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Quad Driving - Texas Style

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    Quad Driving - Texas Style

    First off, God bless Texas for making this possible. My son's story began in 2006 with a C6 neck fracture which resulted in total paralysis below the arm pits.
    Then, 3 months in Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation. Second, God bless the Baylor Rehab which offered access to many programs, one of which was the possibility of driving which my son took advantage of before being released. At the time, Baylor had a sedan with hand controls. They also knew who and where to contact the State of Texas to sign up for adaptive assistance. My son took advantage of that information and applied. Texas's requirements for assistance was that the patient had to purchase a vehicle no older than 3 years of age, and Texas would pay for and have installed the adaptive equipment. Somewhere in the later part of his rehab, he signed up and later completed his first driving lesson. The driving at Baylor was popular, so one had to sign up for maybe one driving lesson every few weeks.

    At home, there were lots of discussions and trips to the Adaptive driving businesses most of which offered mini vans. My son did not want to be seen in driving a van, so he began to pursue other options, like maybe a truck. Plus, the van ramps were steep enough that he did not have the strength or grip to roll up the ramp to get inside, even with a van that would kneel down to lower the ramp angle. There were two business locations in the Dallas area which did offer pickup truck options, but they had no demos or test trucks to drive. At the time, not sure that they even had pamphlets to see examples of what it would require to install equipment in a truck. As the rare driving lessons continued, he applied with an agency in the State of Texas to obtain adaptive equipment, a process which takes and took around 18+ months. Several conversations with this Texas agency began to see some progress and it was time to begin to look for a vehicle. The reality for someone with almost zero hand grip and no finger movements was that the vehicle had to have door handles that he could reach and open the door on his own, and while sitting in his manual wheelchair. Another requirement was the need for leather seats in case of bowel or bladder accidents. The third need was a crew cab due to the extra space in back for other family riders and space for storage of stuff. In the end, we did find a Chevy truck that had been a demo for 6 months. At the time, GM offered a $1000 discount due to installing handicap equipment. And, a related family member worked for Chevrolet which also had a program that provided employee pricing. We purchased the truck in 2010 which sat in the driveway for 6 months waiting for Texas to OK the adaptive equipment needed. In the mean time, we chose a company who could install the adaptive equipment in a truck.

    Finally, the grant was approved and equipment purchased in late 2010. One of the Texas requirements was that the vehicle/truck had to have redundant backups in case of the motor dying which included a vacuum pump system which would kick in and allow steering and braking to bring the truck to a halt. The vehicle/truck also had to have an electric parking brake. For the added adaptive equipment, the vehicle/truck had to have a separate battery and electrical system that was also connected to the alternator which would charge both batteries simultaneously. The vehicle/truck had to have a seat that would back up, swivel, move itself out of the vehicle, and lower the seat down to wheelchair level. The next requirement was that the now truck would have to have a hoist to grip the wheelchair and place it in the back of the truck. In the cab interior, hand controls were required that both my son and I could separately use safely. The last requirement was a hand bracket that would clamp to the steering wheel. Texas also required full coverage insurance and we added an extra $15,000 to the value so insurance would also cover the adaptive equipment.

    Whew, that's a lot of stuff. Below is what we ended up with. In the second photo, notice the blue strap which can be pulled back to open the clamps on the hoist to be able to clamp onto the wheelchair. The truck is still in operation these last 12 years, although the seat and lift had to be replaced with Bruno equipment (also with a grant from Texas) due to the original seat malfunctioning and going out of business, and the hoist wearing out as well which is always out in the weather year-round.

    Must also report that when the truck was complete and ready for a test drive and my son received his driver's license, we all met at the adaptive facility, along with several representatives from the State of Texas. Everyone stood back as they gave him the keys. OK man, let's see what you can do. On his own, he had to be able to open the door, operate the seat controls to get the truck seat out and down to his wheelchair level, self-transfer, pull the cover off of his wheelchair and move it to the dashboard, operate the hoist controls, clamp the wheelchair to the hoist, use the controls to place the wheelchair in the back of the truck, then operate the seat controls to get him inside the truck, pick up the wrist and hand controls and clip it on to the steering wheel, then turn the key to start the motor. With sheer determination, he was able to complete every task with a huge grin on his face. I rode around with him in the new truck for a few trips to make sure he was now a safe driver.

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    Thanks for your story!
    My husband and I are both paralyzed and have driven adapted full size vans for years. It's great that your son found a system that would work for him.


      thats awesome good for him


        As a driving quad, there are always limitations that must be figured out and delt with. One cannot pump gas or even open the gas cap while in a wheelchair with limited grip. Same with washing a windshield or removing snow and ice. And, same with putting air in tires, performing oil changes, adding washer fluid to the container in the engine bay, much less opening up the hood. But, as the song goes--"With a Little Help From My Friends", one has to figure out when and what help is needed. For gas pumping, my son has contacted several local gas stations who will come out and pump his gas. He just calls when he arrives and they pump the gas. His weekday caregiver will follow him to the gas station and pump gas. The caregiver will also pour windshield fluid in the container, which helps to defrost ice and snow in the winter.

        Since his truck has a hoist in the back of the truck, it cannot go through a car wash. Therefore, it must be hand washed. For light maintenance, he contacts the service manager at a local repair shop and often sits in his truck while inspections and oil changes are performed. He just calls ahead of time and gets right in. The truck sits outside in the elements. Here in Texas, it can get real hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The truck has remote starting which helps cool the interior or start to defrost when the motor is first turned on. We also get occasional rain here as well. His seat cushion is always pulled inside the truck while driving. To solve the rain issue while driving, we found an upholstery shop who made a cover for the back of the wheelchair to keep it dry when it is raining. It goes over the back of the chair and has a long Velcro strap that goes under the bottom of the seat back and attaches at the back. The caregiver can install it when it rains, and when arriving at or leaving work, someone will help with installing or removing the cover as needed. At first, it was miserable sitting in a wheelchair all day with the back of the chair soaking wet.

        In 12 years of use and 150K miles, we have had issues with the truck that required heavy maintenance. Our truck year model had major issues with cams and lifters being eaten up multiple times, and after Chevy's warranty expired. After several rebuilds, we finally had a crate motor installed which is doing well thus far. In the long run, it was much easier time wise and cheaper to rebuild than to pay for the handicap equipment to be pulled and re-installed in a new or slightly used truck.

        "And the Beat Goes On"


          I saw the title and expected to see him riding a long-horn steer LOLOL