The ability to stand allows us to accomplish small tasks, such as reaching an item on a shelf and even participate in more significant moments, like looking into a loved one’s eyes. For Denair business owner Jimmy Oliver, being able to stand once more is a dream he hopes to accomplish through the purchase of a standing wheelchair.
In the summer of 2009, Oliver was enjoying a week on a house boat at Don Pedro Reservoir. Seeking a thrill, he decided to dive off the boat’s second story into the cool water below. Although the group had checked the surrounding depths of the lake to ensure they could dive worry-free, Oliver dove into a spot of water that was only about six feet deep, breaking his neck.
“I immediately became paralyzed from the neck down,” said Oliver.
Miraculously, Oliver floated to the top of the lake and several of his friends, who were trained firemen, were able to pull him from the water. The damage was done, however, as the father of two was now a quadriplegic.
“At the time of my accident, my boys were still pretty young, so I’ve definitely not wanted to give up for them but I also want to regain the life I used to have back,” said Oliver.
In the seven and a half years since his accident, Oliver has made extraordinary progress. Originally unable to move from the neck down, he could not sit up on his own or feed himself. Thanks to physical therapy, Oliver can now eat and sit up on his own, and is even able to surf the web on his laptop. He is also working to regain his balance and coordination through water therapy, where he has been able to move his legs in the water.
“Small improvements throughout the last seven years are what really have helped keep me going, because if there were no improvements it would be hard,” said Oliver.
In addition to making major strides in his rehabilitation, Oliver was able to get back to work just one year after his injury. As a result of the accident, Oliver initially made the decision to shut down his business, Certified Auto and Marine Shop, as he was unsure what the future held for him. After 11 months, he decided to re-open its doors.
“I was just sitting at home going nuts with all of my extra time,” said Oliver. “I had come to the point where I needed to decide whether to open it back up or let it go, and I couldn’t see letting nine years of hard work go to waste.”
There have been difficulties in this new phase of business, said Oliver, such as adjusting from working on boats and cars in the shop everyday to taking care of the books, answering phones and making sure his employees have everything they need to work efficiently. He also has difficulty peering into the engines his shop is responsible for repairing from the confines of his wheelchair, so his employees have to show him pictures on their phones of what exactly is wrong with each vehicle.
“I used to make it work with an able body, but now I’m more of the mind behind it rather than the actual body behind it,” said Oliver. “It’s like a totally new experience; I’m having to learn all over again.”
Though his progress with physical therapy and return to work are monumental steps in achieving normalcy in his life once again, Oliver was introduced to an idea last year that he is hoping can contribute to both his life and business in a positive way – a standing wheelchair.
A standing wheelchair has assistive technology, similar to a standing frame, which allows a wheelchair user to raise the chair from a seated to a standing position. With the help of a standing wheelchair, Oliver would be able to once again complete seemingly simple tasks like opening cabinets or washing his hands in the sink on his own. At work, it would enable him to see into engine compartments of the vehicles his business works on, as well as communicate more effectively with employees and customers.
“The ability to stand is so huge for everything in life,” said Oliver. “A standing wheelchair would be an amazing tool for being able to be liberated and get some of my independence back.”
Oliver hopes to see the world from the standing point of view he had prior to his accident.
“I would be able to stand up and talk to somebody eye to eye and feel more confident,” he said. “It would be nice to see people from where I used to be able to.”
While the chair would greatly impact Oliver’s independence, being able to stand would also solve other problems he deals with, like bed sores and would benefit his body by increasing blood flow and increasing his overall life expectancy.
The price of a standing wheelchair is hefty, which is why Oliver and his family are asking for the public’s help. A GoFundMe page has been started to help raise funds for his new chair, which is estimated to cost around $12,500. So far, community members have raised over $2,500 towards the goal. To be able to stand again would be priceless, said Oliver.
“I don’t even know that words can explain how it would feel,” he said. “It would be huge.”To contribute to Oliver’s wish of standing once more, visit https://www.gofundme.com/standup-chair-for-jimmy.