23 January, 2014

New Wheels for his Wheels: a Fundraiser

Hello friends!

My dad is a cute old guy who, before 2007, was tall, strong as an ox, and very very kind. He was always the first to offer assistance and definitely the last one who would ever ask - which is why I am writing today. At the end of this post, there's a link to his fundraiser. Scroll down if you'd like to go directly there or by all means, read on if you're so inclined! This is his story.

2006 was a hard year for my family. We lost my grandmother (my dad's mother), a beloved cousin, my own mother (who lost her six year battle with Lymphoma), and yes - even the family dog. But my dad met and married a lovely lady who has stood beside him thereafter and through the best and worst of times.

Just a month after their wedding, in February of 2007, they had a really hard day.

The morning started out with golf and brunch. They went to the local casino for brunch because it was close and because frankly, casino brunches are good! When they came out to their car, they had found it was missing. Their car had been stolen!
They lost quite a bit of stuff inside the car as well. They filed a report but decided not to let that wreck their day. Instead, they made plans to drive to Idaho (in my dad's big 4x4 truck) to visit more family and pick up some presto logs for the rest of the winter.

Winter is pretty mild in Washington, and as they were driving over the Columbia river, my dad put the truck in cruise control. He had seen the temperature outside was above freezing and that the car in front of him was kicking up water, so he didn't think the road would be icy. He was wrong. The truck hit some black ice and spun wildly out of control, tossing my step-mother from the vehicle and onto the highway. The truck hit the barrier rails and climbed over (it was in cruise control, remember), then tumbled down a gigantic hill landing on its cab with my dad inside. My dad was still in his seat. He turned off the engine and called out for help. Called out for his wife... but she was a hundred metres away, up on the highway.

Rescue came an hour later, but in the meantime the pressure of the truck's weight on the cab had broken my dad's neck, causing too much pressure on his nerves and rendering him a quadriplegic for life.

Their story is a happy one, mind you! They have both recovered from the accident and are more in love than ever. They have had to make many new accommodations to meet the demands of this new life for them but they have been thriving. Through hard work and perseverance, they were able to learn how to live with his wheelchair and his daily routine, and after a long recovery period, they were even able to be sealed together in the LDS temple.

Not all of the changes were positive. He has had to receive help getting into and out of bed for the last seven years. He relies on other people to bathe him, to help him go to the bathroom, to get dressed. For someone like my dad, it was a lot to take on all at once. It was a lot of hard work for his new bride, too (but she somehow manages to always care for him with a smile!! They have help now through medicare, thankfully). When they were married, they had a dream of serving missions for their church. Now that dream and others seemed a million miles away from them, and a spiral of depression passed over them both. My dad wondered what his purpose was and why his life was spared only to be so helpless.
I remember hearing the story of one Sunday soon after they were able to start attending church again - my dad had started to cry because he felt so useless to others. He wanted to help others and he had thought the biggest way of doing that was through missions. He learned that day from his close church friends that they saw his situation as a way for them to give ministration to him. Soon after that, people seemed to realise how easy my dad is to talk to (and the wheelchair did help with this... he used to be so tall and strong, I understand that would make someone less willing to share secrets with him... hahaha). He gave some fatherly advice to people, and they kept returning to talk to him and take his counsel. Because of that, he and my step-mother helped three couples change their minds about divorce and really start working on their marriage again. 
Since then, they have moved to Utah to be closer to family. He is now a Sunday School President in charge of over 100 youths in their area. He teaches them and helps prepare them for serving missions now. 

Their new mission goal in life is to be a good example of faith and ever enduring love. Together they believe that if they can help people with that example, and if they can help people who want to change their lives for the better through advice and counsel - then that will be their mission.

Part of the changes that they have had to adjust to are getting from point A to point B with an electric wheelchair. They found a local lady who was selling her used wheelchair van, and voila! They were suddenly able to go places and see people! They could now attend church together and visit family! 

The van worked for a long time. They have had regular maintenance and some modifications to it to keep up with the changing circumstances. Together, they have been able to visit friends and family in the states, but now unfortunately it has become too difficult for my dad to ride in the van anymore. His body continues to change and adjust to his lifestyle, for better or for worse. He has lots of pain in his legs (from nerve ends trying to make connections to the brain but failing when they reach his broken neck scars), and pain when he sits. When they drive in the van, my step-mother has to be especially careful when driving over bumps and cracks in the road because every little bump causes pain to shoot up his body. Because of the pain, my dad only leaves the house on Sundays for church or to go to his doctors appointments. Rarely, he will rally himself to go to an important event with family but it is a real struggle for him.
New suspension in the van would remedy the problem! Unfortunately, it is impossible to install new suspension on their old van because of the way it is designed and modeled. They have looked into it a few times to no avail.

I went to the USA to visit him and my step-mother over Thanksgiving, and was heartbroken to see how much he stayed indoors. He would love to go out and do things, but the pain of riding in the van is just too much of a deterrent for him, and it is my opinion that he would flourish if he had the chance to get out more. 

All my life, my dad talked about traveling and seeing new places. Seeing the world! Going on missions! But he is reduced to spending day after day in his bedroom, looking at the world through the window of the Television and internet. 

I would like him to get out more. And to do that, he needs a new (used) van. I was shocked when I looked into this project and saw how expensive even used wheelchair vans are! I have put together a fundraiser for him to help him reach the goal. Please have a look, and if you could find it in your heart to share it or donate if you are able, we all would be so very grateful.
Here are some photos I took last year when I visited. It was a cold day and he was almost shivering during this shoot so we had to be super fast!

We wrapped him in a blanket - and I quickly snapped this outtake (haha!):

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