The unexpected often happens to Frances Ipock, who reads this column in the New Bern (NC) Sun Journal. She contracted polio at four months old, began using leg braces at age 2, and as a teen spent at least six months straight in a hospital following leg operations on separate occasions. “I also got my driver’s license at age 33,” said 70-year-old Ipock in a telephone interview. “I never thought I’d be able to drive. And I also never thought I would get married because I didn’t think anyone would want a handicapped person for a spouse.”
Hand controls enabled her to begin driving a car at 33 and at age 17 she began a 52-year marriage relationship. She also has three children and worked 35 years at different jobs. But what came most unexpected in her life was a series of traumatic events starting in 1998. She said, “That was when this truck came toward me on the wrong side of the road, hit the brake, and started fishtailing. The impact broke my (left) leg. I’d been on my way home from singing to residents at a nursing home. They had to get me out of the car using the Jaws of Life.” A doctor nearly had to amputate her leg.
Then in 2001, and using a wheelchair, she badly fractured her left leg a second time when falling forward after a child pushed her down a ramp too fast. Today, though completely unable to move her legs without using her hands, she still drives a car using hand controls.
She said, “However, I can go down the ramp and out to my car (in my wheelchair) and get in using a transfer board. But if no one is around, I can’t get my wheelchair into the trunk or take it out when I get to my destination. I like being independent and don’t like having to call people for help.” One concern of hers lately has been her overly steep wheelchair ramp, which has made rolling downhill unsafe.
Ipock had advice for seniors trying to remain independent: “If you try doing something and can’t or are unable to do it, then try doing it a different way. There are ways to do the things you want to do. You just have to keep trying to find out which way is best for you.”