Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In Which We Come To Some Difficult Conclusions

Today was a rather frustrating day.

After spending the day in the apartment, we've come to a couple of conclusions. The first is that this apartment is not going to be a viable living space. Jeremy has access to basically two rooms and a portion of the bathroom. The only area he can turn the wheelchair around in is the living room, and the wheels don't get good traction at all in making the turns. He has to back down the hallway to get properly positioned for the bed. We've rented a storage unit and are going to be moving a good portion of the furniture into it tomorrow so that we'll have some more space cleared, but he still can't reach any sinks or toilets, can't even get into the kitchen, and can't open any of the doors.

It's been suggested that we move back on post where they have wheelchair accessible housing, and if we didn't have Connor that would be a good option. However, the whole reason we moved away from post to Puyallup in the first place was that we spent five months in negotiations with the on-post school district, who failed to provide anything remotely resembling an adequate education plan for the little guy. Homeschooling is not really something I need to add to my list of things to do right now, and neither is suing the school district, so if we can manage to stay in the Puyallup area that would be really nice. Basically moving on-post would be the best-case scenerio for Jeremy, and the worst-case scenerio for Connor. We've got to find a balance somewhere in between. I'm starting to look at rentals right now and hopefully we'll find something that, even if it isn't wheelchair accessible, is more livable than our apartment is now. Keep your fingers crossed that if we find something the apartment complex will let us break our lease.

The second conclusion we've come to is that we're just going to have to knuckle down and buy a wheelchair accessible van out-of-pocket. While we are applying for the VA grant to convert a vehicle, it's highly unlikely that we'll qualify for them or pretty much any other wounded soldier assistance program because Jeremy will not be in a wheelchair permanently, but (hopefully) just for a year, after which Connor would be the one needing the accessible van. We knew that we'd have to buy one someday when Connor was older and heavier-- we just didn't expect it to be now. But without a vehicle we are totally reliant on the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) to provide a van and a driver for Jeremy, and due to a shortage of people this will most likely happen only when he has appointments unless there's some major event we need to attend. This means that for the next year, Jeremy would be leaving the house maybe once a week, and any time I leave the house for more than a couple of hours I'd have to find someone to keep him company and give him the assistance he requires right now. I'm relatively sure Jer and I would kill each other in fairly short order with that kind of arrangement. He is not the type to take to confinement well.

So I'm going to start looking for a van and hoping we can get some sort of really great finance deal and maybe do a trade-in with our current vehicle. We looked into just renting a van for a year, but that would end up costing us more than buying one outright. We'd also hoped to find an organization that would loan us a van for the time that Jer needs it and then we could either return it or buy it from them at the end of that time, but thus far we've had no luck. We weren't really expecting to make a purchase quite that large right now, but once we get a couple of payoffs from the Traumatic Injury Life Insurance we should be okay.

It's frustrating because we kind of fall into the cracks-- Jer isn't wounded enough to qualify for a lot of services, but he is wounded enough to be in major need of some assistance right now. We're not giving up-- we'll figure this whole mess out eventually, and there are some people down in the army offices on post working hard to come up with solutions for us, but we're kind of hitting a wall. Adding shopping for a car and a new place to live wasn't really something we wanted to do, but it sure beats the alternatives!

Things will get better. I know it.

On a lighter note-- Connor had his first day of school today! There he is all dressed up right before we left. We got there early to talk with his teacher and the school nurse and to leave all of the equipment he needs to keep there (his wheelchair with stroller base and hydraulic base, hearing aid batteries, three day supply of medications, CPR shield, g-tube supplies, emergency seizure meds, and food). I dropped him off early in the classroom. His teacher, paraeducators, and therapists are all really excited about working with him, which is fantastic!

We did have one kind of amusing-yet-pitiful incident walking up to school. They have these three feet tall fluorescent yellow silhouettes of children holding red flags that say "SLOW" on them at the crosswalks in the school parking lot to remind drivers that they are in a school zone. Connor is apparently terrified of these signs. A woman walked by carrying one and Connor got this horrified look on his face and then burst into tears. So we're taking the side road to avoid the crosswalks on Thursday. Poor little guy.

Otherwise I think the day went pretty well for him. He worked with his physical therapists, played with the other kids, had circle time, and even got to go down the slide on the playground today. Yay for slides! Yay for Connor!

How did he get so big?



Kelsey said...

I saw his picture before I read your post and I thought... how could he have gotten so big?! Man, he's just the cutest little man I've ever seen (well besides Levi of course). I'll be praying for you guys as you try to figure out this whole house thing. I'm so happy Connor has such a great place to go to school. And you're handeling it well it seems... I still feel like I'm adjusting some days when I'm at home and Levi's not there. But it's getting more normal. Congrats that Jeremy is home! I wish you all the best!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jess,

I am so sorry you all are keep running into these barriers. I have 2 brothers who use chairs, one a manual one the other a power chair. My parents bought their van and had it equipped from a company called Ride Away. We have the rear entry. There are 2 "jump seats" right behind the front seats. The space for the chairs runs down the middle of the van. There is also a back seat that remains up most of the time, but can be put down if only 1 chair is in the van. They have also received $$ from MDA for their chairs even though they have FA not MD. Hope this is somewhat helpful. Let me know if you would like more info on the van.

Keep you all in our prayers.


Julia O'C said...

I know I mentioned this before, but do you use USAA for your car insurance? They're set up to work with military families. I'm sure this would not be the first time that they'd dealt with similar situations. Their car-buying service is fantastic (and it's free to members) and it saved us A LOT of money (and time) when we purchased Sean's car. They also do financing.

Sorry you have to add "moving" to your long list of things to do. I'm really happy that you and Jeremy are together, though - and that Jeremy is still JEREMY. Things could have turned out so differently.

Connor is gorgeous. Emmett started school yesterday, too!

leah said...

I will send up a prayer that you are able to find a suitable apartment in the Pullyap (I know I didn't spell that correctly- too lazy to look it up) area, are able to break your lease without penalty, and that you can find a van very easily. Connor's school sounds wonderful, despite the terrifying signs!

Julia said...

One darned thing after another. But you're right, it will get better. Connor is adorable, and I'm glad he got a good start, aside from the fluourescent kids. I should think that "wounded vet hero" would be a good thing to invoke when trying to get out of your lease; if there's any difficulty, the local news might take an interest -- not that you particularly want to make trouble, but it's a thought.

Wherever HE Leads We'll Go said...

First, Connor is absolutely adorable. I am so glad that he has a great school to go too (minus the terrifying signs - poor guy).

Second, I cannot believe that you now have to find a new place to live AND a new van. UGH! I will definitely be praying about both situations.

Katy said...

Well, that'a a conumdrum. Hopefully, you will be able to find something--fingers crossed--that will suit everyone's needs. Hubby and I are talking van but I know it will be a little further in the future. Still. . . it's a bummer when you HAVE to do something like that.

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