View Full Version : Dealing with a tragedy.

10-21-2003, 10:07 PM
Hello everyone:

This past weekend my nephew was in an accident and will not walk again. He just came out of surgery today where they installed a titanium part to help repair his spine. The spinal cord was completely severed. The break was at 12/1,12/2.

My question is: Do any of you have any good ideas on things I might be able to build for him to help out?

I am considering buying him a mini lathe in a year or so, after rehabilitation. He is 16 yrs. old and was into sports. I hope will get back into sports when he can come to grips with his new life. The accident happened while he was on his way to a volleybell game at about 7 AM.

Thanks for any and all comments

10-21-2003, 10:55 PM
Buy the lathe and offer encouragement and patience, It will be a long hard row to hoe
but in he can build his confidence and self-esteem in the end it will pay off.
I work with welder who has the left side of his body paralyzed, he's the best welder Iv'e ever seen, does more with one hand than others do with two,What I admire most about him is that he isn't too proud to ask for help or my light of his conditon at times.
Good Luck, God's speed. chief

10-21-2003, 11:46 PM
Rough way to go.

I'd get him something to help him through the depression. I didn't get better from my injury till I throwed all the pain-depression medication away.

A UNIMAT lathe would get a youth started. Slow and they demand paitience. I learned a lot.

I am doing fine with my disability, They computed it at 27% and suggested I draw social security. I have worked as much as I wanted to since.

I did have to quit kickboxing, and trade my kickstart only bike off. Tradeoffs.

Now I am looking into air ride shocks..

Michael Az
10-22-2003, 01:00 AM
Sorry to hear of the accident. It will be tough on a fellow so young but it is great that he has somebody like you to pitch in and help him through the tough parts to come. I think getting him a small lathe is a good idea.

10-22-2003, 03:20 AM
Let me know when you get to the lathe and I will ship him some appropriate sized tool bits to get started. Carpe Diem. Never know what to say for these things but even the worst things seem to be for the best somehow. Just real tough to see it at times.

John Stevenson
10-22-2003, 03:33 AM
We are all sorry about the tragedy, it goes without saying.
I think what you suggest is a very good idea, as other have said it will take a while and depression is probably the biggest stumbling block.
Tell him what you aim to do to gauge his reaction and in the mean while if he's interested a couple of good books on the subject won't go amiss.

The two I would suggest are Table Top Machining by Joe ?? the sherline guy.
Practically I think this book is overpriced and not much practical use but it goes show in very good quality what can be done with a small lathe. It's a nice apetite wetter.

Second book is the SouthBend book How to run a lathe. This has got to be the simplest practical book out there.
Sorry I can't post links on where to get them stateside as I'm not familar with US sources. Perhaps other can chip in here?

John S.
Nottingham, England.

10-22-2003, 05:28 AM

Sorry to hear about your nephew's accident.

It's good to hear that you will be there to help him through this tough time.

The book Tabletop Machining by Joe Martin contains some good basic information and inspiration.

As far as projects to help him. That's pretty tough.


Doc Nickel
10-22-2003, 06:50 AM
Machining is good, if you can set up a shop for him. Ramps, obviously, clearance for a chair, low benches with a lot of overhang. Low storage, easy access to drawers and such.

Don't force him into anything. It will be exceedingly difficult, and as mentioned, depression will be a major factor. Keeping him occupied will be good, but it's also very easy to go overboard, and be opressive and overbearing. (It may not feel like it to you, but to the depressed, possibly suicidal person, it's easy to misinterpret.)

Focus on the creativity, and again, be ready for the inevitable anger, depression and the whole "I can't do this!" thing.

How about an art table or drafting table? Some technical pens, some french curves, some Berol colored pencils. Pick up some books on sketching and penciling and a bunch of art tablets. Let him tell you how he wants the foldaway table attached to his chair.

Get him a fast computer, maybe a laptop with a WiFi card to a DSL setup in the house. Plenty of storage media, and be prepared to keep the thing up to date (processor-wise, as well as peripherals.) Encourage actual research and learning, not just spending all day IM'ing buddies down at the cyber-cafe.

If he agrees, get him into computer classes: programming C++, JAVA, MySQL, even HTML. See if you can steer him towards Microsoft Certification- in fact, hot grades and a certificate in MSCE, and, cynical as it sounds, being disabled, would all but guarantee a good job with some firm (typically a bigger place under some legal or political pressure to hire minorities or disabled.)

