Friday, August 2, 2013

Time to hunker down and get a handicap van (and to let go of whatever stuff we have left).

I have come to some conclusions and reality has to be addressed. I am 50 now with major joint issues and my medical situation will not improve regarding my joints as I get older (I will only be able to try to prevent the onset of a gout attacks and minimize the effects). During attacks, I have to be able to get around despite my limitations if I am to be employable and it is time we address it. This is not an easy thing to do when faced with financial limitations, but where there is a will.... there is a way and I believe I have found one (as I will detail below).

I have talked with multiple people whom I trust within the last week (including a friend who is quadriplegic who is working and uses a wheelchair capable van) and it is becoming very clear that we have a need for a wheelchair capable van if we are to maintain our independence (as I just went through my 2nd major attack in the last 8 weeks where I couldn't move). The Wheelchair lift I have for the minivan (that isn't installed yet) only lifts a wheelchair / mobility scooter into the back of the minivan. One cannot be in it when it is taken in or out of the vehicle. Given I am unable to drive during my extreme gout attacks as I do not have hand controls in the minivan, this limits my ability to go to work independently when having this issue as I still have to get from the back of the minivan to the front door which is very difficult to do when unable to walk (especially during weather - rain or snow). So the easiest way to maintain independence and be able to do so while employed, is to have the ability to take a wheelchair.... remotely start a van, go to the lift on the passenger side and use that to gain access to the interior of the van, and then transfer over to the power drivers seat. And if the feet are unusable, to use the hand controls to drive the vehicle. This also ensures I can get access to any future employer's location using that wheelchair.

Also, Penny's father is recently having problems ambulating as well (he just turned 80 and uses a cane). He has a handicap ramp at his mobile home and a hoveround (and Penny or I can take him to his medical appointments by having this solution where he can use the lift to get into a van and use his hoveround wherever we take him). So this nips two problems in the bud.

There is also the reality that if Penny's medical situation gets worse, she will need this also (to get around).

Normally, a brand new van fitted with a lift and hand controls costs over $40,000 (or more). Even a decent used van 10 to 15 years old with these features costs $3,500 or more (and many are worn down, rust buckets, or in need of major servicing).

I have found a 1997 Ford Econoline E150 with 145,000 miles on it and the gentleman who owns it is selling it to us for $1,000 (he no longer needs it as he bought a new one that accommodates his limitations more and he is paying it forward by allowing us to get his old one at minimal cost). It runs great, has had recent work done to the suspension, a tune up, exhaust work, etc. and he has receipts on all work he has had done). If this isn't proof that God has a hand in our lives, I don't know what would constitute proof to people.

The drivers seat turns and allows transfer from a wheelchair within the van. It also has a remote start feature so the van can be started during the winter or bad weather before the driver gets into the vehicle. The only interior issue is that driver's seat has 2 tears in the leather (that the owner put duct tape on), and I can fix those with a leather repair kit to make the seat look good again. The fundamental interior is sound and is in great shape.
 The rear of the van is in good shape. It also has an electrical connection for trailers (a hitch only needs to be added). I already have Hubcaps for the tires in the garage (that I can put on). 
 The front of the van only has a small bend in the bumper and in the grill (which I can fix for minimal cost), otherwise... there are no dents or major body issues.
The lift has a hand control and allows one to take the wheelchair inside the middle in order to transfer to the drivers seat. It also allows one to take someone in a wheelchair into the van and allows the wheelchair to be tied down).
 The hand controls are all there and are working. The owner is keeping the large spinner is it is specifically for quads (and I'll be getting a small steering wheel spinner for Penny's use if she needs it).
The rear seat is new, I just need to drill in the bracket for it to be attached solidly. The speakers will be staying with the van. =) The carpet does need to be cleaned, but that can be done at Delta Sonic Car Wash (it should look like new when I am done). 
 
The rear is clean (I just have to straighten out the blinds). The owner is also letting us have the subwoofer (what a great guy).

