Ramp offers accessibility

HIBBING — A ramp for someone in a wheelchair can be a lifeline to the world.

For Dylan Nobs, 30, of Hibbing, having a wheelchair ramp enabled him to go beyond the boundaries of his home.

“We were landlocked,” said Denise Nobs, Dylan’s mother and caretaker. “He was basically stuck out here on the deck or in the house for six weeks. We were just chomping at the bit to go places.”

The Nobs family, who are new to the area from Texas, wanted to explore the community. But without a ramp Dylan didn’t have easy access to the outside world.

The only way to get Dylan out of the house was to use the lift from their van, which was difficult. They would back it toward the door and three people were needed to help get Dylan into the van.

“We basically took him out once a week because we got stir crazy staying at home,” said Denise. “So it (the ramp) meant a lot. It meant we were mobile and could get around.”

While looking for a house in the area, Denise and her husband, Louis, had a difficult time finding one that was large enough on the main level for a wheelchair. They finally found one that worked, but it didn’t have a ramp.

“We had these ideas that we could just build a ramp off the front,” said Denise. “When we moved here it was impossible to do it on our own.”

After hearing about the Ramp Project offered through the Center For Independent Living of Northeastern Minnesota (CILNM), Denise contacted them to have one built for Dylan.

The CILNM is a nonprofit organization serving people of all disabilities in northern Minnesota. The Ramp Project, according to the CILNM, provides ramps for people with disabilities on a sliding fee scale.

“It gives people with disabilities the ability to be a part of the community,” said Tracy Tyler of CILNM, who runs the program. “If they are stuck in their home they can’t participate in community activities. This helps them get out of their home.”

The CILNM partners with the Department of Corrections and Arrowhead Regional Corrections on the program. The partnership makes the cost of the ramps more affordable by having nonviolent offenders perform the labor. Approximately 70 ramps a year are built through the program in 10 counties of northeastern Minnesota.

“People who have handicapped situations don’t need to be further handicapped by being housebound,” said Denise. “Any way possible that you can help someone who is handicapped have a sense of freedom, a sense of normalcy, you have to go for it.”

Denise said there’s no reason for someone in a wheelchair to be landlocked or stuck in a house.

“It doesn’t help the individual that is landlocked and it doesn’t help his caretakers,” she said. “So they need to pursue things that help you have as normal of a life as possible.”

Dylan sustained a traumatic brain injury after being injured in a drunk driving accident four years ago. He was in a coma for almost a year after the accident. Six months into the injury his parents took him home.

“He was basically alive and awake, but he couldn’t do anything,” Denise explained. “He was what you would call nonresponsive.”

Dylan woke up nine months later and began responding. That was when he found out he was only able to move the right side of his body.

“So he is not exactly paralyzed because he didn’t have a spinal cord injury,” said Denise. “It was all in the Brain stem, so it is like your brain has to start giving new signals to your body to learn how to work again. So he can write, he can type and he can talk a little bit.”

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Web site, a traumatic brain injury, also referred to as acquired brain injury, happens when a sudden trauma causes damage to the brain. Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the extent of damage.

Prior to Dylan’s accident Denise and her husband operated a halfway house in Texas for men coming out of prison.

“After Dylan’s accident it kind of threw us into a tailspin and we hired more staff to help out with the program, but it became more challenging as each year went by because Dylan’s needs were so great,” said Denise.

She said they believed Dylan would do better at home than if he was placed in an institution, so taking care of him became their focus.

“It’s a 24/7 job because we have this handsome guy to take care of,” said Denise. “He loves to entertain us.”

Last year they made a decision to turn over the operation of the halfway house to someone else. Since that time, Denise said their lives are less stressful and not as hectic. She said they are able to enjoy their grandchildren and children.

Through CILNM, they have also been able to obtain home health care for Dylan. Having a qualified caretaker in their home enabled Denise and her husband to go out to dinner together recently, which is something they haven’t been able to do in a long time.

Having the ramp has made a big difference for the family. Denise said they were so excited when they wheeled Dylan down the ramp for the first time.

“Dylan loves to take walks. He loves to go walking,” she said. “People have to have another view of life that takes away from the bubble they tend to be stuck in. Since we have had the ramp we have been all over the place.”

She said they have been able to explore the community and enjoy summer. With Dylan’s children, Seven and Shade, visiting from out of state, she said having the ramp gave them all a way to enjoy activities together.

“It gives me a sense of enjoyment when Dylan can get out there and be out there with his kids…,” said Denise. “I enjoy seeing Dylan happy and not feeling so handicapped.

“It gives him something to look forward to every day.”

As a way to express their gratitude for the ramp, Denise made a cake, that featured a ramp made out of graham crackers and pretzels, for the building crew.

“I was so stuck for six weeks and because it is such a wonderful thing that they did,” said Denise, as to why she baked a cake for the crew. “It was so important to us to have that, so I just wanted to show them our appreciation for what they did.”

Dylan gave the crew a big thumbs up as he tried out the new ramp while his children held signs showing their appreciation.

Bob Brown, carpenter and crew leader for the program, who has been building ramps for 13 years, appreciated the thoughtful gesture.

“To me that is what it is all about — because it is so rewarding,” said Brown. “It is a very rewarding job.”

Brown said they are making a difference through the CILNM. In some cases, he said there’s not another alternative for people in wheelchairs.

“In Dylan’s case he was stuck inside the house,” said Brown. “He couldn’t say thank you but he sure showed us when he was being pushed down the ramp with his thumbs up. The crew really appreciated his signs of appreciation.”

Denise said their hope for the future is to get to know people in the area and make new friends, and to become involved in the community. For Dylan she wants him to be able to enjoy life to the fullest.

“I always like to keep good care workers around him so he continues to make progress in life,” said Denise. “One good thing with Dylan after his brain injury is he is pretty happy, he is pretty content. So we want to keep on continuing to offer opportunities so he can enjoy his life.”

To learn more about the Ramp Project contact the Center For Independent Living of Northeastern Minnesota (CILNM) at 262-6675 or visit online at www.accessnorth.net. There is currently a waiting list for ramps.

Melissa Cox
The Daily Tribune

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