At a young age, Martin Warden followed in his parents' footsteps and qualified from drama school to pursue a career in theatre. He went onto appear in many leading London West End musicals including Les Misérables, Oliver! and Miss Saigon.
However, his acting career was cut short by increased mobility difficulties and several falls on stage. His walking problems were finally found to be the result of not one, but two medical conditions, known as Myotonia Congenita and Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP).
"It means I am faced with everyday fatigue and large hurdles in the future as there is no cure for either condition,” he says. “The HSP gets worse and the Myotonia just stays put."
But for Martin, the show had to go on for his love of theatre. With his mobility becoming more restricted, he found a solution in the WHILL Model C after being shown one by a TGA assessor – and now directs an amateur dramatics group.
"Thank goodness for the WHILL,” he said. “It enables me to get out and about as I can’t walk very far at all. Before the lockdown I was regularly visiting towns and cities, meeting friends with ease, going shopping virtually anywhere – the list was endless.”
“I also managed to enjoy performances at local theatres and see my nephew at his school productions. Access was so easy. When back watching a performance, I feel on familiar and safe ground. Just being able to soak up the atmosphere of any theatre is rewarding."
The WHILL’s omni wheels have been particularly beneficial to Martin, saying that using lifts without having to reverse out is a simple thing that makes a huge difference. He has also found its agility useful during the lockdown period.
“I can go out on my own whilst social distancing to exercise my dogs, Tilly and Benny,” he said. “I take them along the local river [and] I can move around without the worry of falls. It fulfils my life as it gives me confidence to visit places and not worry about accessibility as its manoeuvrability is so fantastic."
"Having the WHILL packed in the back of the car, giving me the freedom to move around, makes me smile inwardly,” he continues. “Why did I resist using a powerchair for so long? I thought I would look a wally – I do not – and life is so much easier. The battery range is more than ample for a day out and having a remote-control app to park when I have transferred out is so useful. The products from TGA are totally different."
But for Martin, this is just the start of his journey of retained independence.
"Whenever I am in my WHILL you'll see me with a massive grin from ear to ear,” he concludes. “It's clear to see how happy it makes me; it is an incredible machine. When everything calms down, I look forward to revisiting the places I ran around as a small boy – happy memories kept alive by my WHILL.”
“As for directing, I [coach] an amateur dramatics group and my WHILL has performed brilliantly. Who knows, in the future I could have the courage and belief in myself that maybe professional companies would also be in my grasp."