09 April 2011
Adventures in WheelChair Building: Part 1
(This post was started a few days ago . . . but our internet has been down. Oh the joy's of life in the sandbox!)
At the end of March I shared a bit about my frustration when I was told that I wouldn't be able to build a wheelchair from scratch for a little girl in the community that is desperately in need of one. Well, the good news is I found a usable chair. The bad news is the only thing that won't need to be replaced is (most of) the metal frame. But that's what makes it fun.
The chair is grown-up size, but R. is 5 year-old-size . . . and since she's only going to keep growing, we are going to build it in such a way that the trunk and hip supports will be adjustable so that as she gets bigger the family will still be able to bring her where she needs to go (that, and we don't have any kid-size wheelchairs hanging around).
Before we can start with the construction, I needed measurements. Since it's such an effort for her granny to get her to the hospital, I thought it would be better if I went there.
Last night around 8pm, it was announced that today would be a national holiday . . . Inauguration Day of the new President of Niger. So that meant we got the day off, which made stopping by to see R. and her granny pretty easy.
My neighbor L. took me, along with a just-finished-med-schooler who's arrived for a month, to granny's house. We wove through the mud streets of Galmi (since there's no river this time of year, and never any woods) till we found the gate to their compound.
Their home was interesting . . . there was an open area with a fire for cooking. Two metal bed frames for sleeping outside during hot season . . . and three separate single-room house-like structures. I'm thinking maybe the previous owner had a few wives.
Granny and her hubby occupy one of the 'houses' and as we entered the compound she called to us from inside. As we stepped in, there was a short double wooden bed with a foam mattress directly to our right, with another foam mattress on the floor to our left. R. was strapped in a special stationary wooden chair that had been built for her in Niamey (that she is already outgrowing). Granny brought some chairs in from outside for us to sit on as we visited.
We talked about what R. can and can't do. What sounds she responds to. What she does and doesn't look at or track. She's a wiggly little girl who seems to enjoy any controlled movement she can manage. The heartbreaker: granny told us that just weeks before she got malaria she had told her parents that she wanted to attend the private school that SIM started several years ago. She should be learning to read, not re-learning how to sit up on her own . . . another reality of life here that I struggle to come to terms with.
After an evaluation masked as 'play', I took the measurements I needed for the wheelchair, we said our goodbyes, and made our way back home. Thankfully L. thought to bring her camera along.