Finding a Chair for an Olympic Coach with Parkinson’s Disease

Case Study (Atlanta): Finding a Chair for an Olympic Coach with Parkinson’s 

By Martina Tierney, OT & Clinical Director of Seating Matters

The name Brent McFarlane is renowned in Canadian sports circles, particularly in the world of athletics.

A prominent coach and educator, Brent is widely recognised for his seminal work, ‘The Science of Hurdling and Speed‘. This book remains a staple for enthusiasts and professionals alike.

Throughout his remarkable sporting career, Brent served on 33 Canadian National teams, and held the esteemed role of Canada’s Head Track and Field Coach for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

And yet, at just 43 years old, Brent was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Considering his active lifestyle, this diagnosis was a huge shock for Brent and his family. 

His wife Vicki, a former nurse, was a constant support, and cared for Brent at the couple’s home in Waterloo, Ontario during the early stages of his illness. As his symptoms progressed, Brent moved to the Columbia Forest long term care home, while Vicki lived a short drive away. 

As an Occupational Therapist, I often hear how family members or loved ones are frustrated and upset that they ‘just didn’t know’ how much comfort, support and relief a Seating Matters chair could provide.

This is what happened to Vicki.

“I had searched and searched for you for two years and, when I saw the chair being rolled off the van, I broke down in tears. Without Brent even sitting in it, I just knew this was the one. It looked like the Cadillac of chairs!” 

Brent in his previous wheelchair
Brent in his Seating Matters Atlanta chair

At the time of receiving his Atlanta chair, Brent was spending up to 12 hours a day seated. 

He had previously been using a wheelchair that didn’t offer the correct postural support or pressure management. This meant that Brent relied on using additional cushions in an effort to make the chair more comfortable. 

The experience was understandably upsetting and hugely frustrating for Vicki, who knew there had to be another option.  

“He fell from the wheelchair a lot, so that was very unsafe. I knew it was wrong, I just didn’t know how to fix it.”

Vicki had tried to seek help from local companies who sold wheelchairs and other seating options, but they didn’t have what she knew Brent needed. She visualised him sitting in “a ‘La-Z-Boy on wheels”.

It was then that she was directed to Seating Matters.

"It looked like the Cadillac of chairs!”

Brent had a very positive experience with his Seating Matters Atlanta chair. He no longer required a seat belt and loved having his feet elevated on the leg rest.

While he sadly passed away in April 2019, one month shy of his 71st birthday, the quality of Brent’s final years were drastically improved with correct clinical seating. 

When he first received the new chair, the reaction was clear – at least it certainly was to Vicki. In her words at the time:

“Brent has now lived with Parkinson’s for 25 years. His communication is limited, but he doesn’t need to tell me how comfortable his chair is, I can see it in his face.”

It is carers and family members like Vicki who make all the difference in the lives of Parkinson’s patients. 

Seating Matters are here to support. 

If you have a loved one who could benefit from a Seating Matters chair, the best first step is to book a free assessment with your local Seating Specialist. You can also contact us on 1300 001 050 or

Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to give an overview of the product with some tips to consider on its use. This is not intended to be a substitute for professional or medical advice, diagnosis, prescription or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. For advice with your personal health or that of someone in your care, consult your doctor or appropriate medical professional.

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