As the network of Help a Quad Out Supporters grows, I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you. As you may have read from the short About section, my name is Tan Nguyen. I’m a native of Panama City, FL, and I’m a first generation Vietnamese-American, one of eight children, and I’m smack-dab in the middle. I’m also the first boy in my family to be born in America. My parents escaped Vietnam in 1975, fleeing to America to make a better life for their family, and after a short stint on an American military base in Guam, my parents landed here, in Panama City, FL, where they raised my large and ever growing family.
I had a great childhood filled with a close knit family and living in a close knit community. Just after graduating high school in 1997, I moved to live with my aunt and uncle in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was on the trip back to Milwaukee after a visit home for the Christmas holiday that I was in a car accident; the jeep I was riding as a back passenger in slipped on black ice, rolling several times, and throwing me from the back of the vehicle. My neck was broken. I woke up just after New Years 1998 to the beginning of my adult life as a level C4-C5 quadriplegic. As a quad, I have impairment in all four of my extremities and require the use of a wheelchair for mobility.
It’s been sixteen years since my injury. Since then married my wife, Tamara, I graduated with my Associates of Arts in Fine Arts from Gulf Coast Community College, have held down a job as a tutor for students in the Disability Support Services program at Gulf Coast State College going on eight years now, and am a recent graduate of The Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Professional and Corporate Communication. GO NOLES!!
Now, I’m ready to start the next phase of my life as a professional. Over the years, and with more time in my injury, my needs have changed greatly since when I first had my accident. My current wheelchair doesn’t fit well in the wheelchair van my family bought after I was released from the hospital sixteen years ago. Being transported in the van isn’t safe or secure for me because my wheelchair doesn’t fit in the van’s modified restraints. My wheelchair also doesn’t fit on the wheelchair lift and its quite scary having a half ton van lean heavily to the side you’re on as the lift lifts you into the vehicle. As for the van itself, it has had more repair work done to its engine, transmission, and everything else in between than its has life left in it.
Over the years I’ve increasingly missed days at work because of the unreliability of van and its many stays at some mechanic’s shop. I’ve missed out on attending college events and student life. I’ve missed seeing my many nieces and nephews achievements as they’ve excelled in school, competed in sporting competitions, played in recitals, and celebrated Catechisms, Confirmations, and church pageants. As I move on to this new professional phase in my life, I can no longer abide the unreliability and lack of safety. I NEED to remain independent and a productive part of my community.
Mobility beyond the wheelchair is often financially out of reach for persons with a disability and their family as the burden of medical care mounts. Securing loans for the purchase of something as costly as a vehicle is often impossible as many rely heavily, if not solely, on government programs such as social security supplemental income as their primary source of income; a monthly stipend that is usually too little to pay one’s bills and certainly too little to secure any kind of loan. Along with the financial cost of the purchase of a new vehicle, there also comes the hefty financial burden of the cost of vehicle modification and adaptive equipment. Last year my wife and I worked tirelessly to secure grants that would help with the cost of conversion and modifications to a new wheelchair van, and on January 3, 2014, received the first good news of the year as Vocational Rehabilitation agreed to help with this cost.
Now I begin my journey to raising funds for the purchase of a new van, and bring awareness not only to my cause but to a cause that is shared by many persons and families dealing with a mobility disability. I hope you join my cause, supporting me in any way that you can, and that this inspires you to help other friendly neighborhood quads in your area with their own unique needs.
Stay tuned for my next post as I explain what are some of the requirements that are placed on the purchase of a vehicle for wheelchair accessible conversion and why. I look forward to taking this journey with you!