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Francis With Multiple Disabilities Seeks Grant For Wheelchair Accessible Van

by Francis Childress
(Beaverdam, Virginia, USA)

I am 71 years old. I am seeking financial assistance to purchase a wheelchair accessible side entrance van.

Both of our daughters are grown and have homes of their own. We have four grandchildren, two boys and two girls.

I was in the all-volunteer Virginia Defense Force. This military unit acts as a peacekeeping unit when the National Guard is called to active duty. I mustered out with a honorable discharge.

I was an engineering drafting technician for over ten years after high school.

In 1972 I started work for the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of Virginia. C&P Telephone Co. became Bell Atlantic in 1984 and later Verizon.

In 1999 I retired from Bell Atlantic and started work for the Virginia Department of Transportation as a Transportation Construction Inspector.

After ten years I retired in 2009. By then I was developing physical issues that hampered my ability to continue work.

Disability Issues

I had my tonsils removed sometime in the 1950s. As a teenager I had my appendix taken in 1961.

While in high school I tried out for the baseball team and tore the meniscus in my right knee. I went for years with this injury until I joined the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. of Virginia.

Climbing poles with gaffs or climbers finished my knee joint off and I had surgery and then physical therapy soon allowed me to return to work.

I transferred back to Richmond in 1978. Other problems I had that were lurking in the background of my well-being began to manifest themselves.

First there was a ruptured disc to deal with which turned into a very painful episode. After surgery I spent time convalescing and recovered enough after about six months to finally return to work.

And then I began having issues with both of my knees and went through a series of arthroscopic procedures.

I was again taken aback because of pain in my left shoulder. More arthroscopic procedures were ordered. Several bone spurs were removed.

More physical therapy followed this procedure.

In 1989 I began having a debilitating case of vertigo, nausea, fainting and the loss of my ability to walk or stand.

A series of tests found I had an anomaly on my brain stem (medulla), or an AV Malformation Infarction as better known in the medical profession.

Infarction means dead tissue. This infarction was putting pressure on my brain stem thus causing the symptoms described above.

After surgery I could barely walk. I discovered I could shuffle along if I held onto the handrails in the hospital hall. I would then sidestep until I regained my coordination. I was out of work for about seven months.

In 2010 I had cataracts removed from both eyes. I returned to work very soon after this surgery.

During a visit to my cardiologists he told me I needed a new aortic valve in my heart. This of course could be remedied with the surgical procedure of placing an aortic prosthesis in my heart.

The doctor asked me if I wanted a cow valve or a mechanical valve. A mechanical valve would last indefinitely.

A mechanical valve would require I take Coumadin the rest of my life. Coumadin would keep my blood thin and help prevent blood clots and prevent a possible stroke.

I did not respond very well after heart valve surgery. It was found I had fluid built up on my heart.

To relieve it, they used a Pericardial Drain, which meant collapsing my left lung and running a tube between my rib cage and the collapsed lung. This tube was inserted in a window that was cut in the pericardium that envelops the heart.

I was told later about one liter of fluid was drained off in this manner.

One day after being back home for a while after the two heart surgeries I went to visit a neighbor. When I turned to leave I walked down the sidewalk and missed a drop-off and stumbled.

On my way down I extended my right arm to break my fall and came crashing down on the concrete sidewalk and rolled into the grass. When I arrived at home my lower arm was as large as my upper arm. A trip to the emergency room confirmed what I thought.

I had cracked the two arm bones near my right wrist. A cast was applied. This happened after two major heart surgeries.

In 2010 I had both knee joints replaced. I then began suffering from an infection in my right knee. Still another surgery was ordered.

This was to clear up the infection, high fever and combative issues. A wedge spacer was placed in my right knee without benefit a new prosthesis knee joint.

And later a bad infection flared up in my left knee joint. More surgery followed, and a wedge spacer was inserted and again without benefit of a new prosthesis

My ability to walk by now had been greatly compromised. And a second infection in my left knee started up again.

I was no longer encouraged to try and walk while in rehabilitation because I could not walk anymore anyway and the pain was more than I could bear.

The pacemaker placed in my chest after heart valve surgery was removed for fear of bacteria on that and my new heart valve.

I did learn to use and got over the fear of using a board to transfer from the wheelchair to the bed, and from the wheelchair to the toilet, etc.

I am also diabetic and have diabetic pain in my feet and legs. I am constantly bothered by ulcers on my lower legs. I depend on my wife greatly to help change the dressing on my legs.

I cannot stand anymore to transfer from my wheelchair to the seat of my car. I cannot go anywhere because of this dilemma. I roll outside for fresh air and sun weather permitting.

Financial Hardship

My wife and I receive social security and I receive a small pension from the Virginia Retirement System.

Raising a family, paying a mortgage, paying for college tuition and a multitude of other expenditures have always caused a financial issue.

The last five years have been especially ruinous to our budget, mostly because of the knee surgeries, doctors' bills, hospital bills, transportation, medical supplies and the soaring costs of my 14 daily prescriptions.

I have relied on ambulant transportation to meet doctors' appointments. This type of transport is very expensive and I cannot afford to use it anymore.

Income Efforts

I have tried to find work I can do online (at home).

We both draw SSI and I a small pension.

I have been reluctant to ask my church for any amount of money. I have never solicited donations.

I don't ask friends or family for money for obvious reasons.

Grants are what I have endeavored to be successful with.

Specific Needs

The gift of a grant to purchase a wheelchair accessible van would give me my life back and make my wife and me very happy.

We could enjoy the simple things in life again like getting out together and visiting our friends.

We could get back to church on a regular basis or just take a ride out in the countryside.

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Nov 29, 2015
Many Thanks
by: Francis Childress

11/29/2015 2:45 PM Sunday

Merely expressing the word/s, thanks, thank you or thanks again for everything says what most people are satisfied hearing. I on the other hand have never considered these words sufficient for the help or favor one receives.

Please don't take me in the negative or wrong way. I am more sensitive than that. I just feel for what an individual gets, something more "substantial" so-to-speak could or should be extended to the ones handing out the free help.

But thank you anyway, its all I have to offer!
I'll send you a photo soon.

Nov 27, 2015
Life's Challenges
by: SheilaKay

Hi Francis,

My heart goes out to you for all you have suffered and endured throughout the years with all the surgeries and setbacks.

I do hope you get a chance to get into Don's workbook because there you will find answers to what you need (grants for the wheelchair accessible van).

Don also recommends another website, also free to the applicant:

Disability Digest

They also help with benefits you may not be aware of.

Many blessings to you and your wife and I hope you find what you need.

Let us know how you're doing.


Nov 26, 2015
Now, on to the Workbook!
by: Don from Ability Mission

Hey Francis,

You did a great job of your story. Now that it is published, you can move on to the Workbook, which shows you how to use your story to get the help you need.

Don Coggan

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