by W. D. Sultemeier – The Wheelchair Prepper
When MD asked for readers’ help I responded with a suggestion for an article about and for the prepper who finds himself in a handicapped situation. I really meant the suggestion for MD to take the ball and run with it but he turned the table and challenged me to prepare a guest post.
I was diagnosed with a syrinx on my thoracic spinal cord in 1996. I was a teacher/coach at the time at a local public school and due to a stroke suffered by my dad in ’93, I was also operating the family cow/calf business. I was while having earned a pair of college degrees, someone who preferred a physical, outdoor lifestyle.
The prospect of spinal surgery was frightening, to say the least but the option was limited. The cyst was removed but the damage to the spinal cord was already done due to its lack of elasticity. Thus began a slow debilitation.
Let me say I seek no sympathy and have looked at this episode as a challenge. Pain management is the biggest part of my altered life. A gradual change in my mobility required an “adjustment” to my lifestyle. I went from a limp to a cane, to crutches and walker, to finally a wheelchair.
I had time to make some preparations for the changes that were coming. Those who find themselves faced with an abrupt physical change have a daunting but do-able task before them.
Making the structural changes necessary will challenge many depending on the individual’s situation. I was able to make my surroundings more easily manageable due to the length of time involved. Construction of ramps(not ADA approved), installation of handicap bars in the shower and at the toilet, making room to access the bed and closet space, were all things I was able to deal with.
Early on I was able to build and improve pathways around my house, shop, and barns, using hard-packed granite gravel from sources from the ranch. I was fortunate to have access to equipment and even unto this day have some ability to operate that machinery. I have to remind myself daily what can be done or should not be attempted, with safety being paramount.
I never leave the house without my cell phone. I sometimes feel a slave to that concession to my wife. I am very lucky that I have access to a battery-powered scooter and a power chair. These are used at the house and around the place. I do not take off out into the pastures with the scooter ( even though I would love to ) but do use it in the yard and to the shop and barns.
When we go somewhere, i.e. church, doctor, store, etc., I use a handed down traditional wheelchair for ease of handling into and out of the vehicles.
Like any of you, my wife and I stockpile canned and dry foods, store potable water, maintain first aid supplies, add to the ammunition stores, and do many of the things we have learned from MD’s blog. The point of this missive is to make one see that preparing can be done regardless of one’s physical abilities. Contributions can be made by pretty much anyone.
I come from a very tall family. I stand 6’5”, the wife is 5’10”, son is 6’8” and my daughter and her husband are both over 6’. Our house was built with that in mind 20 years ago with cabinets and pantry shelves reflecting our stature.
Today I need a “grabber” to reach some of the items and a careful balance to get others. We raised the kitchen table (hand-made by my grandfather) to allow me access in my power chair. Since my wife still works off-farm, I do the meal preps and try to keep the house (not very good at that). Because I can get to the table to help cut up meat, process fruit and vegetables, we have been able to keep our freezers full.
Gardening has been a tough one for me. I grew up with a seasonal garden at least a half acre in size. I would still love to get out into the middle of one but riding a scooter into a plowed garden would not be too simple. This year I had my son plow strips with space for packed ground to drive between rows. I have been keeping my hands dirty by container gardening.
Because I cannot get out among the cattle easily or safely to feed them, I began feeding them using 250# tubs of molasses lick. When empty, with perforated bottoms, these tubs make great container beds and are a good, easily accessible height.
I have gone from a short hoe to tractor and tiller, back to a short hoe for my gardening tool of choice. This past spring-summer I grew okra, beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers. I still have various herbs and shallots growing in these tubs.
After reading ONE SECOND AFTER, my wife became more supportive of the idea and efforts of being prepared for different situations (she recently broke her right arm). My adult children are like-minded and contribute as they can, be it with the butchering, vegetables, or keeping a good supply of firewood up to the house. Of course, they help with the regular ranch work as much as they can since they have been exposed to this life from the time they were little and not afraid to get a bit dirty.
We put together a rig for me to haul firewood to the house by pulling it with my scooter. I have moved my target range closer to the house so I can practice shooting. My kids are both shooters and better shots than I.
These days the practice is mostly with 22’s but the occasional feral hog still meets the business end of my .357 magnum. I am still proficient with my other pistols, rifles, and shotguns.
I don’t really foresee myself clearing the house at night with my wheelchair and Glock 21 but it would not be wise to enter our house uninvited. I have not thought too much about renewing my CCW permit, but I am determined to do so.
For those who think there is little hope or usefulness left to them due to a handicap…they are wrong. I have and continue to acquire source material on many topics covered in this blog. When TSHTF providing information will be a major contribution to keep you and yours safe and prepared.
Being a keeper of knowledge (sharer of knowledge) is and always has been a revered place in society. One can still work in one’s shop, doing projects, limited only by one’s imagination. After making room to navigate around the workbench and various tools, I recently began working on a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine using the heavy lids from the same feed tubs as the wings.
Getting power to make our lives easier when TSHTF is now a bigger concern. I will need something to charge my mobility batteries when the grid goes down. Solar panels and a bank of batteries are on the “someday” list. Money is always a factor for most of us.
The concept of bugging out is a bit more difficult in a wheelchair situation. I still have bags for my wife and myself in case we have to get out in a hurry. Preparations have been made setting up a site away from the house if the need arises.
The thing that disturbs me is being able to get back home if something catastrophic occurs while away. I keep emergency bags and firearms in each vehicle that sees time away from home. My fear is making a 30 to 60 mile trip in a wheelchair. I cannot jog but do try to keep the upper body fit.
There are assuredly many things I have omitted and others’ situations will be different, but one must remember that just because one is in a wheelchair or is in some way handicapped, one must still do what he can to prepare and help himself and his loved ones survive.
If you have tips, advice or survive with a disability I would love to hear from you in the comments below…