Pictured left to right: Brenda Romero, Jose Romero, and Care Coordinator Sally Lebeck.
Imagine not being able to do everyday tasks safely and easily, like taking a shower, using the sink, or seeing your reflection in the mirror, due to obstacles in your own home. For Jose Romero, who has cerebral palsy, is quadriplegic and uses a wheelchair, that was his reality.
It wasn’t until recently that Jose finally felt like he could safely and independently do those everyday tasks, thanks to his Care Coordinator, Sally Lebeck, who helped him and his wife, Brenda, get their bathroom modified to be more accessible.
“Jose was very upset, and it was becoming more and more difficult for him to take a shower and use the bathroom,” says Sally about Jose prior to the modification. “I feared he was going to get hurt badly if I didn’t do something soon.”
The Romeros’ previous bathroom had numerous problems that made their lives difficult, including a bathtub which Brenda had to life Jose into, a sink that would fall off of the wall, and insufficient support bars next to a toilet that was too low to easily use.
“Sally’s the only one we can talk to about these things,” Brenda says. “So, we told her about the problems we were having with the bathroom and she said she’d check into things.”
Sally searched for options for the Romeros to receive an environmental modification (E-Mod). According to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), environmental modifications are physical adaptations to a home to help increase a person’s independence, including ramps, lifts, handrails and bathroom modifications.
After nearly six months of searching, filling out paperwork and waiting patiently, Sally thought she had a promising lead with an agency to complete the project. However, the Romeros needed help quickly and couldn’t wait the six additional months the project manager estimated he needed to complete the E-Mod.
“I was starting to get really frustrated,” said Sally. “So, I talked to someone at OPWDD and they referred me to Epilepsy-Pralid Inc.”
After communicating with their new Epilepsy-Pralid Inc. project manager, re-submitting paperwork that had become outdated since they last applied for the E-Mod, and a lot of other back-and-forth, the Romeros were finally told their new bathroom would be completed in the spring.
“In between all of this Sally would call us and let us know everything that was going on, step by step,” says Brenda. “If we had a question, we’d call her.”
The Romeros’ bathroom construction was finally finished in May 2019.
The E-Mod consisted of taking out the bathtub and replacing it with a walk-in shower, compete with a ramp for easy entry and support bars inside. There’s a new, sturdy sink positioned so Jose can roll his wheelchair right up to it. The mirror above the sink is angled, so Jose can see himself. Other modifications include more support bars around a new, higher toilet and a non-slip floor.
Everyone agrees the E-Mod was well worth the wait. Especially Jose, who has spent his 37 years without ever having an accessible bathroom of his own.
“It’s been much easier,” says Jose.
“I’ve had several calls from Jose saying how grateful he is to finally be able to take a shower safely and use his bathroom accessibly,” Sally says.
Though the road was long to get the E-Mod completed, Sally is grateful for the lessons she learned and the connections she made.
“I definitely opened up connections and now have those resources,” says Sally. “Having resources is dire when you’re a Care Coordinator.”
Together, Sally, Jose and Brenda are now working on getting Jose a roll-in shower chair. They’re also working towards getting their car modified to make their lives a little easier.
“[Sally] is great,” says Brenda about having Sally as a Care Coordinator. “You have someone that you can call on for questions. Especially since we don’t have anyone else, it’s good to have someone like her.”