She heard a loud bang and she lost control of the car. They went skidding and rolling, losing their bearings in a terrifying roller coaster ride that seemed to last forever. She only prayed that her almost new family would not be hurt. When it was finally over she would see that her prayers had been answered.
She had always been an active person, enjoying the outdoors in good weather and staying fit. So when she met Brad it was like a match made in heaven. Together they camped and
skied, hiked everywhere and did every water sport they could. It seemed ass though everything was going to turn out like a fairy tale storybook, but her life would change forever very soon.
Hopes And Dreams
Elizabeth, like all of us, had aspirations, hopes, and dreams that she was striving towards. She worked as a bus driver during her day job and was also a reserve sheriff. One day she planned to make it to the police academy. She kept fit and trim so as to be prepared for that day, but it would never come.
The Perfect Couple
Since 1997, Brad and Elizabeth had been the perfect couple. Both were clearly crazy about each other and they were beginning to meld their two small families into one bigger unit. Liz had
two girls and Brad had three boys. Liz’s girls were a bit older than Greg’s sons which made everything much easier. There was always some kind of fun going on, until one fateful day.
A Great Man
Greg was a combat veteran and a firefighter who fell head over heels the very first time he saw Liz. In his own words, he even says that after only a few weeks of dating he was completely in love with Elizabeth. According to him, she was the most unselfish person he knew. But was this love meant to last?
Only three days after her 35th birthday and two years dating Brad, the family was involved in an extremely serious car accident. While the family survived the accident with minor bumps, scratches or breaks Liz was
not so lucky. Liz’s back was broken and after she was stabilized in the hospital she had to fly off to Vegas to see a specialist. His words would haunt her for the rest of her life.
The prognosis was not good, Liz would never walk again and the specialist even went so far as to tell her to say goodbye to her friends and loved ones now. Scared
as she was she never gave up and despite the terrible prognosis Liz kept up the will to live and made it through the most dangerous times. The future looked tough up ahead.
Liz went from strength to strength and slowly she improved. The doctors made it very clear that she would never walk again and she didn’t want her boyfriend to stay with her out
of pity. She told him that he could leave her if he needed someone more normal in his life. Brad did not take her up on that offer. Instead, he did something amazing.
“After our car accident and we knew I could not walk, I told Brad to go find someone normal. He told me just stop, then he left the hospital, he was gone for a while. When he got back he got down
on one knee and asked me to marry him. I still could not sit up to give him a big hug. He is my best friend, and I thank God all the time for putting us together.” Liz posted on Facebook in 1999.
Gone A Lot
Very early into their marriage Brad starting leaving the house at all hours of the day and over the next two years, he was hardly there at all. So where did he
spend all of his time? During his time in the army, Brad worked as a maintenance technician who was responsible for maintaining and cleaning tanks. And Brad had a surprise up his sleeve.
Despite her disabilities, Brad devoted his life to his wife. “My job for the rest of my life is to make her happy,” he said. “She needs something, I put it there. If they don’t make it, I’ll make it. If it’s bad, I’ll find a way to fix it.” Finally, during a family outing, an event happened that changed everything.
“We were out there one day and a herd of elk came through the campgrounds,” Brad Soden recalled. “We tried to get her in the chair and get her out with
the kids, and the chair kept getting stuck. She was crying, saying, ‘Just go on without me,’ and I just found that unacceptable. So I told her I would build her something.”
This was the start of a selfless endeavor that would help many more people than just Elizabeth. Brad created a new type of wheelchair, or as he calls it ‘tank chair’. This would come to be her favored chair that allowed her access to everything she had been missing since the accident. Freedom! This chair was capable of so much more.
The chair would allow Liz to travel in the outdoors and through the rougher terrain we all take for granted but is not wheelchair friendly, places like mud, snow and hills and even some
places inside such as up staircases. What was Brad’s clever idea for creating such a thing? He simply removed the wheels and added a motorized caterpillar track system to make it more versatile.
Not Inside Only
“People who design wheelchairs generally design them for getting around inside of a building or a home. For that, they’re great, since they don’t damage carpets or flooring. But it also means they want you
to basically just exist, but not to live.” It was easy to visualize, but difficult to build a prototype from scratch. It took Brad two years of rigorous testing before he would let Liz ride it.
A Huge Amount Of Money
The chair ended up costing $50,000 when he finally completed it and he made it something to turn heads. The most unique wheelchair in the world! Of course, having something so extreme was bound to turn heads and Liz was just fine with that.
“We’re taught as a society that it’s not polite to stare. But people who get hurt don’t want to be shunned. Once they get in the chair, people will stop and come over.” She felt quite special in her one of a kind ride.
Getting Her Legs Back
So how did it feel to get her ‘legs’ back, one wonders? Well, Liz shared that with us too, “The freedom was just…awesome,” she said. “It was like I was handed my legs back again. We were always camping and being outside and being a mom with five
kids, I would set up the camp,” she said. “After the accident, I got put next to the fire and everyone else went off and did everything. I tried so hard not to cry. The kids wanted to go on a hike and I couldn’t go with them.”
A Huge Success
With Liz’s chair being such a great success for her and her family, it wasn’t long before the idea to help others came to the couple and they decided to start selling one of a kind, custom build ‘tank chairs’
to other disabled people with similar needs to Elizabeth. Brad has even made one chair that was designed with text-to-speech abilities for a man who lost the language section of his brain. But they’d have to do something about the cost.
Using the knowledge he’d gained over the years building Liz’s chair he managed to whittle the cost of a chair down to $15,000 from the initial $50,000. It was important to
the couple that the chairs were in financial reach of the people who needed them most. His next goal was to get them down to $10,000! The chair grew steadily in popularity.
The Ultimate Gift
Brad decided to launch a foundation named after his wife that donates wheelchairs and scooters to people who were not able to afford them. It started out as a way to improve
the love of his life’s everyday life, but the project has grown in leaps and bounds since then and they aren’t looking back. Together they will change many more lives to come.