Sunday, February 28, 2010

Once in a While Everyone Needs a Lift

True, we all have to depend on others once in a while, for a lift, a bootstrap, a little assist. This time it was Suzy’s turn. Because of ever-increasing mobility problems due to her spinal situation, she has been having a terrible and very painful time getting into and out of the motorhome, which of course has severely limited our ability to travel. CoachLift to the rescue!

CoachLift was started 25 years ago when a man seeking aid for his wife designed a lift for her to get into and out of their motorhome. Since then the company has grown so that there are now over 5000 lifts in use in this country.

We’ve known about CoachLift for 4 or 5 years, but were never ready to make the admission that it would be necessary for our lifestyle – until this year. We made all the arrangements in advance, and drove to Phoenix Tuesday. The CoachLift Company arranged for us to stay, at their cost, at a nice RV park in the heart of Tempe (home of Sun Devil Stadium for you football fans). Steve, the husband of the owner, came to the park to meet us Wednesday morning to guide us the fifteen miles along the Phoenix area streets and Interstate highways to Werner’s Welding, where the installation was to take place.IMG_5378

100_4425 The obligatory get acquainted handshake photo with Steve

At Werner’s Welding we met Jason Falk, the operating manager as well as chief welder.IMG_5375 Jason told us their firm started counting ten years ago, and had installed well over 300 of these units before they lost count. He’s installing four of them this week alone.100_4427Jason started to work while Steve explained the system to us. First a supporting bracket is welded underneath the motorhome frame, and another bracket is firmly attached to the exterior wall, just beside the entry door.

Then a lift rod is mounted between the two brackets, and a motor installed at the top of the rod, wired into the 12-volt house battery system.100_4431 Although it sounds simple in the telling, that part took about three hours, as some of it needed to fabricated to meet Rosie’s specific dimensions.

The lift rod is made of aluminum, with a steel worm screw in the center. That screw is threaded through two steel nuts attached to a lifting bracket, to drive that bracket up and down the length of the rod. In turn, the bracket supports an articulated arm. Think of the arm in terms of your own: at the torso, your arm has a shoulder, and further down an elbow, and at the end a fist. The CoachLift arm attaches to the torso, or rod and bracket, with a swivel hinge, like a shoulder. Halfway down this arm, is another joint, the elbow. At the end is the fist.IMG_5444 Inserted into that fist is a removable chair. 100_4442 The screw moves the bracket up and down, the “shoulder” and “elbow” allow the “fist”to rise, supporting the chair and allowing it to swing into or out of the door of the motorhome.IMG_5388

Steve from CoachLift helps Suzy into the chair the first time.IMG_5391 And up she goes!

Because the motorhome stair well would be a hazard, Jason made a steel plate that will slide over the stair well; Suzy will be able stand on that getting into and out of her chair. And because the chair is on a free swinging arm, CoachLift provides a safety chain we can attach within the entryway to prevent it from swinging out while Suzy is moving into or out of the chair. Seems they’ve thought of everything!

IMG_5395 Suzy signs the necessary paperwork

Isn’t this a lot of expense and bother? Wouldn’t it be better to get Suzy’s problems fixed rather than having workarounds? Unquestionably. But we’ve been trying with our doctors for years to head this off, to fix things up, Two surgeries and months of physical therapy have helped a little on some of it, but other causes aren’t getting better. We have a life to live, and we’ll keep trying to get things fixed. But in the meantime, we’re going to make the life we are living less painful and more enjoyable. Better to be able to get into and out of the motorhome slowly than to not be able to get in and out al all!

That’s how it is, living … Our Life on Wheels!


  1. I'm glad to see Suzy has a lift to make life and access easier. Tiy two still have a lot of miles to go and places to see! Now get out there and enjoy!

  2. Jerry and Suzy,

    Thanks for sharing this part of your life. This is a great story with good understandable narration and pictures. I am certain this new modification will allow you the freedom and travel you are accustomed too. I look forward to seeing you down the road.

  3. That's a pretty nifty setup there, Jerry. It looks like it's going to work perfectly for Suzy, that's great. Those installers sure seem to have thought of everything and from your pictures, it all looks great. I agree with you completely about having this work done - none of us are going to get any younger are we? Time to do what we can, when we can. Suzy, just remember, that's your lift, o.k., Jerry can use the stairs!

  4. We are so fortunate in this day & age to have dedicated people thinking, designing, & building helpful devices like that lift. You guys are to be commended for going ahead your RV plans & dreams. Others would have thrown in the towel, stayed home, watched television, & looked miserably out the window for ever. Hadn't realized Suzi's condition is not really getting better but at least you folks will be back on the road again. Just going to have to take things a bit slower.

  5. You just can't place a price tag on the new freedom this lift chair will give your Suzy. It would really be a shame if you guys had to stop RV travel because she could not enter the coach. This was a fantastic way to get yourselves moving again! Good post showing us how it was all accomplished in the installation process.

    No fair taking rides in that new chair now, Jerry!

  6. That's awesome! What a wonderful gadget! I know what you mean by "doctors and health issues and things NOT getting fixed". We might need one of those lifts ourselves someday. I didn't know such a thing existed. Thank you for sharing this.
    - Mary Ann :-)

  7. A wonderful report on the lift. So glad you did this to allow Suzy to get into and out of the motorhome safely and painlessly. Now you can get 'on the road again' more often! Sorry you won't be at the Gypsy Gathering next week, but hope you have success on other fronts. We'll see you at the Ch. 21 rally, if not before.

  8. Very good Blog Jerry...and Bless Suzy's heart,,,I'm so happy for her to have this nice lift to make life a little easier...She is a go'er and a do'er..she will make it!!!
    Keep smiling!!

  9. What a neat idea and what a great tool to have available. So glad it worked out for you to get it.

    I heard about your blog from Ken & Nanette. Thanks for letting me follow along with you as you travel life's highway.


  10. This is so cool! so next step is... hit the road! I think this is a great idea.


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