It’s never easy for people to come to terms with an accident that leaves them disabled, devoid of a lifestyle they previously knew, and grappling with how to adjust and move on to make the most of life. A Phoenix man has set out to make that painstaking transition just a little bit easier for anyone he can help, and ultimately, it seems, humanity.
Brad Soden, a U.S. military veteran, experienced anguish that most of us will never know, when his wife, Liz, was paralyzed in a motor vehicle accident while driving with her family in August 1999. In the accident, Liz fractured her L-1 vertebrae, which left her paralyzed from the waist down. The Sodens were camping enthusiasts who loved being outdoors, so it was understandable that Liz’s accident brought into question the ability for her to maintain the lifestyle she loved, along with her husband and their five children.
The heartbreak ate away at Brad when he saw his wheelchair-bound wife confined to flat surfaces and sidewalks, and it boiled over when Liz protested with tears in her eyes that she would stay behind on a family hike in Arizona’s Hualapai campgrounds, because her chair was far from adequate to handle the terrain.
Not to see his wife’s passion deterred, Soden knew he had to find a way to remedy Liz’s situation. As a result of countless hours of determination and ingenuity, the Tankchair was born.
From KTar News:
Without any formal education, Soden set up shop inside his garage and created the first Tankchair, an all-terrain chair equipped with tracks instead of wheels so the driver can maneuver in any type of terrain, including areas with low water levels and snow.
Soden originally tried creating an off-road golf cart or disabled-friendly ATV. While both worked, they would not be permitted at a majority of campgrounds because of noise or fossil fuel restrictions.
He said his father-in-law gave him the idea for the Tankchair when he asked him, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could put tracks on that like a tank?” Soden put his military experience as an infantryman who worked on and rode in tracked vehicles to use and, after a lot of trial and error and some help from NPC Robotics, built the first Tankchair for Liz.
Without any formal education, the man who was struck with more unfortunate inspiration than you could ever wish for put his mind to solving a problem, and he did it–all with the goal of improving the life of someone he loved.
The first time Liz used her Tankchair, the Soden family went for a hike in the Kaibab National Forest at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It worked flawlessly.
On Tankchair’s website, Brad reflects on the situation:
The 10 million jumbo watt smile she had on her face when she came back from her hike was worth every minute I spent in the garage putting it together. Any of us that have had a loved one that was able to conquer a situation from their disability, and the look of sheer joy and pride on their face will know exactly what I’m talking about.
Amen to that.
The end result of one family’s challenge is so awesomely badass and heartwarming all in the same facet. Still seeking to help those in need of something more mobile than a conventional wheelchair, Brad owns and operates Tankchair out of Phoenix and caters to a wide clientele base. However, he pays specific attention to aiding our military veterans.
It’s certainly worth watching Brad talk about his invention and checking out how this thing tackles terrain, because its capabilities are pretty unbelievable.
It’s really hard to be more admirable, man.
On behalf of everyone you have helped and the people you undoubtedly will help in the future, thank you for what you’re doing, Brad. America can never have enough heroes like you..
[via KTar News]