After slowly losing the use of her legs and left arm to multiple sclerosis, 50-year-old Bonnie Gorski was faced with the reality that she would likely have to move away from her family and into a longterm care facility.
She first started noticing something was wrong after her first son was born in 1996, but the symptoms only flared for a short time before disappearing again. The pattern continued of the symptoms flaring up and then dying down, but eventually they came to stay. Then they got worse. Bonnie started limping badly and became tired easily.
“I couldn’t deny them anymore. I couldn’t hide them anymore. Then in 2005 I went to the doctor and said I’m pretty sure I have (multiple sclerosis). They gave me an MRI within a couple of days and I had a diagnosis right away because it was pretty evident,” said Bonnie.
Her husband Stuart installed railing-like bars around their Regina home so she could still move around, but a year ago even that became too much.
“It finally got to the point where Stuart just ended up carrying me everywhere — to the bathroom to bed and everything — because I just couldn’t,” she said.
Their home was not wheelchair-friendly either, with stairs going up to the main level or down to the basement from a small porch, a sunken living room and tight hallways. Because of this, Bonnie said she would often sit in one spot for most of the day while her husband was at work, until he came home and could move her again. For two years, she did not see the basement because it was difficult for Stuart to carry her up and down the stairs.
“I was just kind of sliding down so quickly. It was like, OK either we go in debt and try to renovate this house, try to find another house that might be accessible … (or) maybe I should move. Would it be cheaper for me to move into a home care facility place?” said Bonnie.
It was at that point she began hearing about Build Love, a non-profit organization that takes on an annual home renovation project to help out a family struggling with accessibility challenges.
At first Bonnie refused to apply for the project, convinced there was someone else who needed it more. Her sister-in-law didn’t believe that, and nominated Bonnie to be this year’s recipient.
Bonnie was shocked and overjoyed when she heard she had been chosen, but neither she nor her husband were expecting the renovations to be so extensive.
“We just thought, OK they’re going to make this all one level and open a few hallways, make the bathroom accessible,” said Stuart.
But the three and a half months of renovations went far beyond that. Build Love tore out walls to create a more open concept home that was easy for Bonnie to navigate in a power chair, put in an elevator so she could access all levels in her home — including her front door — and extended the porch to make a direct entrance to the garage.
With the upgrades, Bonnie can move around the house more on her own and is thrilled that some of the stress can be lifted from Stuart, while still allowing her to stay in the home she knows and loves.
“I’m looking forward to being husband and wife instead of caregiver (and) patient. Because really, that’s what we are, you know, caregiver (and) patient. You fall into that gradually and then all of a sudden bang, you realize that’s where I am, and it’s not good for anybody,” said Bonnie.
Source: Regina Leader-Post