While serving his country in the Marine Corp, Michael Stovall received injuries to his lower back, knees and ankles in 1993. Since that time, his mobility has been extremely limited, only able to walk as much as four feet at a time without having to sit down. Earlier this year, Michael’s life changed in ways he and his family could not have expected.
Though Michael eventually received a wheelchair through the VA which allowed for improved mobility, it still left him feeling confined to his home and with limited options. “Before the Zoom, I can summarize (what life was like) – I was always in the house…Fighting to get stuff as simple as a wheelchair was a hard job, then you got it and you had limitations,” Michael explained.
His wife, Yami, agreed. “After getting a chair from VA, life started getting a little bit easier. He was able to use it within the house and he had a little bit more maneuverability as far as being able to move himself around and take a little bit of weight off my shoulders.”
But for the couple and their twin daughters, life was very routine and Michael seldom ventured outdoors. Outdoor playtime for the girls was something that rarely included their father.
Then one day, Michael saw a commercial that would not only change his life, but that of his family as well. The commercial aired on Fox and described the work that Independence Fund does to improve the lives of injured veterans through the provision of all-terrain mobility devices. Michael took note of the website and submitted an application.
Despite a delay due to the influx of applications because of the national exposure, Michael describes his application process and experience with The Independence Fund as smooth and simple.
A few months after his application was approved, Michael received the device that would change his life in unexpected ways.
“It’s like a life-saver,” Michael said of his Zoom. “With the Zoom chair, the sky’s the limit.” Michael is no longer restricted to his home or other areas accessible by concrete, he is free to spend time in his yard – and beyond – playing with his daughters and his dogs. “I can go in the yard… my daughters run after me – they can’t catch me now!,” he said with a laugh.
While the Zoom has allowed Michael greater freedom and renewed confidence, the changes have not stopped with him. Michael’s wife spoke eloquently of the profound effect that this one mobility device has had on their entire family.
“Once he was able to get the Zoom chair, within the first week it was unrealistic the change… you could tell it in his self esteem. You could see it in the girls’ self esteem, their daddy was not always sick, he was always doing something,” Yami said. “The life changing experience with the Zoom chair doesn’t stop with the individual using the Zoom chair – that’s where it begins! Where it continues is where it affects the family.”
Now, the girls, who are six, ride their bikes alongside their daddy. They are thrilled to have him able to attend their soccer games and practices – enjoying showing off for him for the first time. “Wednesday was the first time I went to soccer practice with them, they’ve been playing for two years… they loved it,” Michael said. “They like that I can go with them to movies and stuff like that.”
“We were actually content with the way it was,” Yami said of their life prior to the Zoom, “because we didn’t know otherwise. We got the mobile wheelchair from the VA and that made a little difference but the limitations were still there… We never expected in a million years that a machine like the Zoom would make such a HUGE difference.”
“Because even if you don’t have children,” Yami explained, “people like to go fishing, people like to go mudding or go out. They like to feel the self esteem that they lost in the wars that they went through. They lose a lot of self esteem, they lose a lot of, ‘I can’. And this particular machine makes it possible for them to be able to say, ‘I can!’. It’s no longer, ‘I can’t’, there’s no boundaries, ‘I can!’ And just the meaning of those two words is incredible.”