The home of veteran Bob Brown in Linden now sports a shiny wheelchair ramp, thanks to Linden Pay It Forward, weeks after a hunting incident resulted in a broken back.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, volunteers with the organization installed the ramp in about four hours.
“It’s a godsend,” he said.
On Sept. 21, Brown was installing a new 17-foot-tall tree stand in a patch of woods in Big Rapids. His strap broke and he fell to the ground.
“I consequently broke my back,” he said. “I could feel my legs but I couldn’t move. I told my son to call the ambulance.”
Emergency responders carried a gurney through the woods to find him. He was taken to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, which Brown praised. He was out of the hospital by Wednesday, Sept. 23.
“The l2 vertebrae exploded. They can’t figure out how I’m walking,” he said.
He now has two rods and nine screws in his back, plus a 16-inch scar and a back brace that he has to wear for six to eight more weeks. Brown is done with occupational therapy, but he’s still doing physical therapy.
“It’s been quite rough. My wife has to help me get dressed. She helps me shower,” he said.
Brown can’t bend over to grab things from the ground either.
“I’m quite restrained on what I can do and it’s driving me crazy,” he said. Using the walker exhausted him, and the wheelchair gives him the most mobility. Now, with the ramp, he can easily get in and of his house.
“The walker is not real conducive to getting across parking lots and I can’t walk very far,” he said.
His daughter, Diana Fournier, called Linden Pay It Forward to see if they could help.
“When this accident happened to her dad, we were on board 100 percent to find ways to make this ramp work for them. Can’t give enough thanks to those that jumped on the bandwagon. I love what Pay It Forward is doing in our community. It is definitely making a difference,” said Denise Marks, founder of Linden Pay It Forward.
They’ve helped Fournier in the past with a flat tire, meals and borrowing a carpet cleaner.
“Denise has a heart of gold and really cares about her Linden neighbors. Without her, Pay It Forward would not be around. The group has done so much to help people. They’ve really been a blessing to my family as well,” Fournier said.
Ed Steele from Veterans of Michigan found the ramp online and the previous owners donated it for free.
“They never would have been able to build one out of wood in four hours. Those guys were just fantastic. They’re just veterans taking care of veterans,” Brown said.
Brown enlisted in the Air Force in 1976 and retired in 2002 as a master sergeant.
“I couldn’t be happier and I’m very proud they stepped up and helped me,” he said.
Brown started hunting when he was 13 and has gone “many years” without getting a deer, but being out in the woods is more important to him. He usually goes out with his sons and grandsons, and he’s been hunting with his best friend, who also retired from the Air Force, since 1981.
“They’re gonna’ have to figure out how to do it without grandpa this year, but I’m sure they’ll prevail,” he said.
Doctors expect Brown to be fully healed by spring 2020. He hopes to help install the ramp at another house of a veteran who needs it after him.