Her body ravaged by the effects of Multiple Sclerosis, Angel Twedt of Maple Ridge struggles with the simplest of tasks. Legally blind, she lives with her two-year-old daughter Elle for weeks at end while her husband Greg toils the oil fields in northern Alberta.
Her life has been turned upside down since she was first diagnosed with MS last year. Confined to a wheelchair, the Twedt’s home is just another example of the barriers the young mother now faces. Her wheelchair is not only a constant reminder of her affliction with MS, it’s also preventing her from living her life with dignity, she says.
For the past 10 months, Twedt hasn’t been able to maneuver her wheelchair through the hallway that leads to the bathroom. Even if it did fit, the entrance to the bathroom is too narrow for her chair.
“It’s just been a struggle to get by every day,” says a tearful Twedt, who is now undergoing chemotherapy to help slow the effects of her MS.
“It’s embarrassing to have ask someone for help to have a sponge bath.”
Making things even more difficult, Twedt’s medication costs run up to $62 a day, coupled with the expenses incurred renovating their home’s front porch with a ramp and a secure fence to keep their daughter from wandering off the property. The family has maxed out its credit.
She said selling their home and downsizing or renting would be both physically exhaustive, and prove tricky to find a home equipped to accommodate her wheelchair.
Twedt has been trying to access provincial government funds to help pay for the renovations needed to make her bathroom and kitchen more accessible.
The government initiated the Home Adaptations for Independence program in January of this year. The program is designed to aid people with disabilities, as well as seniors who need to renovate their homes for “accessible, safe and independent living.”
Grants of up to $20,000 are available, and the Twedt’s promptly filled out the paperwork.
The Twedt’s met the initial criteria of the program. They had less than $100,000 in household assets and were below the average household income for the area.
But Twedt was denied grant funding based on the assessed value of their home. To be eligible, their home had to be under the Fraser Valley’s regional average of $388,000. The Twedt’s home came in at $416,000.
“I’m baffled by the whole thing,” explains Twedt, noting that her house was assessed based on properties located from as far away as Hope, where home values are lower.
She said the program seems to be set up so people in the area are destined to be denied.
So Twedt is now making a plea to the public to help her “live with dignity.”
With the help of her father as well as her husband Greg, Twedt has set up a trust fund to help her pay the $15,000 bathroom refit.
She says they have no choice but to depend on the kindness of the public to help with the renovations.
“Anything the public can do would be great. I will help as much as I can. Right now we don’t have any options.”
She has solicited the help of local MLA Marc Dalton, as well as the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities, all to no avail. She has appealed her grant application, but has been informed that because of a high volume of them, her file is on hold until someone with the Home Adaptations for Independence is free to look into it further.
So she waits.
“After chemotherapy, I am very weak. I can’t do the things a normal mother does. I’m having a hard time just looking after my daughter,” says Twedt.
Fortunately for her, she has help. A home support nurse helps her daily, and her father is around to pitch in, as well.
Then there’s Brett Williams, of Bremar Renovations. Williams was initially contacted to do an estimate on renovations based on Twedt’s application for funding. While he estimated the cost to fix the hallway, bathroom and kitchen to be closer to $25,000, he was able to reduce costs to get the bill closer to the grant figure.
Upon learning she was denied funding, Williams and a host of other local contractors have pitched in where they can, refurbishing the Twedt family kitchen so Angel could access the sink, cabinets and counter tops.
“She’s one of the nicest ladies in the world and she’s really suffering,” said Williams. “It’s really tough to see her in this condition.”
But like most businesses, Williams can only do so much. He’s pleased the trust fund has been established and knows a number of trades people willing to donate their time once the funds have been raised.
For Twedt, access to her kitchen has brought back some normalcy to her life. It also reaffirms her faith in the community.
“It’s just fabulous. Something as simple as not being able to access your sink can be pretty discouraging. It was so generous of everyone.”