Our Wheelchair Van Was a Gift of Life

Terri Thomas

terri-thomas-1On December 30, 2014, Bussani Mobility had the priviledge of giving a life-changing holiday gift to a single disabled mom, her two sons and her disabled mother all living together on Long Island. It was a wheelchair accessible van. Now a few months later, we checked in with the family to see how they’re doing. Here’s what Terri Thomas had to say…

In the first 100 miles, we did so many things that needed to be done for years…little things we just couldn’t get to because of being stuck and unable…….like returning library books, returning cable equipment from before the move when we were in the shelters, seeing a notary for so many documents we needed to get squared away, plus everyone had their physicals and lab work, and I was able to drive my 15 year-old to the school for his working papers application and drive him back after his physical to get his card. To take SCAT transportation would have cost $32 to do the same thing and would have taken 6-8 hours. I would never have been able to facilitate that for him without a vehicle. Ohhhhh you can imagine the crazy list that goes on. It’s like someone opened the cage door and let us out!

The most awesome thing (aside from the medical help) is that I was able to take Rocco sledding at Cedar Creek Park. I was able to park the van in an area where he was safe and could sled down the hill safely and where I could still see him without having to get out as my feet still have to be in slippers until this next 6-week therapy. Ohhh Rocco’s smile…his happiness…he was lit up like a Christmas tree! He kept verbalizing his thanks for the van by mentioning “all the nice people at Bussani who gave us the van” so that “he could go places”…like sledding. He is sooooo thankful and every time we have gone anywhere, even grocery shopping, he will say the same exact things! He knows how stuck the whole family would still be without this gift…and he feels such freedom now on.

terri-thomas-2He is scanning the Internet to see what sports he’d like to participate in. Just last night we went and got him his first library card. He was in awe of all the library has to offer and he eyed a flyer that said “Cub Scout Meeting,” so I hope we will get to that soon. He couldn’t wait to swipe his library card and use the library computer. I couldn’t stay long because of my physical issues but I stayed as long as I could. He asked if we could get ice cream at Dairy Queen one day, so we took him to lunch there and again he said, “Mom, we could never have done this without the van because of your legs right? And you can’t walk that far right Mom? So we parked right outside the door and you made it in here to have lunch with me. Thank you mom for loving me. It’s because you love me right, Mom?” Every time he says these things I start to cry and can’t hold back the tears, so I looked away and pretended to look in my bag for something as I answered him.

You will never know just how much having the van has helped us. Let me tell you how it used to be. There were so many scenarios that had us locked to the house. If I don’t restrict fluids aggressively two days before I go somewhere then normally I have to use the restroom every 45 minutes like clockwork. A SCAT bus won’t stop for you to go to the bathroom. But now I can just pull over at a Dunkin Donuts and know that I don’t have too walk far from the curb. One day I took the SCAT bus to a thrift store so I could buy school clothes and it was a thrift store that someone drove me to one time from the shelter. I knew that the store had a furniture section so there would be a couch or chair that I could get to (to rest) and it had a bathroom. So I called to make sure they were open and asked them to make sure their ATM was working. I could get there but not back because I only had the SCAT bus single dollar bills (they require you to give them exact change). Anyway when I got there, the ATM was blocked in by about 25 carts that had to be moved first for me to get in and take out the money I needed and then I looked up and saw a most horrible sign on the bathroom saying “OUT OF ORDER.” I started to cry because I had to go right away! How could this be happening? Oh my God, I should have just stayed home — that’s what ran through my head. Now look how embarrassing! I looked around for something to sit on for a minute and that day they were cleaning the store so there was nothing to sit on — not one chair. Normally I would even go to a bathroom to sit on a toilet if there was nothing else to sit on. I felt like I was gonna pass out from the anxiety. What could I do — I neeededddddd to go to the bathroom and I needed school clothes for my kids — and I couldn’t walk far. NOW WHAT!!! I tried calling the bus back. They said no and that they couldn’t accommodate any changes on the same day except if I wanted to delay the bus…WHAAAAAT??!!!

Someone told me to go to the pizza place across the street. I had my slippers on because of the fluid problems in my legs. I wasn’t thinking I may have to cross a parking lot full of stones and glass. But I did it…teeter-tottering like an imbecile because I had no cane or walker. I had planned on just leaning on the shopping cart in the thrift store. Then I looked up and realized that we called this pizzeria when we ordered out once a month. I never knew where it was because I couldn’t go out. So I went in feeling better about things as I knew how nice they were. But oh Lord, no bathroom except for employees! Could things get any worse? I told them I was gonna be in trouble in just seconds, and they quickly whisked me back through the kitchen.

terri-thomas-3When I got home from that day, I was a train wreck emotionally. And all of my hopes of continuing school, going for my license, and starting the ACCESS-VR program to go back to work were completely shot down in my mind because how could I ever handle another day like this? I couldn’t even accomplish getting my children their school clothes that day because of everything that went on. I had to call my friend who lives in Garden City to come and get me, and I was lucky that she could do it but I was so upset that all I could see was “no no no no no nothing will ever work out” because without a vehicle I really have no control over the fallout that happens due to my physical problems alone, never mind the rest of the family.

Within a couple of days, I got the call from Allyson at New Beginnings and she asked for a letter describing what we go through as a family dealing with disabilities. What happened next changed our lives. It was the gift of life that Bussani gave us through our wheelchair accessible van.

I intend on keeping a journal now…a few sentences every day and some pictures so I can show everyone how much this gift has helped our family and how I will be paying it forward. I am thankful every minute of each day.

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