I don't necessarily advocate "working the system", but neither should an opprotunity be passed up.

Along with the programming, there's also database entry and similar work- letter writing, story writing.

Get him some clay, or plasticene. An airbrush, a small quiet compressor and a set of Createx water-based paints. Pick up a subscription to Airbrush Action (that's a real magazine) and see if he gets inspired.

Have him help you set up some remote controls for his house. A couple inexpensive key-fob type remotes or a universal-type radio-frequency PC controller and he can turn lights on and off, adjust or tune the stereo, radio or TV, answer the front door or phone, etc.

Wood carving. Oil painting. Hell, set him up with a hot PC with a lot of big discs, some self-feed scanners (they make such things) and help him start a business converting people's old slides, 35mm negatives and 8mm home movies into modern digital formats. (My dad has a huge pile of all three we'd love to see on a videotape or DVD.)

See if he'd like to try the guitar or piano/keyboard. Technical writing. Have him learn a foreign language and get some business translating manuals and instructions. Circuit board designing.

There's thousands of things a person can do sitting in a chair. Be prepared to work your way through a lot of them before he "settles" on any one, or any handful. Don't push, but let him know there's plenty of options for him.


10-22-2003, 07:48 AM
Doc is right!

I don't know the full situation, but step back and make sure that you are not doing for him what you want him to do.

It is great to be involved, but you must be prepared for a lot of pain, too. He may need someone to feel his. So don't be surprised.

Don't hesitate to seek professional counseling yourself. Experts can help you help him.

Best of luck to both of you.


10-22-2003, 07:48 AM
My condolences, Bernie. I would like to say that your nephew may in fact walk again; I know whereof I speak. This last May 18 my 21 year old daughter was involved in a wreck coming home from college; her boyfriend (unofficial fiance) was killed. Her neck was broken at the C4 - C5 level and her spinal cord both compressed and twisted; the doctors informed us the injury was complete and she would be a quadriplegic the remainder of her life. She spent almost 3 weeks in the ICU (her left femur was broken as well) - all that time on a ventilator so she could breathe. Praise the Lord, today (five months later) she is walking with a cane, has full use of her right arm and hand (to the point where she can do better artwork than me) and some movement of her left arm and hand. I absolutely credit her recovery to my Savior, Jesus Christ; all the doctors are dumbfounded and the therapy staff call our daughter their "miracle patient". I just don't have the words to fully describe the last 5 months except to say that me, my wife and our 2 other children felt "at peace" knowing our daughter is/was under the grace of our sovereign God. My daughter is a strong Christian believer; she knows she'll see her boyfriend again (he was also a strong believer) and while she has had some days when she is sad these days have been very few and far between (in fact, early on in this the doctors and staff thought that our daughter and my wife and me were not really facing reality because we simply were not showing the typical symptoms of those who go through this sort of thing). I was the one who told my daughter her boyfriend was dead; this was 3 1/2 weeks after the wreck and as she had been knocked unconscious at the time this news had been withheld from her until she became physically stabilized. All this to say that miracles do happen - God does perform healing and that EVERYTHING happens according to His purpose - in my mind there are no such things as accidents or coincidences. I'll pray for your nephew and I'll pray that he'll know the peace which comes from our sovereign Lord.

10-22-2003, 09:10 AM
I'm sorry to hear about your nephew, my 15 y/o nephew is paralized since birth, but it hasn't slowed him down at all. He loves sports like your nephew and plays wheelchair basketball as well as track. He's so good his coach thinks he has a shot at the Olympic team for 2007! If you have any teams in your area, it might be a big moral boost for him to see what these guys can do in a chair. There may even be a wheelchair volleyball team. Feel free to email me and I'll see if my nephew can help get him through the depression.

As the others have said, let him guide you towards what he is interested in, but I think the mini lathe is a good idea to help keep his spirits up. Building a small steam engine or something like that might spark so serious interest.


Alistair Hosie
10-22-2003, 09:25 AM
sorry to here of the lads sad misfortune.I wonder if you could be more precise as to what he can and can't do at present cane he or woill he be able to sit supported at a bench.I ask this because I read of achap with a severe spinal injury who had a special slide chair made for him and can sit at the lathe and do woodturning being able to move from side to side on this chair.I hope he proves the doctors wrong and is able to do more in the future.

