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Grand Forks residents help raise scooter funds

Shara JJ Cooper
By Shara JJ Cooper
May 10th, 2013

Grand Forks residents are showing their community spirit by banding together to help a fellow resident get mobile.

Karen Head was diagnosed with emphysema in 2004 – a condition that has left her with limited mobility. In order to get more active, she’d need a mobility scooter so she can improve her quality of life.

Her friend and neighbour, Melissa Shaw, decided to step up and help out when she heard about Head’s challenges. She put a message on a local Facebook group  —  the Grand Forks, BC and Area Buy and Sell — asking for help raising funds for a scooter. The response was impressive with people immediately coming forward to help out.

“It was overwhelming. It still is,” said Head. “I was totally surprised by the response. People were saying they would donate this or donate that. Half of them don’t even know me.”

At first the group started fundraising by putting out collection jars at local businesses and offering a percentage of their sales from the Buy and Sell. This weekend they have upped their game and are hosting a hot dog sale in front of Overwaite on May 10 and 11 starting at 11 a.m.

The hot dog sale was originally organized by Cheryl Anderson who only knows about Head’s condition through the Facebook group.

“The kind hearts of the people of Grand Forks made it grow to what it is now,” she said of their efforts. “We just need to reach the rest of the town who don’t know about our efforts to help Karen, and I’m sure they’d be happy to help too.”

Before the hot dog sale they had about $400 raised but need to multiple that amount. Scooters range in price from $1,500 to $4,000 and because Head is underweight and wants to use hers outdoors she needs a stable scooter with four wheels.

“I have two dogs,” said Head. “I’d love to get out with them. I’m not far from downtown. I go downtown almost every day just to get out. I have to use a vehicle every day. It’s such a shame to get in a vehicle on a day like today.”

She added that the scooter would also allow her to be more social when she’s out and it’s easier on the environment.

Head’s condition was caused by something called an Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. This is a type of protein that heals lungs, which she doesn’t produce. The condition was aggravated by her smoking.

“It was a double whammy,” she said. “I had nothing to heal my lungs. Smoking didn’t help. The key thing is don’t smoke regardless. We don’t know our bodies until it’s too late.”

She was diagnosed almost a decade ago, but the condition has gotten worse over time.

“At first it wasn’t too bad,” said Head. “But I began to decline and decline.”

Now she constantly needs oxygen and says she isn’t able to do half of what she did in the past.

“I can’t do any of the stuff I enjoy,” she said. “I used to play tennis and ride my bike. My quality of life is not where I want it to be.”

Head is on the maximum treatment for her condition but her circumstances are not expected to improve.

“The next step is a lung transplant,” she said. “It’s my decision. It’s the only way my quality of life will improve but it’s such a scary thing. There is no guarantee you’ll get off the (operating) table.”

If she has the surgery, she might be able to be more active but only live another five or 10 years or she could live another 15 or 20 years in her current condition.

“I’m not ready to do it yet,” she said. “I think I might coast for a while longer.”

Without a scooter she will continue to be limited in how she is able to move around the community. 

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