Bill Russell: The Possibilities Project Opened My World

man smiling in manual wheelchair

Bill Russell is a resident of St. Thomas, Ontario who is surrounded by his loving wife Sharon, children and grandkids. He has worked for TD Canada Trust for over 18 years as a mortgage and credit specialist. While battling cancer, in 2022 a new mass was discovered pushing against Bill’s spine at the T9 and T10 level, which has since impeded his ability to walk, but through a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, he went into remission again in August of 2022. Today, Bill uses a wheelchair for mobility and has an in-depth understanding of the important role that assistive devices play when it comes to adjusting to life with a disability.  It was overwhelming initially to acquire the equipment required just to come home.  Hospital Bed, Mechanical Lift, wheelchair, commode, shower bench, front door ramp, etc.

Just one year after being released from Parkwood Hospital, Bill continues his rehab journey at Parkwood.  He has made steady progress and is even able to stand on his own with the help of a bar. “I’ve been progressing fairly well,” he shares. Still, the journey is a challenging one that comes with brand new obstacles Bill must navigate. “We had rented a power chair when I first was discharged from Hospital and then I was able to get one through ADP (Assistive Devices Program) which covered 75% of it.  The other challenge was that ADP permits one chair only.   I am extremely grateful that VON Transportation will transport me to all appointments however ONLY medical appointments & the monthly fees for this service were adding up.  Because my power chair cannot fit into our car & VON provides transportation for medical appointments only, I was unable to leave my home to enjoy any other activities such as shopping, visiting friends or family or to even go to see a movie.”  Bill shares that he lives on the edge of St Thomas ON in a county called Central Elgin which does not have a paratransit program in place. Getting out of the house socially or if VON was not available meant costly cab rides IF a cab was even available.  There is one wheelchair accessible taxi cab in St Thomas.

“We were looking for a manual chair to be able to put in the car and just go. We searched for months and things were coming up on Marketplace, but nothing that was suitable to my size. We had been in communication with Julie Watson and Hannah Bear from SCIO who both knew the situation and soon afterwards, Hannah called me and said they might have a chair for me.”

“When Bill expressed to me the structural barriers in place that were affecting his ability to live independently, obtaining a manual wheelchair was a tangible way we could help with some of those barriers. I began my search by contacting RSCs in other regions and started calling and driving to different service clubs or used equipment vendors that did donations searching for his size. I kept coming up empty trying to find the size that would work,” says Hannah Bear, Regional Services Coordinator at SCIO. “After what felt like centuries of searching, I was beginning to lose hope that I could help Bill. I reached out to Chris Fraser at the Possibilities Project, and we found a solution.”

Bill shares that through networking, Hannah found a demo chair had become available for a better price that the Possibilities Project and SCIO were able to help cover. It was the perfect size for Bill and improved his life tremendously. “We had known about the Possibilities Project prior because when we were coming home from the hospital, my wife was frantic trying to find a company who could build a ramp in time.  Every trades person was fully booked for months but with persistence, She found a supplier willing to install an aluminum ramp.  The Possibilities Project made it possible by helping us cover 50% of this cost, which we are extremely grateful for!”

Today, Bill is able to go out and enjoy activities he hasn’t done in a long time. “I go to the mall with my grandkids and we go to the movies together now.  It’s wonderful participating in family activities again,” he says. Bill is also now able to attend his grandchildren’s sports events, which are sure to be special memories for years to come.

Just recently. Bill was able to visit Ridgetown to see his mother-in-law for the first time in years. “Those moments are special,” says Bill, “When you’ve been separated from someone for so long and are able to see them again, it’s special. On the way back, we had ice cream at a roadside ice cream shop and it felt so normal and simple, yet meaningful. The wheelchair really opened my world. And not just mine, my wife’s as well. She’s my world. I would not be able to do these things without her, she’s my rock. I’m so thankful for her being around to help me and to love me.”

Bill raves about the Possibilities Project Plus and encourages the community to visit the platform today and consider donating equipment for someone in need. “Before the Possibilities Project Plus, there was no central place to go look at used equipment. People would just flounder around looking for what they needed, but it was such a frustration. Having a central place to go is incredible. Any hospital or organization can start funnelling people into the platform,” says Bill.

Visit the Possibilities Project Plus today and start browsing equipment or donate items you no longer need. Be sure to share the platform with your networks.

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