Wiping back tears of joy, Ashley Aitchison could barely believe her eyes on a special day last October, a day that changed her family’s life.
“Oh my gosh,” were the only words she could say as the brand new Variety Sunshine Van pulled up to where she and her six-year-old son, Remington (Remi), were standing.
The vehicle was her gift from Variety, the Children’s Charity.
|Ashley Aitchison moves her son Remi into their special Sunshine Family Van, a gift last October from Variety, the Children’s Charity.
Mark Brett/Western News
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Remi suffered a stroke at birth and, in turn, became epileptic, at one stage having as many as 200 seizures a day, along with developmental issues and more.
Unable to walk independently, the young boy uses a wheelchair to get around, but for Ashley, a single mother of two, suffering from chronic back pain, lifting her growing boy out of the wheelchair into their old vehicle’s carseat was becoming increasingly difficult and painful for both mother and son.
Enter Variety, which had helped the family the previous two years with a specialized walker and bed, which lets Remi and mom sleep independently at night.
“It has changed our lives immensely. Our daily struggles are not struggles anymore,” said Ashley, who also has an 11-year-old son, Chase. “I’ve got a back problem and an arm problem due to lifting Remi in and out of vehicles and his wheelchair. Variety gifting me a wheelchair accessible van has given me my feeling back in my left hand.
|Ashley Aitchison secures son Remi in their specially-equipped Sunshine Family van, a gift last October from Variety, the Children’s Charity.
Mark Brett/Western News
“Before, with our old van, Remi didn’t like transfers (from wheelchair to car seat). He would get quite upset and agitated and he would stiffen up, which would make it really hard to move him.”
Their new specialized van was provided through the combined efforts of Variety and its many sponsors. It has a powered lift on the back, along with tie downs and seat belts to secure the chair inside.
“I just can’t say just how important this is to us, without Variety doing what they have done for us we would still be struggling,” said Ashley, who works whenever she can, usually while Remi is at Carmi Elementary, where he goes to school.
With the van, the daily trips to school are much easier, as are the regular trips to the doctor and to Remi’s favourite place of all, the community pool.
“He loves the water, he loves to go swimming. I think it’s just a relief for him, he feels free in the water I think he just loves that feeling of water all around him,” said Ashley. “He loves to go in the hot tub, he loves the heat he just lays there and relaxes.
“He thinks he can swim so he pushes off me and it’s funny because he totally tells me by pushing where he wants to go. He shows me ‘I want to go to the water slide.’”
It’s those moments she treasures most — “It’s not nice watching your boy have seizures all the time,” — and keeps her moving forward.
“You learn to cope. It’s amazing what you can handle when you’re dealt something like this. You wouldn’t think you would be able to but, I mean, I always think about the positives,” she said. “I know someone who is a lot like Remi but she can’t even eat, she has feeding tube and she doesn’t laugh or smile, or play with toys and my son does. I look at that, he can still play and be happy and laugh and be able to enjoy food. It could be worse, and a huge part of that is because of Variety.”
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