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A Homeowner’s Story

Last month, I met a homeowner with a truly special and remarkable story.

I arrived at the home only aware of the homeowner’s basic information and what home safety and accessibility modifications we planned to perform to accommodate a warm, safe and independent lifestyle. I was not there to perform the preview for this project, so learning about the unfortunate disadvantage this man was living with that day left me in shock and wonder.

John was an All-American track athlete.  He was featured and covered in popular running-based magazines and maintained a vigorous exercise regimen for most of his life. John excelled nationally from the time he arrived at Washburn High and graduated from college at the University of Minnesota in the long jump, hurdles, shot put, high jump and 1,000 meter run. He loved surfing along the shores of the California coast as a young adult and was fond of woodcarving. John was an outstanding and devoted competitor who would surely live an independent and healthy life.

We sometimes forget that life can change in a single moment.

On February 13, 2008, John was found on the track of the University of Minnesota’s Field House laying face down. Bystanders rushed over to help him as they immediately called 9-1-1. John was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance where both his health and fate were unknown.

After four and a half days in a coma, John was diagnosed with having a heart attack. Even after months of rehabilitation, John remained in a state where he would live a complicated independent life, if he chose to live that way. With limited walking mobility, a distinguishable speech adaptation, diminished hearkening ability, and restricted use of his hands, John chose to stay in his home.

John was born in his house in South Minneapolis, and at 61, John had spent his entire life in that home. Although his pride of being a homeowner never diminished, his ability to maintain his home did. On September 15th, we installed handrails going to the basement and second floor, grab bars in the bathroom and handles along doorways through our Safe at Home program so that John could live a safer and more independent life. John is now being considered for our Home Repair program, which would provide additional improvements and modifications to his home.

John’s story is a reminder that life is precious and can change suddenly. More importantly, John’s life is a valuable lesson that we are not defined by the obstacles we are confronted with, but how we choose to overcome them.

Written by: Tyler White, Safe at Home Coordinator