Paralyzed Veterans Discover More Independence with Melio

Note: Wheel:Life editor Lisa Wells shares her thoughts below on PVA programs including the recent PVA Summit + Expo, along with one of the many new products for wheelchair users that VA clinicians discovered during the PVA event.

US Marine veteran Thomas Vanderlaan with friend “Jerry” during the 2012 NVWG in Richmond, VA.

I attended my first event hosted by the Paralyzed Veterans of America [PVA] several years ago, serving as an adjunct reporter for SPORTS ‘N SPOKES and PN Online magazines at the 2012 National Veterans Wheelchair Games held in Richmond, Virginia. While there, I was fortunate to make friends with veterans from across the nation who also happen to use wheelchairs. I was able to join in alongside them as they cheered on comrades in arms who were taking on adapted sports like air rifle, weightlifting, quad rugby, track and field events and table tennis.

One young man in particular earned my admiration. With his cheerful demeanor and all-American good looks, Corporal Thomas Vanderlaan of the US Marine Corps was hard to miss. In his first year as a competitor, 22-year-old Vanderlaan was the youngest athlete enrolled in the 2012 Games, but he greeted new and old friends like a seasoned pro.

“While watching Vanderlaan dive into quad rugby, no one would have ever guessed it was his first time on the court. I surely didn’t.”

“Nope, it’s true. I had never done it before, and I was a little apprehensive before my first game. But it’s a whole new world, not just getting on the court to compete, but also getting on the plane for a first time post-injury, traveling with my team – the San Diego Beachcombers, and many other things that opened my eyes to so many possibilities,” Vanderlaan explains.

US Marine veteran Thomas Vanderlaan competes during the bench press events at the 2012 National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Richmond, VA.
US Marine veteran Thomas Vanderlaan competes during the bench press events at the 2012 National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Richmond, VA.

In 2012, Vanderlaan had just crossed his first year milestone of spinal-cord injury. Before his SCI, Vanderlaan played football for the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar team in the Camp Pendleton football league. A team practice scrimmage turned his world upside down last year when one play went terribly wrong. An on-field accident broke his neck, leaving the larger-than-life, six-foot-seven-inch athlete with a C5 spinal cord injury and complete quadriplegia.

That’s when Kelli Kaliszewski, a recreation therapist at the VA Medical Center of San Diego stepped into Vanderlaan’s life.

“Kelly got me motivated and helped me get out here competing again,” Vanderlaan says. The support he’s received at the VA along with friendships found on the Beachcombers team have strengthened Vanderlaan as much as his daily physical therapy.

Read more of Thomas Vanderlaan’s story here.

I know firsthand, from people like Vanderlaan and Kaliszewski, how much the PVA does to positively impact the lives of our nation’s paralyzed veterans and to help educate the clinicians who assist them. That’s why I’m a strong advocate and supporter of PVA programs, and also why you will also see Wheel:Life sharing updates about PVA events on a regular basis, like the PVA Summit + Expo below.

PVAsummitlogoA Place for Learning: The 5th Annual PVA Summit + Expo

For five years, Paralyzed Veterans of America has expanded its commitment to spinal cord injury/disease (SCI/D), multiple sclerosis, ALS and traumatic brain injury patient care through its annual Summit and Expo.

Held this year during the first week of September in Jacksonville, FL, the PVA Summit was an intensive, three-day learning and sharing experience that provided the most updated, vital information and state of the art research for VA medical professionals including nurses, therapists, doctors, social workers and more.

In an interview with PN Online magazine, PVA Summit Task Force Chairman Lana McKenzie said, “This is one of the unique conferences to have. Groups engage and share their best practices and share their knowledge, to integrate the concept that we can do better for the patient if we all get involved with our own unique role and responsibility.”


Attendees representing multiple disciplines from the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as private health-care institutions came together at the PVA Summit and Expo to network, collaborate, and share knowledge.

