by Bob Huskey
It has been 60 years since I was injured with a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia. When I was released from the VA hospital I wanted to be able to get outdoors as much as possible. I went where I could in my push wheelchair. For years I tried numerous different ways to get about on the farm that my family owned. At one time I had a three wheel motorized cart which I could use but it would not go very well except on open ground. I also had a Ford Bronco which was able to get around well but I had to get out of my wheelchair and into the car to drive it. As time went by I became too weak to make the transfer into the Bronco and continued to look for a vehicle that could get me where I wanted to go while I remained in my wheelchair. I wanted to do this so badly with my father in the last few years he was alive. He always seemed to enjoy being outdoors as much as I did. What little time I was able to spend with him outdoors looking at all of nature was one of the best times I can remember.
I continued to look for an off-road vehicle that I could drive as well as have someone with me. I found a person who would modify a golf cart with a ramp and a set of hand controls. That worked fairly well because I could be independent and others could ride with me. However, the time soon came when I could no longer do it because I didn't have the strength to turn the steering wheel in tight places. The other distinct disadvantage was that it was two wheel drive and although I went many places where golf carts don't usually go, I would get stuck on occasion and I needed a tractor to pull me out, which meant somebody had to walk to get the tractor.
In February of this year, my wife was looking at the local newspaper when she noticed a fellow I know in a 4 wheel drive utility vehicle who is a quadriplegic. She immediately said this is what I needed. I agreed.
My brother was recently diagnosed with cancer and I wanted to be able to take him out doors as a therapeutic activity. I, along with my brother have a hundred plus acres and I now am able to go every where on the farm because James Gebert, whose father is a Veteran, converts four-wheel-drive vehicles (ATV} to accommodate a quadriplegic.
My unit is custom made for me. It has hand controls, a power ramp for boarding, power steering, power brakes, two emergency parking brakes, a winch, Q restraints, enough room to get in behind the adjustable steering wheel, and an EASY-loc on the floor. I now have a vehicle that will go anywhere on my farm with ease and safely. l can carry one other wheelchair, my brother, and two other passengers. It is the most carefully planned mobility device I have had for myself in the 60 years that I've been in a wheelchair. Now I can get out in the outdoors anytime and in any weather. I can now see deer, turkey, wildlife and acres of plants, flowers, and trees that I could not see before.
I think that this ATV is one of the most creative, custom made, outdoor vehicle for a person with my physical condition that I have seen since my injury 60 years ago. I have never encountered anyone working with vehicles or wheelchairs give this much attention to each tiny detail. James wanted his father and other Veterans to get outside in any kind of terrain. As James built my ATV, he was always tweaking each little part, each control in each part of the unit in such a way that I as a C-5 quad am able to safely access any place on my farm.
Because the original accessible ATV was designed by James Gebert for his father, he has paid more attention to the details of accessibility and safety needed by a person who is a quadriplegic then any other person I have known. It makes a huge difference. I am now able to enjoy all of my farm. I hope that others might be able to have this kind of vehicle available to them because of the pleasure that it has brought to me. I'm looking forward to enjoying this for the next few years that I am able to use it to be outdoors and go where I want to when I want to regardless of the terrain.