We will be picking it up on August 9th, and after that... the 2003 Sebring becomes expendable (as honestly, I can no longer drive it without major pain, it is too low to the ground for Penny to drive due to her knee and back, and it is officially an extra vehicle). More about that below.

Today, I was going over all of our bills as we are working on what is priority and what is not.

Honestly, we've made it this far with the help of the government (in this case - unemployment and Illinois Hardest Hit), friends and family (fundraiser), and our church (moral and prayer support) plus the selling of key assets such as our beloved RV plus cashing out our 401k and company stock. I am engaged in long term planning at the moment as we need to pare down further, and we are walking a very fine line while doing so.

My unemployment ends soon (sometime in late September or October depending if Tier 4 is approved or not) and this looms large, Penny's "Cobra" ends in April of 2014 (in 8 months) and we have to prepare for alternatives if I don't find work, and Illinois Hardest Hit support ends also in April of 2014 (in 8 months). With the loss of unemployment, the bills will frankly go into a tailspin and we will be looking at Bankruptcy within 2 months of losing unemployment (and we are trying everything to avoid that as it means we would have to leave this home plus we'd need to find inexpensive housing in this area as Travis' support network / job us here.... which there isn't good rental prospects at the moment). Also, Penny and I are in no physical shape to move anywhere due to our physical medical condition (her bad back / left arm and cancer plus my gout), and Travis works at Wal-Mart 1 mile from where we live right now (housing around here is $1,200 a month and above for 2 bedroom apartments / homes... so we wouldn't be able to afford living in this area), so it is imperative we stay where we are at.

We are looking at the possibility of major surgery for Penny depending on her test results on September 9th, and I am having problems driving a vehicle (specifically my feet / legs) due to my gout / joint disease (during extreme attacks, I can't even leave the house and I've had 2 extreme attacks in the past 8 weeks). This means, our backup car (the aging 2003 Chrysler Sebring with 185,000 miles) is now expendable as we were holding onto it in case we lost the Mitsubishi as it is our only vehicle that is paid off. With the 1997 Ford Econoline wheelchair van, that becomes the vehicle that is paid off and we can either sell the Sebring or Auction it off to raise more money.

We have been paying our bills while being slightly in the negative ever since Penny left the hospital in February of 2012 (and the situation got worse after I became unemployed). Despite our ratcheting down our costs (eliminating cable altogether, using an alternative provider for Gas & Electric, increasing our Insurance deductibles, etc.) and selling our RV plus cashing in the 401k plus the Employee Stock Option shares... we are coming to the end of the line regarding assets to cash in. We've also maintained a smartphone for Penny and I (using Virgin Mobile, the most inexpensive service out there at $45 a month for each of us), and we'll need to ratchet that down to basic cell phones soon (Republic Wireless at $19.99 a month is an option).  Our decisions over the past 11 months have been enacted as we thought my unemployment would be short term and that Penny's cancer would be in remission by now (and during the past 18 months we've been able to keep our house, Penny's car, my minivan, and the old convertible despite incurring over $150,000 on medical bills/costs with 3 major hospitalizations amid 7 Cystoscopies - of which much has been paid by insurance, but we've had to pick up the rest while also maintaining monthly insurance premium payments).

It is now time to sell our "stuff" that are not critical to our daily lives. We cannot find a solution to our 2011 Mitsubishi's $640 car payments, so I am looking at the option of auctioning off the Chrysler Sebring in order to reduce the monthly payment there. I am also looking at starting my own business (Technical Support) where I can provide remote support at a specific cost to vets, the disabled, and the older population... I just have to get healthy enough to do this.

I know this post today covered a lot, but in my efforts at trying to show others what it takes to navigate adversity.... one must get into detail for others to get what they need from what I've shared (and hopefully, there has been enough to provide others with ideas that may help their own situation). At least, I hope this is the case.

Steinar

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