Guero I hope the future is better for your lovely daughter and her faith is helping both her and you I will pray for both of you as I believe in God too. Alistair

10-22-2003, 09:28 AM
Thank you all for the many good ideas. Right now my children wife and I are staying back a little as he doesn't feel up to seeing us. He has his parents and 2 other aunts with him most of the time. I am not going to push him into any thing. I guess I'm just looking for guidance from a great bunch of people that I look up to. Your many suggestions are heard and I will probably try them on him and see what he thinks. We are having a hard time dealing with this and feel all we can do right now is pray for him. Our time to help will come. As his aunts and parents will not be there for the entire time of his rehab. They live approx. 2.5 hrs. drive from the hospital. My wife and I live here and will be here for him. Our older son and Kyle are very close. Our turn to help will come and I want to help make a difference.


Alistair Hosie
10-22-2003, 01:22 PM
Bernie you sound like a good one to me just what the boy needs well done.
Its people like you that bring us down to earth sometimes and make us realise that there are still a lot of good people in the world.
I am proud to see the concern you are showing well done the boy is obviously in the best of hands with family like you and your wife around.
kind regards Alistair

Benjamin Borowsky
10-22-2003, 02:18 PM
Keep it slow and lowkey. Maybe, rather than buy him XX, show him what you can do with it and ask if he wants it. Also, don't be afraid of woodworking (which wasn't mentioned previously), and can be a more freeflowing, casual (still dangerous, mind you) hobby than metalworking. There's something very soothing, to me, about a good woodworking project that isn't there in a piece of metal.

If religion is a big part of HIS life, encourage it. If it isn't, DON'T GO THERE. I know, (as an athiest) that I would reject that approach if I were hurt... but each person needs something different, and it can be a great balm to the soul.

Good luck. He'll need it. He's got a great leg up, with you, but he'll still need it.


10-22-2003, 03:54 PM
The one thing to consider when developing systems for working in a seated position. Guarding!!!! All of us have situations where we may stand off to the side, or be ready for a bit of a bang, thus our mobility becomes our "guarding". When seated, you are not as mobile - able bodied or not, and most likely the eyes are a bit closer to the work than might be desirable.

There are Lexan magnetic guards that can be placed in situations that demand them. Those "Flexbar' type of things, chuck guards, you name it.

I have seen work benches adapted to wheelchair situations and such for moderate to mid size lathes - up to 15 inches. Tese always scared me though because of the "eye level" and the mobility situation we all take as second nature.

The "shields" are cheap investment, and will protect / prevent against general issues such as oil spatter, chips being flung by chucks and cutting, small breaks of drills and inserts, you name it. Potential bigger issues such as flung parts and such these will slow down, and a good guarding system will do more than slow down. As I said - preventative - but not perfect.

There would be a frustration factor in being constantly sprayed with oil and chips as well, something we just kind of "step aside" to prevent.

Work area benches heights and adaptablilty also an issue for the benchwork, tools, and storage of the future goods. Add clearance for chairs, wheel chairs and such.

Little things we just 'step aside" to prevent, or just "extend a reach" to do are things to now consider. Little frustrations we avoid by mobility will become issues here, beat them to the punch.

Just my two cents. My prayers for you, and your nephew. Prayers for strength, family, and the acceptance to not only carry on, but to adapt, improvise, and overcome.

please keep us informed, and any help I can give, feel free to e-mail.

10-22-2003, 04:31 PM
Our thoughts are with you. All above sounds good but being in this country (Canada)what you may want to think about is how to help him stay mobile and independent. Don't wait for the our medical system to help. What can you build to help him do what needs to be done. Watched a program on TV the other night of a 80 something gentleman that built his own lifter so he was able to get out of bed and get into his chair. He had been waiting for the medical to come through with a lift it was going to cost Thousands he built his for under $500.00 (looked pretty good to). Made it so he could get into his chair and about by himself he wanted his freedom. I think that is going to be one of his hardest challanges. Any 16 year old doesn't want to have to depend on someone all the time.
Do take care and keep us posted to his progress.

10-22-2003, 06:40 PM
It's nice to see the variety of options and sugestions everyone is offering besides the typical machine work. All good and my choice would be to include the artistic route, especialy the photography. Good luck to him and you with the effort.

10-22-2003, 09:14 PM

Where are you located?

