Sunday, September 16, 2012

Goal #2 - Check

I have a van! 

It really was such a blessing how smoothly and quickly everything seemed to fall into place. Voc Rehab and Access Vans really made this possible. I was able to get a fairly new van, in great shape, with the modifications I needed, for a decent price, and in a short time frame.

The people at Access Vans are so amazing at what they do. 

   Each driver they deal with is so different when it comes to abilities and strength.  They were so willing to take all the time they needed to make this van fully usable, so I exerted the least amount of energy, just for me!  

Let me tell you, it was no small task! I thought I would be in and out with my van in a hour or so. 


Five hours later I was able to test drive, after some serious modifications. 
My van is all run by remote.  I have a button the opens the door and deploys the ramp and it has the awesome function the allows the van to "kneel".  The suspension is compressed bringing the van lower to the ground and making the ramp less steep.

Before any changes could begin, I had to figure out how to transfer to the drivers seat.  This seat moves forwards and backwards and twists to allow me to transfer and drive from the seat.  The benefit of this is I can take my power or my manual wheelchair.

(There are switches on the side of the seat that allow me to move the seat to the position I need.)

First the steering wheel was modified with a tri-pin, angled exactly to allow me the easiest rotation. 

Second, and probably the biggest adjustment was finding the right placement for the hand control. My hand controls work by pushing slightly up and towards the dashboard to break and down and towards my body to accelerate. At first I couldn't even move the hand control to accelerate. Braking was easy because my biceps is fairly strong, but pulling is tough because my tricep is incredibly weak. They tried a tri-pin, lengthened the hand control, moved it down on the steering column, adjusted to foot pedals, and removed and reattached nuts and bolts at least 30 times. After all that I was able to easily push and pull the hand control, without the tri-pin. 

 Next and the most inventive adjustment was the gear shifter. It is placed on the dash and to change gears you had to push a button in, on the left side, and pull down simultaneously. It was not happening, but between Chris, the owner and a quadriplegic, and his mechanic, they removed the top of the gear shifter, took out the button and spring, rigged with a nut and bolt, and I was able to push down directly on top and shift gears. 

 Last was the key. I can't grip the key, and I definitely couldn't turn it. So with some shrink tubing, a metal hinge strap, and a bolt, it gave me something larger to hold and push on to turn the ignition off and on. 

Five hours later, we were ready to test drive. They pulled the van out of the shop and around the front of the building and told me to go for it. They are quite far off the main road and have a short stretch of road you can easily practice on without traffic, but I was so nervous. I was pleasantly put at ease though when it was much easier and more natural than I expected.

The whole experience was great. I feel blessed and excited to have this van and to get to learn to drive. Now another stint in drivers training, possibly a written test (if I can pass), and I'll have a valid license again! 


Thanks to my  parents for taking me to Boise, sitting with me for hours while they worked on it, Dad for braving the first drive with me, and driving it home.

Thanks to Matt & Tami for letting us stay with you last minute and for taking me/going with me to Kneader's.

Thanks to everyone for your mostly (*wink, *wink) kind words and support. 


T. Hansen said...

It was such a neat experience to ride with her on the "Maiden Voyage" Steph did so well that I know it won't be long and she will be just fine! Looks like we will be spending a little more one on one time to help her learn how, and get comfortable, to drive again.

Andy's Mom said...

Oh Steph, I am in tears! You are amazing and I just think the world of you! I'm so glad you got your van... I was a little heart broken for you after the contest a little while ago. I'm so glad to hear that you were treated so well! :)

Scott and Kel said...

Congrats on the new van!! I was so bummed when you didn't win the contest, I voted Every day WITH codes! Shantel kept me up on progress when they stopped posting on the website. Anyway, good luck! What a blessing this will be to you and your family!