A decade ago, Larry Simpson never would have imagined that he would be using a wheelchair. But the retired civil servant knows circumstances can change.
Larry is living with inclusion body myositis, a rare degenerative disorder which causes weakness that worsens over time and damages the muscles.
“Basically, the body’s immune system turns on the muscles and starts consuming them,” says Larry, who lives in the Fredericton area. “It’s not very common and no one has any idea what causes it or any idea how to cure it.
“With me, it started 10 or 12 years ago. At first, I attributed the weakness to old age. It took about three or four years to diagnose. Around the house I still use a walker…. But going out, I need the wheelchair.”
While going out initially presented a problem for Larry, he now has a van fitted out for a wheelchair thanks to financial assistance from the Vehicle Retrofit Program available through Ability New Brunswick.
The automated system for his van features a ramp that unfolds from the side of the vehicle. He drives his wheelchair in, then turns in for his chair to be locked into place.
“It’s a very slick arrangement in terms of the time it takes and allows me to get out and see more. I used to get into our regular vehicle but that became more and more difficult and then almost impossible.”
Larry lauds the Vehicle Retrofit Program for making his van more affordable. It has meant, he says, continued mobility and involvement in community life.
He says Ability New Brunswick made accessing the program both quick and hassle-free – “something I appreciate as a former civil servant.”