Wheels Of Freedom And Independence
“How do you make the move to a mobility aid like a scooter or wheelchair? I still havent gotten used to the stares when I use my cane, you know, I look so good....”
Watching a 20 year old video of Patti we uploaded to YouTube pulling our daughter and her friend through the snow on a sled behind her scooter, Multiple Sclerosis & family: scooter sleigh ride, http://youtu.be/V9QGZtX1mt4 The only stares Patti ever got were more about "that’s cool, where can I get one of those?"
Canes and or walkers were never a factor as Patti blew right through that stage of progression.
Personal vehicles whether her Rascal Scooter or wheelchairs were about Patti’s independence and freedom in a dependent world.
Wanting to be part of and keeping up with our young daughter’s life led us to begin researching electric scooters. Patti needed an all-terrain vehicle and frankly it became more ATV than a mobility aid.
She would travel miles to get to hair parlors, video stores, and even light grocery shopping. The scooter era was about her post MS freedom.
I designed and built a 400 ft long by 4 ft wide Boardwalk from our driveway to house. It wrapped around our house ending disguised as a big front deck. Patti could just zoom out of our front door to the street in style.
More than just Patti soon our daughter and friends were using it for skateboards and bicycles. Living with MS as a family means ‘living’ in a modified world. Level the playing field and all those clichés.
Transporting the scooter was of course my problem. After hernia surgery from wrestling the thing into our station wagon, it was time to look at adaptive vans. Ford was offering an accessibility modification cash back program. We bought an extended length Aerostar Van and they gave us $1,000 to modify it with a hook lift that picked up the scooter which could then be easily swung inside the van.
Now Patti’s freedom was not restricted to our neighborhood. Her scooter could be shuttled anywhere we chose to go living with MS as a family.
Patti as a formerly able-bodied able-minded person fought valiantly to adapt and survive as the metamorphosis of MS enveloped her body and mind.
MS symptoms of visual impairment became more pronounced. Curb cuts are great if you can see them but when you start guessing...scooters are too easily flipped. MS cognitive problems, mostly short term memory loss in those days, caused too many calls to me at work from strangers about Patti being lost.
Twice tow trucks brought the scooter and Patti home. Patti was always in worse shape than the scooter.
These episodes began the “attended use only” era of her scooter usage. Walking beside her I operate the controls and whenever we find ourselves on a wide enough path with few to no walking targets to hit, I let her take control and zoom forward feeling freedom in the breeze and maybe just maybe remembering independence.
Editor's note: We are extremely saddened to say that on November 11, 2013, Patrick Leer passed away. Patrick was an essential member of the MultipleSclerosis.net community, providing unique insight and perspective as the primary caregiver to his wife, who has MS. His heartful writing continues to reach many. He is deeply missed.
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