Inside Out: It's a kind of magic - How real-life wizards are transforming lives

It all started with the magic chair.

A chair is a chair, you’ll sigh, and from our perch in Irish Examiner Interiors HQ we’re familiar with that four-legged structure in its every possible incarnation, writes Eve Kelliher

Jacinta Dixon and Big Life Fix Inventor Lorna Ross
Jacinta Dixon and Big Life Fix Inventor Lorna Ross

But bear with me because the child in us all is always secretly looking for a little spark of enchantment and never more so than in these times.

And a bit of abracadabra is what we’re getting in a television series where real-life wizards pay a visit to the homes of extraordinary people rising to extraordinary challenges in their daily lives.

Heroism

Because while we’re seeing heroism at play during the Covid-19 pandemic, heroism is also what marks out the stars of each episode of RTÉ One’s Big Life Fix — whether they are the courageous men, women and children who need a tweak to help them do what we all take for granted or the inventors, engineers and designers who come up with those solutions.

The transformative powers of the chair created for Jacinta Dixon gave this active 68-year-old grandmother a whole new lease of life.

Jacinta’s world had been torn apart by a rare form of Alzheimer’s.

Enter designer and innovator Lorna Ross who, during her 30-year career, has worked with the US Military and the prestigious Mayo Clinic.

The Big Life Fix team
The Big Life Fix team

She moved back to Ireland to head up Accenture’s Fjord design studio at The Dock in Dublin.

We viewers watched Lorna observe Jacinta’s daily routine and create a chair that is now helping her with everyday tasks and activities.

It was Jacinta herself who christened Lorna’s invention the “magic chair” — this chair tells the date and time, as well as reads books to her and plays the radio.

Speaking on The Ray D’Arcy Show, Jacinta said she doesn’t let Alzheimer’s affect her life, adding: “But there are limitations and I have to realise that and accept that.

"I used to go off hiking but it’s really difficult for me to do things like that now because I need support. Before I didn’t need support but I need support.”

She added: “The reading and writing have gone completely for me.”

Life-Changing

As for her verdict on her new chair? “It’s absolutely fantastic, it’s just so easy for me to turn it onto the music or to look at a book,” said Jacinta.

She added: “For me, at the moment it’s life-changing. It’s great to be able to say what time is it or just to know that in half an hour I have to pick up the kids from school or whatever.”

RTÉ’s Big Life Fix, inspired by the BBC show, challenges its group of designers, engineers, computer programmers and other technology experts to dream up and create transformative inventions.

The Big Life Fix team
The Big Life Fix team

Filmed over the course of a full year, the group uses cutting-edge science and technology to build practical solutions for those who need their help.

Based at TOG, a facility for makers in the Blackpitts area of Dublin city, the team harnesses the power of science to create tailor-made inventions for individuals and families.

Between them, they can build everything from space satellites to life-saving medical devices and military hardware.

Big Life Fix team members David, Rosie and Trevor
Big Life Fix team members David, Rosie and Trevor

We saw how the home of three-year-old Alana Reid Sochan, who has butterfly syndrome and who requires 24-hour care, was adapted so she could sleep in her own bedroom, while still being monitored by her parents.

The innovators also took a pew in the residence of 32-year-old Kevin McGarry who lost his legs in a farming accident.

Big Life Fix Episode 5: Team members Thomas and Shane
Big Life Fix Episode 5: Team members Thomas and Shane

They worked to develop a bicycle so he could renew his passion for cycling.

The team takes on 12 projects in total across the series and next week we’ll see how Eoghan Barry, a teenage rower from Skibbereen, who is missing part of his right arm, is helped to reach his full potential.

Made with the support of Science Foundation Ireland, this is life-affirming stuff and proves that with a dash of ingenuity nothing is impossible.

- Big Life Fix is on Wednesdays on RTÉ One at 9.35pm

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