Mark and I visited my in-laws this afternoon. Mark and his dad went food shopping and had a talk about the necessity for installing a wheelchair ramp in the back entrance of the house. My mother-in-law's leg has been worse than ever, and she only spent a couple weeks at most using a walker before it became necessary to start using a wheelchair instead. From what the doctors have been able to determine, the problem is a nerve issue, but there's not a reliable surgical solution that exists to resolve it. Operating in the spinal cord area could end up doing much more harm than good -- the odds are that surgery would merely cause additional damage without doing anything to fix the symptoms that currently exist. :o( So there's a strong likelihood that her leg isn't going to improve any time soon.
There's a visiting nurse that comes a few times a week, and there's a physical therapist who comes twice a week also. The biggest issue at the moment is that in both the front and back of the house, there are stairs to navigate in order to get in and out. It's stupendously hard, and dangerous, for her to try and use stairs with a leg that's numb and buckles under her. And my father-in-law is in his 80s, so while he's willing to assist her in using stairs, both of them are risking injury the way things stand now.
Hence, Mark had the talk with his dad about adding a wheelchair ramp. Though he's been resistant to the idea until now, Mark thinks he's starting to come around and understand that my mother-in-law might never reach a point where she can get up and down steps again. It seems unlikely at this point that she would recover as much as that, as her symptoms have existed for over a year and have gotten steadily worse during that time. But even if she were to improve dramatically, who's to say that she won't have another downturn later on and wind up unable to use stairs again?
Their house is already set up so that everything they need is on the first floor. The second floor is set up as a second, independent apartment. The only issue is the need to use stairs to enter and exit the house, and a wheelchair ramp would resolve that situation.
Well, that and the fact that there are wooden thresholds that are over an inch high in EVERY freaking doorway. They're a downright bear to cross with a wheelchair. Even pushing the chair across them is difficult, never mind being the person IN the chair trying to get the chair over the darn things. I think they all need to be replaced with something MUCH lower and flatter, so my mother-in-law can get the chair across them without assistance.
The good news is that once the decision is made to have the wheelchair ramp added, both of my brothers-in-law are engineers and moreover, the brother-in-law that married Mark's sister has a brother who is a carpenter. (Have I managed to get enough branches of the family tree mentioned in one sentence? ;o) ) The long and short of it is that actually getting a ramp designed and built shouldn't be much of an issue once we get the go-ahead. The weather's turning nice, which makes it a good time now both to build a ramp and also for my in-laws to actually get out and enjoy themselves. So the sooner things start, the better.