This is the fifth installment in a series about Hollister Lindley, a 62-year-old resident of Richmond, Va., and how she is changing the way she lives after being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a fatal condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Hollister Lindley needs a 260-pound motorized wheelchair to get around these days. When she wants to run an errand, she wheels the chair down a series of ramps installed in her home and goes outside into a covered carport. There, she carefully maneuvers the chair opposite a large van that has been specially converted for her needs.
Driving the tan Ford van is an ordeal from the standpoint of someone used to just hopping into her car and hitting the road. But for Hollister, things are not easy these days, and are only getting harder. That’s what ALS does, as a disease that progressively destroys the body’s muscles and all the functions they control. It’s been more than five years since Hollister began dropping utensils and realized something was not quite right. It took another three years to confirm that she has ALS. This fall will mark the second anniversary of that diagnosis – a milestone many ALS victims never reach.
“It is the only chance at a feeling of normalcy,” she says, referring to the van. “It is the only chance at a feeling of self-determination, or independence. It’s not like I can call a cab.”
Her van listed for $30,000, but the price tag – not covered by insurance – soared to nearly $80,000 after its floor was adjusted and a powered lift that tucks underneath was installed. Everything is powered by remote control, allowing Hollister to open the van, activate its lift and roll her wheelchair inside.
Her husband, Rich Kern, has installed yellow reflective tape in the carport to help Hollister park the vehicle in just the right spot and to position her wheelchair so it can roll into the van in the precise position. A mirror installed on a carport wall opposite the van’s side doors helps her keep the chair correctly aligned in relationship to the van.
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