The woman lost control of the car as soon as she heard the loud bang. They began to skid and roll, losing themselves in a roller coaster ride that seemed like it would never end. All she could do was pray that her almost brand new family wouldn’t be hurt. When everything was over, the woman would realize that her prayers had worked.
She was always an active person, and she enjoyed spending time outdoors and staying in good shape. When she met Brad, it was as if they were meant to be. As a couple, they skied, camped, hiked wherever they could, and did every water sport available. It seemed like she was living in a fairy tale romance, but she would soon find out that things weren’t going to last.
Like most of us, Elizabeth had hope, dreams, and aspirations that she wanted to achieve. During the day, she worked as a bus driver, and she also worked as a reserve sheriff. She wanted to make it to the police academy one day. To prepare for that day, she stayed fit and trim, but sadly, that day would never come.
Brad and Elizabeth have been the perfect couple since 1997. They were obviously crazy in love with each other, and they were starting to combine their individual families into one big, happy family. Brad had three boys and Liz had two girls. The girls were a bit older than the boys, which made things a little easier. They were always having fun, well, that was until that one heartbreaking day.
Greg was a firefighter and a combat veteran who had fallen for Liz from the very first time he had laid his eyes on her. He even says that after knowing Liz for only a few weeks he fell madly in love with her. In his words, Liz was the most unselfish person he had ever met. But would their love last?
After dating Brad for two years, and three days after her 35th birthday, the entire family was involved in a horribly serious car accident. Even though the rest of the family walked away from the accident with nothing more than scratches and bruises, Liz wasn’t as fortunate. Liz’s back was broken in the accident, and once she became stabilized in the hospital she flew off to Las Vegas to speak to a specialist. What he would tell Liz changed her life forever.
Liz’s prognosis wasn’t what she wanted to hear. She wasn’t ever going to walk again, and according to the specialist, Liz should just say bye to her friends and family now. She may have been scared, but she refused to give up. And despite what the specialist told her, Liz continued to live and made it through the worst times. But they were in for a rocky road.
Liz worked to get stronger and she slowly began to improve. But the doctors made it extremely clear that she would never be able to walk again, and she didn’t want Brad to stay with her because he felt bad for her. She told him that if he needed a normal life, then he could walk away. Brad refused her offer. Instead, he decided to do something unbelievable.
Liz posted this on Facebook: “After our car accident and we knew I could not walk, I told Brad to go find someone normal. He told me just stop, then he left the hospital, he was gone for a while. When he got back he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I still could not sit up to give him a big hug. He is my best friend, and I thank God all the time for putting us together.”
When they first got married, Brad began to leave the house all of the time. And over the next two years, he was rarely there. So where was he spending all of his time? While he was in the Army, Brad worked as a maintenance technician who was responsible for cleaning and fixing tanks. Brad was getting ready to reveal quite the surprise.
Even though she was disabled, Brad was devoted to his wife. “My job for the rest of my life is to make her happy. She needs something, I put it there. If they don’t make it, I’ll make it. If it’s bad, I’ll find a way to fix it,” he said. Finally, while they were on a family outing, something happened that changed everything.
“We were out there one day and a herd of elk came through the campgrounds. We tried to get her in the chair and get her out with the kids, and the chair kept getting stuck. She was crying, saying, ‘Just go on without me,’ and I just found that unacceptable. So I told her I would build her something,” Brad recalled.
This was the beginning of a selfless mission that would help Elizabeth, as well as many other people. Brad created a new wheelchair for Liz that they call her “tank chair.” This chair would allow her to have access to everything that she felt that she had been missing since her accident. This chair would allow her to taste freedom for the first time in a long time!
Liz’s new wheelchair would allow her to travel outside and through the rougher terrain that we all tend to take for granted, but most wheelchairs can’t go through, such as snow, mud, and hills. It could even go up staircases! Where did Brad get the idea for creating something like this? Well, all he did was remove the wheels and add a motorized caterpillar track system to make it easier to get around.
“People who design wheelchairs generally design them for getting around inside of a building or a home. For that, they’re great, since they don’t damage carpets or flooring. But it also means they want you to basically just exist, but not to live.” It was easy for Brad to visualize the wheelchair, but it wasn’t necessarily easy to build one from scratch. Brad would test the wheelchair for two years before he would let Liz use it.
When Brad was completely done with the chair, it ended up costing a total of $50,000, and it certainly turned some heads. It was the most unique wheelchair that had ever been built, so of course, people were going to look, and Liz was perfectly fine with that happening. “We’re taught as a society that it’s not polite to stare. But people who get hurt don’t want to be shunned. Once they get in the chair, people will stop and come over.” Liz felt special in her very own one-of-a-kind wheelchair.
We wonder, how did it feel for Liz to get her “legs” back? Well, Liz had a great answer for that. “The freedom was just…awesome. It was like I was handed my legs back again. We were always camping and being outside and being a mom with five kids, I would set up the camp. After the accident, I got put next to the fire and everyone else went off and did everything. I tried so hard not to cry. The kids wanted to go on a hike and I couldn’t go with them,” Liz explained.
Since Liz’s chair was such an incredible success for her family and herself, it wasn’t long before the couple was thinking about how to start selling custom one-of-a-kind “tank chairs” for other people with need similar to Liz’s. Brad even created a chair that had text-to-speech capabilities for a man who had lost the section of his brain that controlled language. And they needed to figure out to handle the cost.
With the knowledge and experience that came from building Liz’s chair, Brad was able to cut down the cost from $50,000 to $15,000. It was important for the couple to be able to provide chairs that were affordable for those that needed it the most. As the chair’s popularity grew, he made a new goal of getting the cost down to $10,000.
Brad actually launched a foundation that he named after Liz that donates scooters and wheelchairs to people that aren’t able to afford them. The project initially started out as a way to improve the quality of life for his wife, but it eventually grew into something that helps many other people. Together, they’ll be able to change the lives of an incredible amount of people.