For Local Man Freedom is Found Behind the Wheel of Accessible ATV
On a typical weekend Jeremy Hannaford fills his days riding his off road vehicle and playing rugby. He drives a low rider truck with flashy rims; he?s not much different than any other 25-year old, except that when he is done playing he throws himself back into his wheelchair. Jeremy is a quadriplegic.
A little more than 5 years ago Hannaford was riding at a dirt bike practice and got bucked off his bike going over a jump when another rider hit him with his bike. While most might consider losing the use of their legs a life altering event, to Hannaford it was merely another obstacle to jump over. ?I did a lawn dart header into the ground and broke my neck (at the C-6 vertebrae) and my back (at the L-7 vertebrae). It?s a bum deal but it hasn?t slowed me down yet,? said Hannaford, a life long resident of Port Orchard.
Assisting Hannaford in keeping his pace is Kersey Mobility in Sumner, specializing in accessible vehicle modifications for people with disabilities. Kersey Mobility installed the hand controls in Hannaford?s 2009 Polaris Razor All Terrain Vehicle (ATV). ?I love doing these unique installations,? said Mike Kersey, President. ?We install hand controls in new and used wheelchair vans and automobiles everyday, but these unique installations I love getting involved in. We?ve installed hand controls on tractors, hotrods and custom made motorcycles.?
Hand controls are a manual system that pushes on the pedals when the driver pushes or pulls on the handle. Kersey Mobility also sells handicap conversion vans for disabled individuals for wheelchairs and power scooters. They also installed hand controls on Hannaford?s pride and joy, a 2005 Chevy Silverado on ?low-rider? airbags and 22 inch rims. ?It turns a lot of heads, especially when I pull my wheelchair out and hop in,? added Hannaford. In his motor bike days Hannaford only raced competitively on rare occasions. ?Mostly I liked going out free riding, hitting really big jumps, dune riding?and ripping up trails,? he said.
Today he is going to be doing the same in his Polaris, but now it has a therapeutic purpose as well. ?Jeremy was a great dirt biker,? said Bill Meigs Hannaford?s father. ?The razor now allows him to be back out enjoying the thing he loved to do most. There is no more looks of hurt when every body else is riding. He is back riding and that is just one more boost to his well being.? ?Riding has been in my blood since I was about five,? Hannaford adds. ?All my friends ride motocross and I got tired of watching.?
Since Kersey Mobility installed the driving aids in late April Hannaford has been back on the trails in a big way. ?I am doing all kinds of things, riding with all my friends on tracks and trails. Hunting and fishing, I can get to my secret spots and anything else I can find a reason to ride, ?Hannaford explains triumphantly. ?The best part is, I?m not watching, he adds. ?I can get out and tear things up and enjoy the outdoors even more. His very first ride though had an even more emotional impact. ?I felt awesome! When I rode it for the first time it was amazing,? Hannaford explains. ?I haven?t felt that free since being injured 5 years ago. Once I found a good jump, everything felt perfect.?
Another big part of Hannaford?s life now is being a team captain on the Seattle Slam. The Slam, who recently won the 2009 Vancouver Invitational, are a quad rugby team. The game is featured in the Academy-award nominated movie, ?Murderball,? and is also seen occasionally on the NBC hit series, ?Friday Night Lights.?
Four players from each team face off on a basketball court. Using specially-made self-propelled chairs, the players must dribble or pass the volleyball at least every ten seconds and have only forty seconds to score by crossing the goal line with at least two wheels while in possession of the ball. Players ?slam? into each other and are often tipped over, vaulted into the air a little and generally cross the court in a blur to spectators.
For Hannaford, now in his 5th season, the high paced sport has not only been fun, but has helped him maintain good health. ?It?s helped me lose the extra weight I put on from sitting around the first year of being injured, I?ve built a lot of upper body strength from playing too,? Hannaford explains. ?It also got me around guys that helped me get a lot more independent and be ok with living life in a wheelchair.?
While being a stay at home patient wasn?t something Hannaford was willing to accept there has been changes in his life he had to learn to face. ?I was a very independent person before my injury. Now being in a chair, and being a quad, it?s just a fact of life that you need help sometimes,? Hannaford explains. ?It was a huge head thing for me to be ok with. I try to be independent as possible now but sometimes that box is just a little too high to grab.? His dad has noticed it too. ?Wheel chair rugby gave him his confidence back and made him stronger physically,? Meigs added. Meigs also believes that Kersey Mobility was a big part of Hannaford being able to live the life he wants.
?They were very interested in what Jeremy was trying to do and I believe they made it possible for Jeremy,? Meigs said. Hannaford still remembers his first time behind the wheel after his accident. ?I felt freedom. I could go anywhere I wanted and nothing would slow me down, except stop lights,? Hannaford says with a smile. ?It got me out of the house and let me live a little.? ?When he was first injured I really didn't know what to think,? Meigs adds. ?Here was this young stud who was forever changed. If he didn't have his gung-ho attitude things would be different for him, but fortunately that part of him never got lost and that's what drives him to keep reaching for new goals.?
For more information about wheelchair rugby and the Seattle Slam visit www.seattleslam.org. To learn more about Kersey Mobility and their wheelchair vans, new and used handicap accessible vehicles, and hand controls they offer customers in Tacoma, Yakima, Seattle, and Olympia, Washington, visit www.kerseymobility.com.