The day I got to help Martin

On a beautiful day last fall I was fortunate enough to be part of a hike up Mt. Willard in Crawford Notch, NH. This was not a normal hike. From the trail head to the top was only about 1 1/2 miles with an elevation gain of about 800 feet. What made it such an incredible hike is being part of a team that took Martin to the top.

Martin used to be an avid outdoorsman doing everything from hiking, to fishing and hunting. Martin was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2002 and now is confined to a wheelchair with no use of his muscles with the exception of his eyes and a great smile. He can’t speak, eat or breath on his own. Fortunately he has an incredible support system of family and friends to help him. I was grateful to be part of that support system that day in helping him realize a goal of his, to do a climb in the White Mountains through Bretton Woods Adaptive (BWA).

It will be difficult to express how the day went in words. It is an experience that would be so much richer if you could be there. I was able to get a few photos which will help paint the picture.

We met at the trailhead right next to train depot by AMC’s Crawford House. We got there around 9:30 AM. Martin and his family arrived at about 10AM and after almost 2 hours of preparation we started up the trail.

While watching Martin get prepped for this excursion, I found myself trying to imagine what life for his family must be like on a daily basis if we needed 2 hours to prepare for a 3 mile hike. We needed to transfer Martin from his full time wheelchair to a rig that would help us help him get up the mountain. Besides the ventilator, spare batteries for the ventilator, oxygen tank, suction gear (Martin can’t swallow so periodically the nurse would suction out his mouth) and medications, the family also brought a small lift that assisted in transferring him from one chair to the other.

We used a specially designed “wheelchair” that looked more like a wheelbarrow. It was actually a metal device with four handles that allowed Martin to lay in a relaxed sitting position in which we could secure his mostly limp body for the climb up the mountain.

There were six of us that rotated through four positions on the chair – one on each side for stability plus one of the front and back. It was a definite challenge carrying Martin’s limp body plus the wheelchair up the mountain but the expression you could see in Martin’s eyes and smile were worth the effort and then some.

I’m not going to try and describe the experience because I don’t think words can do it justice. I’ve included a slideshow at the beginning of this post with photos from the day. Please help to support more efforts like these by donating to Bretton Woods Adaptive.

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