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What happens when a person’s condition changes, making their adapted vehicle no longer practical? For one couple, help was soon at hand.
Dawn Bailey-Hague, 50, and her husband, Peter, 57 live in Ulleskelf, near York. Peter has progressive MS, which has resulted in him becoming quadriplegic. He is also blind, and has both osteoporosis and severe sleep apnoea. Dawn is his full-time carer.
We received our first Motability vehicle, a Citroën Dispatch. Peter had always had his own car up to that point – we could transfer him on a slider board into a swivel seat in the front of an Astra, but when his condition deteriorated and he couldn’t balance his own weight any more it became too difficult for carers to lift him in and out. With the Dispatch he was easily able to get into the back, but eventually we had to change to a larger Renault Kangoo.
A Lewis Reed VW Transporter that’s been fitted with an electric side ramp. Peter has severe sleep apnoea and sometimes stops breathing once he drops off. With the Kangoo I had to get out, lower the ramp and reverse him in, and there were times when his lips would have gone blue – it just wasn’t practical. We needed a vehicle where he could ride upfront, and because of the size of his chair, the only suitable one was the VW Transporter. I need to reverse him in via the side ramp, behind where the front passenger seat would be. I then have to lift him round and help him to the front. Once he’s parked beside me, he’s fine.
It’s much easier to drive and there’s lots more space – we need to have a carer in the car with us in case they need to suction Pete while I’m driving. We couldn’t have gone with a vehicle that’s any smaller, what with the amount of gear Pete has. If we’re going away for a few days, he’s got to take pressure mattress and a big cough assist machine. Pete can’t take a breath to clear excretions on his lungs, so we need to use it quite regularly throughout the day and night. He’s also got a suction machine that we use to clear his airway, a nebuliser, plus all his catheter care – all of that needs to be in the car when we go out.
After we got the VW Transporter in November Pete got a new, much larger chair, after an assessment in April last year. We’ve managed up until now, but the manoeuvring has started to cause issues for myself – I’ve had problems with my arms and needed to see a physio for my back. We found out that we could change the vehicle on the grounds that it was causing these problems, which is what we’re in the process of doing now.
I initially emailed Lewis Reed to ask what else they had available, as they had provided our current Transporter and we knew they were very approachable. They told us they had a model that would suit our needs, but that we’d have to go through Motability. When I explained that we were on a low income and relied on benefits, they advised that we to go to Motability Grants. We were given a grant for the current VW Transporter, so I wasn’t sure if we were entitled to receive another one within the vehicle’s five-year lease. Motability covered the adaptation and advance payment costs, on top of what’s taken out of Pete’s higher rate DLA, but they sent someone out, who said they could accommodate our needs and take the current vehicle back.
It’s another VW Transporter, but one with a rear entry so that we’ll be able to just drive straight in from the back – I won’t have to lift him, turn him and bend his legs into strange angles just to get him inside. He’ll be able wheel straight inside from the road, which is ideal. It will also have a higher roof, so his carers and I won’t need to stoop when attending to him.
We only take it out about twice a week, because it’s so difficult for me to get him in and out now. It’s affected Pete’s quality of life greatly, as he really like to be out and about – before we’d go out nearly four or five times a week. We hope to get back to that. We had no issues whatsoever with the VW Transporter until we got the new wheelchair. It’s not the vehicle’s fault – Pete’s needs changed and the one we have is no longer suitable. I’m just thankful that there is something out there we can use for him.
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