Hearts and Hammers restores mobility
Not-for-profit Calgary organization comes to aid of overwhelmed family
Sometimes life can change in the blink of an eye, often in dramatic and unexpected ways. Just ask Ramon and Noemi Ramirez.
Five years ago they were coasting along enjoying their lives, when one morning Ramon awoke to an odd sensation — he was paralyzed on the left side of his body. After months of medical investigation, he received a jaw-dropping diagnosis: he had a rare progressive degenerative neurological disease that would eventually lead to his complete inability to talk or move.
“It’s been very hard,” says Noemi, who does the lion’s share of the caregiving.
She has had to physically lift Ramon in and out of his wheelchair and literally pull him with a rope-pulley system from room to room and up the stairs in the couple’s four-level split home in Calgary’s northeast, where they have lived for almost 20 years.
“But now everything has changed,” says Noemi, with tears in her eyes.
Thanks to Hearts and Hammers, a Calgary not-for-profit founded by local contractor and realtor David Bonk, the couple’s home has been completely retrofitted with mobility-enhancing design features including an outdoor wheelchair ramp to the front door, indoor ceiling lifts and stair ramps, a rejigged open-concept floor plan and a brand new bathroom with wheelin shower.
Hearts and Hammers’ mandate is to provide home renovations to mobility impaired homeowners at no charge.
“I just saw a tremendous need in the city. It is really important to keep families together and in their homes and communities,” says Bonk, adding that too often families are forced to separate in these kinds of situations and the family member with mobility challenges ends up in the social system.
And mobility challenges are much more common than one would think.
“About one in 10 Calgarians suffer from some kind of mobility challenge and that number is expected to rise with the aging population,” Bonk says.
Hearts and Hammers stepped up to help the Ramirez family when David heard of the challenges the family was facing through Ramon’s speech pathologist, who nominated the family for consideration.
Renovation costs topped out at around $70,000 and the project took close to six months to complete fuelled by volunteer manpower ( lots of local trades) and donations both monetary and in kind.
Hearts and Hammers, a local charity, made the shower accessible at Ramon and Noemi Ramirez’s home to make it easier to live in.