I know where this old craftsman lathe (3") is rusting quietly. I might get it gave to me.
I can ask.


10-22-2003, 11:09 PM
If you decide to go the maching route and he is acceptable to the idea, send me your address and I'll mail off a copy of How to run a lathe by South Bend.

10-23-2003, 01:13 AM

Sorry to hear of the misfortune. I am worried most about how your nephew will deal with it. He has a long road to recovery (mental, not physical) - still, he is fortunate he still has his hands and eyes to work with. If he is a smart lad it will be easier for him if he gets "into" an activity that he finds stimulating and fun.

When I had my accident and started falling over in public (legs gave out) and the Doctors kept telling me "it was all in my head" my chiropractor was the only one to give me the straight poop. Because of him, I prepared for a life in a wheelchair. It was a smart move on my part, even though I can still walk, I expect it to get worse.

Now I have a Maximat 7 lathe/mill that I planned to build models with if I became disabled (I did, but from a fatal reaction to a diabetic drug - died twice in a coma). So, now I can putz around the basement (after I waddle over the boxes of parts & "stuff"). I also have computers and electronics to experiment with. Keeps me from going completely insane.

And when I really get pissed off at life, I get vicious on the internet playing shooter games. Even play wargames online with the Army guys in "Americas Army" - I always get fragged when I forget how to unjam the stupid M-16 while "house cleaning" (getting old & slow, them kids frag me like crazy!)

[This message has been edited by Thrud (edited 10-23-2003).]

10-23-2003, 02:46 AM
Hello again.

Kyle is recovering from the surgery now and they've got him doing breathing exercises. He's been on his back since Saturday and has been breathing very shallow the entire time. With the breathng exercises they'll start raising his bed tomorrow. Slowly bringing him to a sitting position. Don't know how till he'll be able to sit up. He'll be in a body brace for a couple of months.

ibew we are in Regina.

Once agian, Thank you all for your comment, support and prayers.

Ragarsed Raglan
10-24-2003, 12:13 PM

So sorry to hear of this tradegy to someone so young. I've read through all of the excellent suggestions - and agree with all that has been said. There is one thing you mentioned in your opening line about the lad, and that was that he's a keen sportsman.

Whilst machining can be an individual pursuit, and tends to be introspective (I guess most of us here have a little of a 'loner' in our make ups), he may want to continue with his sporting lifestyle, which tends to be more extrovert. Machining can be a relaxation for those moments when we like to be on our own, maybe he would like this as well.

The 'Para Olympics' (i.e. for paraplegics!) are an excellent example of disabled people maintaining a sporting lifestyle. There are many disciplines in which disabled can compete - archery, clay pigeon shooting, for those with well developed hand/eye co-ordination aspects; through to wheelchair racing for those with a physical prowesses. If he shows continued interest in sport, I would help him atain his goal through modifying his shooting equipment in the first case or 'racerising' his wheel chair in the second.

I have been involved with a similarly disabled lad (injured in a skiing accident when he was 19, and now wheelchair bound). He took to clay pigeon shooting and is now representing his county (read 'State' in US speak!) in para-competitions.


10-24-2003, 04:53 PM
Sorry, Bernie.

We're praying for him here in SO.CAL.

10-24-2003, 09:28 PM
It's Friday Oct.24 and he's almost sitting upright. Seems to be in better spirits. mother and visitor's not crying all the time is probably helping alot. It was a shock for them and now we are starting to cope a little better. He told his Mom to leave him alone when he was trying to do something the other day (I think that's a good sign). He is a great kid and I know he'll be fine.

Thanks Everyone

10-25-2003, 07:31 AM

My friend would rather let the old lathe rust in piece. He does so much already, Someday he might use it thou he has the use of my shop.

My best advice is a unimat lathe, they run about 300 for one that is complete and has auto-feed and attachements. Saving money and purchasing one without accessories is not a good buy. Some really nice ones on ebay get into a bidding frenzy. Best buys are on weekday ending auctions when you don't have all the competetion. The really nice thing about them is you can always get your money back, and if you get a deal you can make money five years down the road. I did with my starter one.
You can store a unimat under a bed, in a drawer, about anywhere. A good learning tool to spark interest.
Next option, well the Harbor fright store has some better looking tools then a few years back. They have a lil red milling machine that I'd like to automate.

I tried, Sorry... I'll keep my eyes open at the sales.

