A CONVERTED vehicle that provides wheelchair access has made life a lot easier for a Baldivis family with three children affected by muscular dystrophy.
The Topham family is one of two families in Australia with three children affected by MD and the only ones in WA.
The family received the modified Kia Carnival recently after community groups rallied together to raise funds for the $85,000 project.
“Jaimie (13) needs an electric wheelchair, Hayley (11) is in a manual wheelchair and Scott (9) who is still walking, can now access the new car so much easier,” Colin Topham said.
Their previous car was not big enough to transport Jaimie’s 160kg electric chair, as it needed a ramp or large hoist.
“We also had to lift Jaimie out of her wheelchair and into the seat and then load a manual wheelchair into the back,” he said. “But now we can just open the back and Hayley and Scott can get in, then Jaimie follows in her electric wheelchair.”
Narelle Topham said the car was modified by Freedom Motors in Sydney, where it was custom-made with the back cut out and a ramp installed.
“We can now access the community so much easier and Jaimie can be more mobile in her electric chair,” she said.
“Another benefit is that we don’t have to lift the children in and out of the car anymore. We had to do so much lifting, with the old car.
“When I go to the shops I can’t push two manual wheelchairs, so I could never go out with both girls.”
The Tophams thanked the Baldivis Lions Club, Mandurah Mayday, the Stan Peron Foundation, Rocky Bay, Independent Living Centre, Variety WA Children’s Charity and the Wearne Charitable Trust for their support.
“We want to thank these wonderful people who gave us the ability to move as a family, it’s pretty special,” Mrs Topham said. “There was lots of hard work from many volunteers and it was just an amazing combined effort.
“It was a massive project from all the parties to get the Tophams mobile.
“They have all made such a huge difference to all our lives.”
Mrs Topham said it had been so hard taking all three children to their hospital appointments, to school, or just organising a family outing before they got their new car.
It used to take an hour just to get the children in and out, and to and from school each day, a trip that should take 15 to 20 minutes.
Previously, Jaimie had to use a manual wheelchair at home during the week because she needed her electric wheelchair at school, which was taken to and from the school in a taxi on Mondays and Fridays.
“It is hard for Jaimie to use the manual wheelchair as she can’t propel herself any more,” she said.
“It’s very hard seeing her frustration at not being able to move or have any form of mobility.”
Hayley and Scott are more mobile. Hayley can use a manual wheelchair while Scott can still walk for short distances.
Jaimie now has much more freedom and independence.