While it is definitely not easy to ask for assistance in the most vulnerable of ways, it makes it a lot easier when you're faced with limited options and you know that what you're asking for will prove to enhance your father's quality of life. With that in mind, please allow me to explain my father's circumstances, and why offering him help could give him the opportunity to be mobile once again.
To be truthful, Dad (also known as James, Jimmy or Jim to many) deserves a longer, more elaborate narrative that would truly portray how he has persevered throughout his 40 year fight with Multiple Sclerosis, and how important he is to us all as a father, a brother and a friend. Though I don't have the space here to document the entirety of his journey and hardship, I do hope this message reveals how deserving he is of an answered prayer.
You see, Dad, Jim, was diagnosed at the ripe age of 30 with Multiple Sclerosis or "MS," a chronic, progressive and debilitating auto immune disease, which slowly scars your body's nerve pathways, manifesting in all manners depending on the type and severity of the disorder. In Dad's case, his "secondary progressive" MS causes severe motor dysfunction of his legs, yielding him an encumbering, unannounced fatigue, and a slew of other not-so-enthralling ailments including organ dysfunctions that leave his day consumed by their management and prevention of further complications.
12 years after his diagnosis, Jim was forced into early retirement from a management role within a high-tech company and began to live a life much different than he had once hoped for. It has been a long, drawn out journey, but his ability to adjust and find grace and humor through all of this is humbling to say the least. Dad taught us that, with this disease, you learn to anticipate the inevitable exacerbations, and instead of fighting against it, you must accept your circumstances and learn how to adapt, again and again, and... yet again.
Since Jim's diagnosis, he has been adapting, maintaining his independency as much as he can, and has been "finding a way" for himself to function. He has even developed his own assistive devices, and has consulted with occupational health with some of his ideas and tools. One very important tool he has is his beloved wheelchair van, which is our true topic of discussion today. The doable, 2010 Toyota Sienna, was modified for him by BraunAbility, an American manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vans and wheelchair lifts created by and for the active disabled. It has lowered floors, a powered ramp, transfer seats (so he can transfer from his wheelchair to the driver's seat), and hand controls which he holds a specialized driver's license for. It keeps him independent and mobile.
Dad has been wheelchair-bound for the last decade now, and if he didn't have his mobility on the road, he'd be devastated, immobile and housebound. The biggest reason he loves that van is not just for basic life requirements like being able to run errands and go to appointments. But for the ability to see his family and friends, as he travels across the country every year. The open road is his true love. For the opportunities and experiences it gives him, for the sun and the air, for the music and food, and for the people and places he gets to see along the way.
So, I bet you can guess where this is going.
Unfortunately, last year Dad was faced with a very scary and unexpected medical emergency, which resulted in a lengthy hospital stay and depleted whatever emergency savings he once had. It also left him utterly bed-bound and required 6 weeks of rehabilitation, where a very real fear settled in: Would his MS worsen to the point of total dependency this time? Driving at that point was out of the question. This was a terrifying reality for him and his family, and left us uncertain and fearful of the near future. After several ensuing hospital stays, surgeries, post care, and a growing pile of medical bills, his financial crisis became even more crippling than the disease progression itself.
Luckily, and by the grace of God, Dad was able to regain some of his strength and came home after several months of recovery. He was even able to drive his van. We were beyond blessed, and so very fortunate, to have him up and active again, let alone have him here at all. Yet, this year he has struggled financially because of these bumps in the road, and to top it all off his van has developed a mechanical failure.
His Van (the power wheelchair ramp in his van). Stopped. Working.
Essentially his virtual legs, his freedom, his independence, was completely haulted.
He has been house-bound for over a month, while we have been trying to figure out what to do.
In December, at the autoshop, we got the news that the van is definitely able to be repaired. However, it would cost Dad an arm and a leg. Approximately $4,023 to repair or replace the ramp equipment. These modified wheelchair vans are costly to equip and maintain, and require a special mechanic. Buying another one, new or used, is financially impossible at this point. So, the only option is to salvage the one he has.
While it may seem like $4,023 is pennies for some, it's a hefty sum of money to dish out for someone who has been on a fixed income for almost 30 years, and who also needs to worry about his future physical and financial crises he might have to face down the road. He needs support. It has been beyond upsetting to witness how many hits my Dad has taken over the last few years. Even though he handles it with grace, he still suffers from these hits, and resists asking for help for fear of burdening others.
I just want life to cut him a break for once... because he deserves the world, and has never asked for it.
I know he would never ask for the help either, which is why his daughter is asking instead. Today, this is an emergency for him. This van is the key to his independence, it's the vessel for ability and freedom, it's the way he can embrace his life, despite hardship. And though he wouldn't outright ask for it, I know at this point he would accept the assistance if it was offered.
So today, I am asking for your support. For anything, or any amount, you can contribute. And if you can’t contribute with a dollar sign, at least send this message along to your family and friends, or reply with support or advice, thoughts or prayers.
He always loved to show off his left arm tan from driving on a sunny day. I'd like to see him smile about that once again. I'd like to see him traveling with his family again.
Thank you for hearing my Dad's story, and thank you for considering to help him get back on the road. I know he will appreciate this generous gesture, more than you could ever understand, and it might just encourage him to keep on moving.
As Robert Crumb would say, "Keep On Truckin," Dad.
Thank you and God Bless.
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