For some people, even the most daunting of disabilities doesn’t stop them from finding ways to enjoy life.
Rick Dorothy is the kind of creative type who refuses to accept any limitations in life. He met his wife, Jan, 15 years ago when they both worked for the same company. After both of their previous marriages didn’t work out, they fell in love, got married, and had two children together.
After Rick lost his job, the couple decided to downsize their home and start a wood business. Rick is a handy guy who loves woodworking, and Jan helped with everything from production to keeping the books.
“She was my left hand for the next few years,” Rick recalled. “We built together, cut wood together, and made money together. Everything seemed to be coming true, and our life was happy and productive. Life was good to us.”
When Rick’s mother became ill, she moved in with them and Jan took care of her. They started taking daily long walks together to talk, relax, and make plans.
It was on one of these long walks that they noticed Jan dragging her right foot. They thought it would go away as she got stronger from walking, but instead, it got worse. A trip to the doctor revealed a sad diagnosis: Jan has multiple sclerosis (MS).
“As we did our research, the future seemed grimmer and grimmer,” Rick said. “Jan till this day has never cried once, and has never complained, or felt sorry for herself. I wish I could say the same for myself. But I made up my mind that I would do everything in my power to make her life as normal as possible anyway I could. We made up our minds to not let it take away the life we loved.”
Sadly, Jan’s nerves deteriorated to the point that she could no longer take the long walks in the woods they cherished so much. Ever the innovator, Rick’s brain started to dream of possible solutions to their problem. When he saw a TV program featuring a rickshaw, a lightbulb went off in his mind. What if he repurposed some old wooden wheels he had lying around to make a rickshaw for Jan?
Their children were skeptical, and even Jan doubted that Rick had the strength to pull her around, but she gamely tried it out anyway.
“When it was finally complete and ready for the maiden voyage, I felt like I was asking her to get into a homemade airplane,” Rick said. “She stepped into it and sat down. ‘Hey, this is pretty comfortable,’ she said with a smile. As I picked up the front and tipped her back in her chair, her eyes grew bigger. ‘It won’t tip over backward?’ she asked. And away we went, down the long driveway, and on down the road. ‘This is kinda cool,’ she announced with a little grin. ‘How is it for you?’ It didn’t matter how it was for me, I would have broken both legs to take her on that first ride.”
Both Rick and Jan were delighted that the rickshaw worked! Every member of the family has now taken a turn pulling the rickshaw, and all report that it’s surprisingly easy and light to pull.
“It is custom built for her weight and size but is adjustable if needed,” Rick wrote on Facebook. “It weighs 35 pounds and quickly breaks down to fit in our Subaru outback. Pulling her is nearly effortless even up small hills and we can be on and off the trails in minutes. It has a suspension system to provide a smooth comfy ride. I recycled the wheels which had been on a land sailer, a stroke rehabilitator, and my kids fun cart when they were little.”
Rick hopes that by sharing the story of his rickshaw with the world, others will see that no obstacle is insurmountable with a little ingenuity!
“Take life one day at a time, and when life throws a brick wall in front of you, just build a ladder and cross the wall,” he urged. “I know as long as my legs are still strong enough to walk, Jan and I will still have those long walks in the woods.”
What a beautiful solution! Rick’s devotion to his wife is so moving. We wish them many more years of taking long walks together!
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