[This message has been edited by ibewgypsie (edited 10-25-2003).]

G.A. Ewen
10-31-2003, 07:20 PM
Hi Bernie,
Very sorry to here about your nephew. Try this link for ideas. www.tetrasociety.org (http://www.tetrasociety.org)
There is a Tetra Chapter in Regina.

10-31-2003, 08:21 PM
Sorry to hear of yet another misfortune. Here's hoping for a miraculous recovery for him, Thrud as well, and others. If your nephew does want to get into machining, you might look up 'wheelchairs in the shop', a posting earlier this year about a fellow wanting to make a raiseable platform for the wheelchair. Maybe he's made some progress that will help you.

10-31-2003, 08:58 PM

Best wishes to the young man. Be sure to show him the response that his misfortune has elicited from the members of the website.

I have often thought that if I could no longer perform on my full size machines that I would turn to miniature machine work or if that is not too feasible then I would look into the electric/electronic field to educate myself in the mysteries of electronics. Perhaps a kit such as Radio Shack provides for beginners that does not require soldering might be of interest. Robot building seems like an interesting, challenging and creative form of activity.

Contact with other young persons who are successfully coping with similar situations could provide him with an encouraging and supportive network of friends.


11-01-2003, 02:17 AM
Yeah, especially robots with a radio control that can go get something for you. It isn't quite as bad as it may first seem. My father had a good friend who had no use of his legs due to polio but is sure didn't slow him down. He had a yacht and I used to do tune-ups on his van. It was equipped with hands only levers and controls. It was easy to drive with your feet flat on the floor. Also, look at Rick Hanson, from my town of Williams Lake. He is making a difference for people with spinal cord injury.

11-01-2003, 10:40 AM
Sounds like one of the best things he has going for him is his uncle.

11-01-2003, 11:26 AM
Just a thought....

Your nephew will probably be deluged with various information, wanted or unwanted. The little pamphlets "dealing with disability xxxxx" etc, that the doctors hand out, and well meaning folks offering ideas. Not particularly uplifting.

The best idea in most cases seems to be to let the situation settle out a bit first. No matter what anyone else does or says, he is the person who actually has to deal with his situation. After some stability in that area has developed, the possibilities start to appear.

So many things can be unhelpful. Ideas for "alternate careers" , etc. They have implications of categorizing the person into a "group" known as "the disabled", who are expected to change their whole attitude and behaviour to conform to the stereotypes and thoughts of others. That's baloney.

That "group" isn't one, because it is made up of people. People who are grumpy or good natured, active or not, sociable or introverted, whatever. The person tends to stay the same type "before" and "after".

So the function of "others" is to not apply limits, or change their attitude on a sort of "now that you are disabled....." basis. Instead, continue to include your nephew as much as if nothing had happened as possible, and dealing with the obvious problems as a matter of course, without making a big deal out of them.

It sounds like he has already had the "hysterical family members treatment"......some down-to-earth regular folks interacting with him and not with his disability would probably be a relief.

11-01-2003, 11:34 AM
During the times I was in rehab and when I have helped others in similar situations, I have found that the best results for people with injuries was to not tell them that they were unable to do something, even if the doctors said they couldn't... My wife powdered an inch of the radius in her arm (the big bone) and the doctor said she'd be lucky to get 25% range of motion back in that hand. It was her dominant hand, and she is a barber; I never told her what the doctor said, and encouraged her to keep working at improving while I built her some special tools to allow her to work. She kept at it, with encouragement, and it hurt like hell, but today she has roughly 95% range of motion in that hand, with no need for special tools anymore. I've never been so happy to see something I made get thrown away.... For all of us out there that know ways to build and adapt things; Take a little time and get to know some disabled people - you may find a way to help someone function again, and learn a few things about yourself in the process. Good luck with your nephew, and don't let him quit. It wasn't mentioned before, but I was told by a freind that he chose electronics as a profession because he could do it from a wheelchair without special equipment....

11-03-2003, 01:36 PM
Many thanks to all:

Haven't read the Bulliten Board for a few days, it's snowed here a few days ago and I got a million things to do "before" winter.

Kyle has been relocated to the rehabilitation facility and seems to be in much better spirits. Won't be long and he'll be rollin' right along. He's young and very strong.

Great kid and such a misfortune. He and I would like to thank-you for all the input. Many,many good ideas. We'll be working on them, and let you know what happens.