy, because he knows those go hand in hand. Whatever your passion is, you should have whatever equipment you need to make that experience enjoyable, and therefore more likely for you to do it more often. Your equipment should help, not hinder. “I watch a lot of people wrestle with equipment,” Phil says. He explains that it can be a big struggle for people to move in and out of their vehicles with cumbersome equipment. “Having something that’s easy to put in the passenger seat makes a big difference. If I decide I want to run to the shop and get a loaf of bread, I don’t think twice about it because I’ve got equipment that I can just chuck in the passenger seat; they’re lightweight and trustworthy. But if you had a heavy wheelchair that had to be folded and lifted into the back of a hatchback, then you’d probably think, ‘Oh, I can make do without that bread,’ and spend the rest of the day wishing you had that loaf of bread.”
He also knows that there are a million reasons why being upright is better than being in a seated position for extended periods of time, which can affect your circulatory and digestive systems, as well as your psychological state. “The world is built for standing people,” Phil exclaims. “The counter in your kitchen is built for someone standing. Everything’s super awkward if you spend your time sitting down”. And it can be especially difficult for those with adult onset disabilities. “If you’ve spent the past thirty, forty, or fifty years looking people in the eye, then get into an accident and have to spend the next fifty years looking up at everyone, that can be a game-changer, psychologically”.
When asked about motivation, Phil knows it can be difficult, but urges people to try. “For a lot of people, it’s so easy to just stay in a wheelchair and think that’s good enough, but with a bit of motivation and the right equipment, people can do a lot more. I think taking that first step is the challenging bit”. Better outcomes in recovery results in staying engaged and active, so it makes sense, if you have a mobility impairment, to ask yourself: “Is there a better way or piece of equipment to help me stay mobile?” Your health and freedom are certainly worth it. “I’m all about people doing the things that make them happy”, Phil says. “Really, it comes down to participating in your life, no matter how you choose to do so.”