Melio Debuts at the PVA Expo

melio5lowresThis year, PVA Summit attendees who attended the event expo also had the opportunity to meet representatives for the Melio Self-Emptying Leg Bag System and Community Medical Products, one of the urology suppliers that offers Melio to their customers that include veterans.

The new Melio Self-Emptying Leg Bag System© empties your leg bag with a push of a button – and it tells you when it’s time. Created by a British inventor who wanted to help his father who had suffered a stroke, Melio was born out of a desire to restore independence and dignity for leg bag users worldwide.

“Presenting the Melio Self-Emptying Leg Bag System at this year’s Paralyzed Veterans of America Summit in Jacksonville, Florida last week was quite gratifying,” says Jim McHargue, President of Community Medical Products.

“The group, made up largely of VA hospital clinicians, educators, PVA members and PVA executives, immediately saw the potential improvement in quality of life that the Melio system can deliver. Its’ ease of use, low cost and potential health benefits were positives to the audience. A number of clinicians identified patients they felt could benefit from Melio and post-show feedback has been extremely positive,” McHargue continues.

Add picture: Bill Lawson (L) and Larry Dodson, PVA senior execs @ the Melio demo. PVA Summit '15. Kaitlin Melvin (Albert Medical) and Karen Lynch OT presenting.
Bill Lawson (L) and Larry Dodson, PVA senior execs @ the Melio demo. PVA Summit ’15. Kaitlin Melvin (Albert Medical) and Karen Lynch OT presenting.

Melio Offers Independence and Convenience

Melio lets you empty your leg bag with a push of a button - and tells you when it's time!
Melio lets you empty your leg bag with a push of a button – and tells you when it’s time!

Besides its’ obvious convenience, Melio is known to increase independence by:

  • Eliminating embarrassing drips or leaks
    by the push of a button you can empty this leg bag. This way you don’t have to move your leg or get your hands wet.
  • Eliminating backflow
    let the built-in sensor alert you when the bag is full. With this reminder, you can avoid backflows.
  • Reduce the risk of a UTI
    without the hassle of emptying your leg bag, it helps to encourage proper hydration, which in return can reduce the risk of catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
  • Keeping it simple
    the Melio Self-Emptying Leg Bag System not only relieves individuals of the everyday struggle of emptying their leg bag, but it helps to improve their quality of life by being discrete and easy to use.

How Melio Works

The integrated sensor in the Melio Self-Emptying Leg Bag System© monitors the urine bag level, sending a signal to the controller when the leg bag is approximately 2/3 full.

melio - 5The controller on your waistband alerts you when the leg bag is approximately 2/3 full via a flashing amber light and discreet vibration. You can also turn on an audio alarm. When you’re ready to empty the urine bag, simply push the buttons on the top or bottom of the controller to activate the pump.

If you have limited dexterity, you can use the magnetic bracelet to activate the pump. Simply hold the bracelet against the front of the controller to activate it.

Get Connected with Melio

Melio LogoLearn more about the Melio Self-Emptying Leg Bag System or try it for yourself! Visit their user-friendly website at or call toll-free 800-482-2907 for details.

Or, you can inquire about Melio with your local urological supplies provider, like Community Medical Supplies, who can obtain the product from Independence Medical.

About the PVA Summit + Expo

Since their founding almost 70 years ago, Paralyzed Veterans has worked to ensure the best quality health care for our nation’s veterans with SCI/D and has expanded that commitment to serve all individuals affected by spinal cord disease. PVA is the only veterans service organization that hosts an annual health-care summit of this kind, advancing SCI/D care worldwide.

The annual PVA Summit has enhanced Paralyzed Veterans’ commitment to promoting and advocating for quality SCI/D care. Forward-focused on ways to support new therapies, treatments, and potential cures for paralysis, as well as advancements in care and education of professionals caring for individuals with spinal cord injury or disease, PVA Summit has provided more than 2,600 scholarships for clinicians and funded 500 presenters to participate in crucial continuing education. Learn more at:

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