David Heim – Wheelchair Recycler
By Girard Plante
We last heard about David Heim in October when he appeared in the Boston Globe. I caught up with David in a brief phone interview to learn how his wheelchair recycling business is doing.
David is a rare individual who harbors innate abilities to build, re-build and repair power chairs and manual wheelchairs from parts taken from chairs no longer in use. Thus, his business name: Wheelchair Recycler.
David started his own business more out of need than by choice. He suffered a spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury in a car crash 12 years ago. Heim, 46, is one of the fortunate few who regained function in his upper and lower extremities. Months of intensive physical and occupational rehabilitation restored much of his cognitive and speech skills. After overcoming his debilitating injuries, Heim set out on his quest to return to work. MRC assisted Heim by purchasing a wheelchair lift-equipped van.
After a distrust of durable medical providers, he decided to scrap his relationship with vendors who practiced fraudulent business by overcharging for unnecessary work to power and manual wheelchairs of his friends. “I’ve seen lots of fraud. People call me and tell me their chair has been in the shop for weeks. When I get it, I don’t see problems,” Heim said.
Heim repairs wheelchairs from consumers and, with the help of his 19-year-old son, gets a chair back to its owner the next day. Typically wheelchairs are held in a vendor’s shop for weeks, leaving a consumer waiting needlessly to return to wheeling around independently.
Heim built a power chair he daily uses because he cannot walk long distances. He also built the Freedom Walker, a unique power chair that allows Heim to stand up safely of exercise. Heim uses the Freedom Walker to drive long distances as well. Both power chairs are customized to meet a consumer’s needs and sell for $2,000 dollars or whatever a consumer can afford. He also builds customized “off-road” power chairs that include a snowplow on the front that is capable of pushing heavy wet snow.
Prior to his injury, Heim was an engineer at a machine shop in Hopedale, where he worked as operations manager. He credits those work experiences and his innate abilities to build and repair wheelchairs. “I was gifted with a mechanical ability.”
Recently, the recycled wheelchairs, all manners of parts and his vast array of tools forced him to move to a 200 square-foot space that still doesn’t accommodate his need of 3,000 square feet. Heim learns about wheelchairs no longer in use from friends and other contacts. He does not deal with insurance companies and takes cash payments. For more information, visit http://www.wheelchairrecycling.com/