Some things money can't buy - the love that binds Karen & Graham!
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July 1996 - our lives changed forever. Graham, our brother, son, husband, father, and friend was in the back of a van that rolled off the road. Two broken vertebrae in his neck instantly rendered him a quadriplegic (the two people in the front of the van had no injuries). At the time he was self-employed, an avid golfer and martial arts enthusiast, married to his high school sweetheart Karen, the father of three very active boys – ages 2, 3 and 5, and he owned his own multi-level home.
Within a day Graham was flown to Vancouver General Hospital’s Spinal Cord Unit where he spent the next 6 weeks. It was here that we all began to understand what the ‘new’ Graham would and would not be able to do….. Karen and the young boys - in a state of shock, had to leave their home and move down to Vancouver to be with him. The stress on all of them was enormous – the boys were reluctant to leave their mother’s side and couldn’t understand what was really happening. The grandparents took turns taking care of the boys so Karen could spend time with Graham, and the rest of us took turns being at the hospital 24/7 so he wouldn’t have to be alone!
It was also at this time that our dad – Gordon – traveling back to Kelowna from Vancouver was in a car accident where he broke his back – luckily he was not paralyzed, but he was put in a brace and told to do nothing for many weeks.
Then to GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver for the next 9 months – learning how to cope and manage within the new constraints. Initially he was on a ventilator as only the top third of his lungs were working. He learned to use a sip and puff system for his wheelchair and to turn on and off his TV and work a computer. Again – as a family – we all tried to help. We made sure that someone was with Graham everyday – until he went to bed.
In April of 1997 Graham and his family returned to Kelowna. They had had to sell their multi-level home and purchase and renovate a new accessible one. They all had many changes and challenges to deal with – new neighbourhood, new friends, new home…..new Graham…..
Although the challenges have been great Graham has maintained an amazingly positive attitude and a tremendous sense of humour. He is a caring husband and a very involved father to his three sons. He was an assistant coach for his sons' soccer teams, he never missed a practice when the boys were in martial arts, and he has supported them in sports and academics through school and into their post-secondary paths.
Graham has had tremendous emotional and physical support from his community and family for the past 18 years - especially from his wife Karen and his parents Gordon and Vivian.
He receives a very modest monthly income from the interest generated from his meager settlement. He received $300,000 from ICBC but lost half of it when the crash of 2008 hit. He also receives a stipend from CISL to pay for the attendants he requires. He had personal life insurance – but not for disability. Karen works full-time at a seniors care centre. These earnings may be acceptable for regularly incurred costs – mortgage, food etc., but not enough to cover the costs incurred as a quadriplegic. Unfortunately they have had to borrow and re-mortgage to manage.
As a quadriplegic the needs and costs for virtually everything are huge - much greater than even a paraplegic – wheelchairs are more, beds are more, lifts are needed, a specially equipped van is required…….and the opportunities to get assistance with the costs are non-existent!
Everyday items have to be converted or adapted to meet his needs. His telephone and his TV have all been adapted to work with a sip and puff system. His home had to be retro-fitted to accommodate his wheelchair - the hallways, the ramps, the bathroom, the doorways, and the bar-type screen doors. Graham has learned how to maneuver his wheelchair with a toggle even though his hands don’t work. For his 50th birthday he received an iPad - a truly amazing gift/tool for him - operated with a specialized mouth stick.
Graham’s costs are extremely high - a specialized wheelchair accessible van is required - costs range from $40,000 - $70,000 (even for used). His current van is almost 20 years old with a hydraulic lift - both the van and the lift need constant repairs and neither are any longer 'safe' or worth repairing!
A replacement wheelchair will be between $30,000.00 and $50,000, his indoor lift (for getting from his wheelchair to his bed or shower) over $3000, his 20 year old mattress approximately $5000 and his rusting 20 year old shower commode around $3000.
We are asking for your help to raise funds for some of Graham’s expenses - in particular the van - as we all feel his current one is in such 'unsafe' condition, and the wheelchair as his is basically falling apart. Both of these items are Graham’s ‘legs’ and ‘arms’ – his mobility!
We have been fundraising for the past two and a half years and have been very fortunate to have had so many people donate to help Graham – we currently have approximately $19000.00. With the trade-ins for his current chair and van and the $19000 – we are still in need of approximately $50,000.00+!
Thanks - CJ, Mo & Nini
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