“We’re so very grateful for the wheelchair and the van. We wouldn’t have been able to continue functioning normally without them. The use of these devices have helped our family TREMENDOUSLY. Nathaniel, our precious gift from God, is non-ambulatory. He cannot support himself on his own, sit up, roll over, hold his head up unassisted for long periods, walk etc. His growth and weight gain have gradually made it more challenging to transport him unassisted. I am petite and am not the strongest, most muscular woman out there for packing around a “sack of potatoes” as we humorously call him. The wheelchair has helped me and Nathaniel with daily activities by transporting him throughout the house and by providing an alternative seating option when he grows weary of the couch, his sensory box or Tomato Seat feeding chair. By having wheels, I use it to “rock” him back and forth in a soothing motion to calm him when he’s fussy. It is used for entertainment thanks to the attachable tray that comes with it. We use it for feeding him when he’s plugged into his feeding pump. He joins us at the table for meal times when he’s in his wheelchair. We use the it for frequent outings to the neighborhood park which is 2 blocks from our house or for a calming walk at night during the cool summertime hours in the evenings. And of course, it is used as his “car seat” for when we travel in the mobility van. It’s amazing how much we truly do use his wheelchair for what we consider our “normal” activities around the house. As a stay at home mom, I don’t know what I’d do without the help of that wheelchair. I use it for Nathaniel more than I ever thought possible. It’s become a very vital part of his life. It is almost like an added limb to help him with his daily transportation needs.
The van is another HUGE blessing! Before, we had a Chevy Suburban and a typical standard infant car seat for Nathaniel. Suburbans are four wheel drive vehicles and sit higher off the ground than front wheel drive vehicles. When manually transporting a handicapped, hypotonic child from the wheelchair up into the car seat of a big vehicle becomes physically taxing in a hurry. Then after the child is safely strapped into the car seat, the next step would be to strap his older brother (who is an energetic, rambunctious toddler) into HIS car seat. Next step, fold up the wheelchair (which is a beast in itself weighing around 60 lbs) and hoist it up into the trunk of the Suburban. By now, a simple errand into town had become an exhausting, laborious feat just to get out of the house!! At this point, I questioned if it was even worth going through all of this BY MYSELF! Lol. And then once we reached a destination, I would have to repeat this process several times whenever we needed to get in or out of the vehicle. By the end of the day, I would be an exhausted mess because my physical strength was pushed to the max. My trips to town were few and far in between when my husband was busy working on the farm unless they were absolutely necessary. He’s much stronger than I am and is able to tolerate Nathaniel’s “dead weight” a lot better than me. Eventually, Nathaniel was going to outgrow his standard infant car seat and we wouldn’t have been able to find one in stores that would provide the necessary trunk support that he required. Choosing a special needs car seat was out of the picture because I still would have needed to hoist him up into our big Suburban and risk damaging my back in the process.
Due to the struggles I was having, we chose an automatic in-floor side entry ramp system with the van. And my oh my what a God send it has been!! Now all I do is strap Nathaniel into his wheelchair, push a button on my keys to open the side door and ramp (the van also has a hydraulic system which causes it to kneel down closer to the ground for us too), wheel him up into the van, position the wheelchair in the proper spot, strap it down with the auto-retractable straps attached to the van floor and BAM!! The loading process is complete! AND! Our oldest son, Samuel, is a big enough to help in securing the straps to the wheelchair with Mommy which quickens the process even more. Then, he crawls up onto his booster seat and buckles himself in. Now, the process takes about 5 minutes to get Nathaniel loaded and ready for action in the van.”
Nathaniel is a two-year-old boy with a rare genetic form of epilepsy. Nathaniel and his family worked with our Equipment Fund to purchase an accessible van last year and recently began working with our Wheelchair & Posture Seating Clinic for Nathaniel’s first wheelchair stroller.