Their lives go on

Published: March 30, 2004
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When 40-year-old Mindy Idaspe learned she would never walk again due to a spinal cord injury in 2002, she was heartbroken. A nurse and mother, she had always focused on caring for others – how could she learn to be dependent on other people?

The answer came through the Spinal Cord Group of Collier County, a support group Idaspe formed with two other disabled friends. What they found is that together, they can not only live normal lives, but find new ways to enjoy the things they thought they left behind.

On Mar. 20, the group held a Bowlathon at Strikes & Spares to raise money for the organization. Besides bowling, attendees also had the opportunity to meet former New York Yankees pitcher Bob Turley, who autographed photos.

Group members interested in bowling have been practicing every Tuesday at Strikes & Spares for the past several months, thanks to some specially designed equipment that attaches to the bowler’s wheelchair.

Invented by Claude Giguere, the IKAN Bowler got a trial run during the Bowlathon. The device is barrier-free and attaches to the front of the wheelchair, allowing the user to control the speed direction, position and timing of the release of the bowling ball.

The system doesn’t require any arm movement so even high-level quadriplegics can operate it. The apparatus can be used dynamically, where the bowler uses his or her chair to create momentum, or as a stationary device.

When used dynamically, the bowler positions the chair six to 12 feet behind the foul line then moves forward at a speed no greater than four miles per hour, releasing the ball before reaching the foul line. As a stationary device, the unit’s design maximizes ball control and speed even though the chair is not moving. The system is now being manufactured and can be purchased through the MGT Corporation located in Brandon.

Idaspe says the Bowlathon is just one of many fun outings the group has planned. She says after her accident, it became clear that there was no group or services in Collier County to meet the needs of younger disabled people.

“There are a lot of us out there in the community that are not geriatric, so we don’t fit in that group,” she explains. “We’re not working, we’re disabled and we have families, but we are not dead yet and we need to be able get out and appreciate life.”

In addition to physical recreation, the group also offers socialization opportunities. Arts and crafts classes are held from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., every Thursday, in the Pebble Brook Lakes community room. They are currently making tote bags as a fundraiser.

“It is very therapeutic for our members and gives them an opportunity to rediscover they’re sense of self by being creative,” Idaspe says. “It is very easy to lose focus when you’re debilitated.”

General membership meetings are held at 5 p.m., the first Thursday of each month, at the Telford Educational building at Naples Community Hospital. Special speakers discuss issues of importance to those with spinal injuries.

On Apr. 1, Collier County Emergency Management representatives will discuss what actions special needs persons should take during disasters. Shelter locations, evacuation preparation and options will be discussed.

The group is presently working with companies to provide quality wheel chairs for those in need. Because the club has no case manager, they are working with sponsors to provide information on how to obtain wheelchairs to purchase or to rent.

Just recently, the group has been able to assist members in going online by providing computers to access each other through the Internet.

“This way they are just a click away and they never have to feel isolated,” says Idaspe.

For more information on the Spinal Cord Group of Collier County, Inc. call Idaspe at 825-9999.