Donated Vehicle Aids in Physical Therapy

February 23, 1998

A rehabilitated Hundai Elantra has found a second life in Strong Memorial Hospital’s Physical Therapy gym where it will be used to teach patients with disabilities how to climb in and out of their own vehicles.

“For patients to be able to transfer themselves from their wheelchairs to their cars and back again is critical to their independence,” said Linda Riek, senior physical therapist. “Before we had this indoor facility, we used to take patients to the parking lot or ramp garage to teach them this skill. Sometimes this became complicated since our weather is often unpredictable and patients had to arrange to have their cars brought to the Hospital.” Now, as many as five patients per week recovering from strokes, spinal cord injuries, trauma and amputations, or those suffering from neuromuscular disorders will master this skill in indoor comfort.

The vehicle, donated by State Farm Insurance, was hoisted in several pieces into the fifth floor inpatient physical therapy unit late last year. “We faced the challenge of how to get a 3500 lb. car up five floors and through several corridors and hallways,” said Louis Wiesner, area manager of Strong’s Facilities and Services Department. “Our automechanics decided to strip the car, remove the engine, drive train, glass and doors and cut off the roof.” LeChase Construction, already on the campus for another construction project, offered one of its cranes to lift the pieces to a doorway on the fifth floor, and Gottry Corporation rigged the pieces with dollies and straps so they could be moved into place once inside.

It required 10 Facilities staff members to move the pieces into place and another month to reassemble, clean and paint the car. The Hospital’s volunteer group, the Friends of Strong, donated up to $5,000 to cover the cost of dismantling and reassembling the car, although through careful planning the task was accomplished for about $2,500. “The Facilities staff was happy to help,” Wiesner said. “It was a successful team effort.”

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