Driving Miss Betty

This is a request for help getting a wheelchair accessible vehicle on behalf of my mom, Betty.  She was a 64 year old full time employee working 40 hours a week doing physical labor in a big box store.  On 05/23/2015 my mother’s life changed in a way no one would have ever imagined. She was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia in the middle of May with plans to hopefully go home the weekend of 05/23. On Saturday 05/23 I went to visit and as I walked in she was actively having a stroke. I immediately called for assistance and she was rushed to CT scan then to Intensive Care Unit (ICU). What a helpless feeling that was going through me. I was in the waiting area when the doctor came out to say they gave her TPN for stroke and she needs to have surgery, immediately.  There was no time for a family discussion and we have a large family that would normally be part of this type of decision.  I had to make a choice of life or death at that moment. At the time the doctor was unsure how severe it was so we were praying for the best. I agreed to the surgery and sat in the waiting area for hours until the doctor came to update us (my mom is 1 of 8 kids in her family, big family).  That seemed like the longest 4 hours of my life plus with all the things that go through your mind, I was a nervous mess.  Finally, the doctor came out from surgery and said they were able to get 90% and he said, “I’m Sorry”, which meant it was bad. I thanked him for being honest with me and he said the next 24 hours are the most critical. They would do a head CT scan to see if there is any bleeding in the next 24 hrs. The following day they did the CT scan and she did have bleeding, which resulted in a 6-millimeter shift. Basically the doctors said we had to wait and see.  The only thing we knew definitively was it affected her entire left side, leaving her completely paralyzed on the left from her shoulder to her toes.

A week later she was extubated and we could start the recovery process and begin to see the extent of her injuries.  She was still very sick going back and forth from ICU to the Step Down Unit numerous times over the next month or so.  In this time she developed pneumonia, again, and then weeks later she had neutropenia. As a result of the stroke she was unable to speak, write, eat, swallow and she had lost the capability to chew.  Therefore, she had lost a significant amount of weight, to help her already weak immune system and try to put some weight back on her they put in a PEG tube.  

Talk about a roller coaster ride just when we thought we were turning the corner in the right direction something else came along. Finally towards the end of June she was well enough, even eating on her own to go to a Sub-Acute Rehab Facility.

She went to rehab to try and regain use of her left side. They worked with her several times a week doing occupational, physical and speech therapy.  Unfortunately, she has not regained any use of her left side and is in a wheelchair.  She is able to speak, write and eat independently now.  Currently, she is still doing in home OT & PT therapy regardless of how much pain she is in.  

Having been immobile for almost a year now her muscles are atrophied and her bones hurt, constantly.  There are few true positions of comfort; usually it is her bed or a recliner I purchased when she was discharged from rehab.  Basically, it is painful for us to get her dressed each day; her left arm, leg and hip are very rigid and tight making any movement uncomfortable.   I have altered my house as much as possible to accommodate her hospital bed, wheelchair, lifts and other equipment.  My uncle helped build a ramp to get her in and out of the house.  Even so, her wheelchair doesn’t allow her access to the bathroom to use the facilities.  My home has been converted into a rehab and my only patient is my mom, who needs 24 hour care, but she is my mom and this is what we do for family.   I am blessed she has 3 sisters and 3 brothers still with us, as she needs constant care which consists of family and caregivers during the 40 hours I work.  

The rest of the time is on me.  We have a pretty good system right now but could definitely use a helping hand.  At this time, I am the only one who can lift my mom in and out of the car.  It is like trying to move and bend a 120 pound piece of spaghetti, imagine trying to bend it but not break it!!!!  It is just awful to hear her yelp in pain every time we need to get in or out of the car. 

My mom has always been a very active, involved person, loving her nieces and nephews to pieces, a constant joker and wise guy.  She went everywhere and did everything she wanted; she has always been very independent.  This stroke has taken her freedom and independence but did give us an even more sarcastic, dry, wacky sometimes-twisted sense of humor!!

I am trying to get a wheelchair accessible vehicle so she is able to go out and enjoy family, friends and even doctor appointments like she did before all this happened. Currently, my vehicle is not suitable and she ends up enduring so much pain getting her in/out of the vehicle that it is not worth going out. Looking in her eyes I know she longs to be able to do things on her own but at the very least I would like to help her do it with minimal pain.  

We would be forever grateful to anyone who can help, even in the smallest way.  I am hoping to get a Ford Explorer MXV 4wd, we live in New England so we need the 4wd traction.  These are new and allow her to ride her wheelchair directly into the SUV!! There is no transfer of seats, which is absolutely a dream for both of us.  This would mean NO MORE lifting, bending, squishing or crying out in pain.  This would mean NO MORE calling for cars to pick her up and drop her off at doctor appointments while I am at work.  This would mean FREEDOM and INDEPENDENCE without the payment of inescapable pain each time we leave the house.  

I am hoping to purchase the car by summertime.  She missed all of last summer in the hospital and rehab so I know she will be itching to get outside ASAP.   Any money received will be used for the purchase of a wheelchair accessible car with no transferring required, ideally the Ford Explorer.  If there is money left over we will use that to renovate my house so she can access the bathroom.  

Either way we are grateful for your donation and truly appreciate generosity!

Sincerely,

Dawn & Betty
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Organizer and beneficiary

Dawn Litvinchyk 
Organizer
East Hartford, CT
Betty Marquis 
Beneficiary
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