Solving a problem puts a sparkle back in my husband’s eyes

With a drone camera and a computer, he's designed the plot of our snow canopy

Kristin Neva avatar

by Kristin Neva |

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Since my husband, Todd, is paralyzed from ALS, he can’t help with household chores and maintenance anymore. That puts much of it on me, but that’s also difficult for him because he loved many of those tasks. He enjoyed his career, which included work in marketing, finance, and manufacturing, but after putting in those long days, he’d often tackle projects at home.

Todd liked cutting grass and blowing snow, and he’s a bit envious that I get to use a tractor with a 6-foot snowblower to manage the 200+ inches we get every winter in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I have to admit that using the tractor is fun, but I don’t like having to check the oil in the middle of winter when it’s really cold, dark, or windy. It’s almost as much work to clear the snow off the tractor as it is to use the tractor to clear the snow from the driveway.

So this summer, my mom decided to pay for us to put up a snow canopy.

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Todd drew up plans on his computer, and we talked about where to build the shelter. I’d like it close to the house so I don’t have to wade through too much snow, but buried electrical cable is running through that location. We wouldn’t want the post-hole digger to hit the conduit.

Todd, using his ventilator, came outside to help me and our kids locate the electrical line. It wasn’t easy because the trench for the buried conduit had to snake around a boulder. We spent much of the weekend digging to uncover the entire electrical line in our targeted location, and then Todd came outside again and coached me in running a construction line to ensure the new structure would be aligned square with our garage.

I measured from that line and marked the locations for each of the eight posts. However, one of them would’ve interfered with the electrical line. We shifted everything to the east, but then another post would be interfering with the electrical. We shifted everything to the north, and then back to the west.

Weary of all the measuring, I sighed. “Well, we could move it 20 feet to the east,” I said, “but that’s farther than I’d like it.”

“I’ll figure it out,” Todd said. It was just the kind of problem-solving challenge he enjoys.

He asked our son to get his drone, and he instructed me to use paper plates to mark where the four corner posts would be and to lay a garden hose over the conduit. Our son took an aerial photo of the setup.

A distant overhead view of area of grass and dirt, with a drive on the left side where a white SUV is parked. A tractor is just right of center, and a trench with a sharp curve is nearby.

A drone’s view of our snow canopy project, in its beginning stages. (Courtesy of Kristin Neva)

Back at his computer, Todd uploaded the images. Knowing the distance between two of the plates, he was able to overlay eight appropriately spaced dots over the image to represent the posts, and he determined that we could avoid the electrical line by shifting everything 6 feet to the east.

“That’s the most satisfying thing I’ve done in years,” Todd said.

I was happy to see him so enthused. He had that same sparkle in his eyes that he had when he told me about problems he solved at work.

ALS is a disease that takes away muscle function and independence, and Todd has said that one of his biggest losses was not being able to work anymore. Now all of our effort and time goes toward managing basic activities of daily life, and Todd fatigues easily if a day calls for more than sitting in front of his computer in his air-conditioned office.

But it was good for Todd to get a little bit of sun outside while flexing his problem-solving skills.

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


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