My name is Eli and I'm a currently a student at Carnegie Mellon University studying mechanical engineering and applied physics, and I aspire to one day be an automotive engineer. I have always been a very active person; I've been a soccer player and a rower, I've been sailing my whole life, I pushed a buggy , and I hold a black belt in kung fu. I am also an avid skier. I joined Carnegie Mellon's ski and snowboard team this winter, and was super excited to get to go on a winter training trip with the team. Towards the end of what was shaping up to be a really great trip, I had a bad fall.
I punctured both of my lungs, fractured six ribs, my collarbone, and six vertebrae, damaging my spinal cord in the process. I was fortunate enough to recieve excellent medical care in the weeks/months that followed, and have been extremely lucky to have all of my medical costs covered by insurance.
However, my accident has a lasting impact -- I am now a paraplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. I don't share this to ask for your pity, and I'm glad that my injury occured doing something that I am passionate about, but it does mean that I've had to learn a whole new way of going about my life.
As a young, active, and social person, my independence is very important to me. I've been learning how to navigate the world in a wheelchair, and my parents are currently in the midst of renovations to make their homes accessible to me. The next big step towards my independence is driving. Both as a means of transportation (a bigger deal than ever now that I can't just walk/jog/bike to where I want to go) and due to my automotive interests, driving is extremely important to me.
Prior to my injury, a drove a Mazda 3 hatchback that I was quite fond of. However, it has proven too small to allow me to transfer into the drivers seat and then pull my wheelchair into the car alongside me. As a result, I am looking to buy a new car to fit with hand controls as a huge step towards regaining my independence.
I want to emphasize that this is not a life or death situation where I need money to pay for necessary medical treatments. However, with house renovations drawing heavily on my parents' finances, I could use some help affording a new car.
Thank you for all of your support!
For those of you that are curious, I have found that two door coupes or hatchbacks tend to be easiest for me to get into, as the larger door length gives me more space to fit my chair through, and the lower ride height is preferable to trying to pull myself up into an SUV or a truck. I've also been thinking that power seats and a rear view camera would both be helpful perks given my mobility issues.
I've been getting in and out of a bunch of cars at dealerships to see what works, and so far the easiest cars to get in and out of have been, in no particular order:
Mini Cooper, Dodge Challenger, Audi A5