Hearts and Ham­mers re­stores mo­bil­ity

Not-for-profit Cal­gary or­ga­ni­za­tion comes to aid of over­whelmed fam­ily

Calgary Herald - - YOU - AN­DREA COX

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.

AN­DREA COX/ FOR THE CAL­GARY HER­ALD

Hearts and Ham­mers, a lo­cal char­ity, made the shower ac­ces­si­ble at Ra­mon and Noemi Ramirez’s home to make it eas­ier to live in.

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