Stroke surviving Reverend Yvonne creates home lift haven for disabled parishioners

Following a stroke in June 2020, Reverend Yvonne Desroches, 63, from Northamptonshire was left with reduced mobility down her right side. Yvonne tells us how she had to adapt to her new level of mobility as a full-time wheelchair user, the challenges she faced finding a suitably adapted Ministerial House, and the positive impact a Stiltz Home Lift had on her physical and mental health and wellbeing.

“I had felt called into full time ministry for some years, this brought about a change of vocation in my mature season of life, in 2015 I became a Community Evangelist from the Church Army and lived in a Ministerial House with my partner, Simon. Previously I worked at St. Mary’s Hospital in London as a nurse for 13 years, going on to join the Police as an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate providing support to people at risk of serious harm.”

“I had a stroke in 2020 which mainly affected my right side. After several weeks in hospital, I returned home where I faced a number of significant difficulties. Adapting to being a full-time wheelchair user, I could only access the ground floor of my home. I had to have my bed moved downstairs, I wasn’t able to use the bathroom either so had to wash in a small cloakroom sink and it was impossible for me to access our garden…basically I was living, sleeping and cooking in my living room which was an extremely challenging time”.

When Yvonne returned to work the situation became even more difficult, as she attempted to carry out ministerial work from her living room.  “The church house is used to meet parishioners, so in order to carry out my role effectively I needed a dedicated, calming and relaxing space”.

Lack of single storey properties
Sandra Allen, Property Manager for the Diocese of Peterborough began the search for a suitable single storey property for Yvonne. After months of fruitless searching, she was unable to find a property that would immediately fit Yvonne’s needs. So instead, Sandra, together with the contractor, Ian Polson from Denford Construction, decided to look at the possibility of converting a two-storey property and liaised with an Occupational Therapist from the local community stroke team to understand what would be needed. Along with other adaptations, they recommended installation of a home lift, making the rectory fully accessible for Yvonne.

Easy access throughout the rectory
Initially there was talk about installing a stair lift. However, the Occupational Therapist advised against it due to both the configuration of the house and Yvonne’s balance and postural strength. Yvonne explained, “It really was a lightbulb moment for us. Neither of us were aware of home lifts, so we researched online and discovered Stiltz. Immediately we liked how their lifts looked, the design and all the safety features. The product looked straightforward to use and would enable easy access throughout the rectory.

Sandra commented, “As Property Manager, what attracted me to Stiltz was the simple installation process. Plus, the fact it could be uninstalled easily if needed without affecting the structure of the house, should we come to sell it. I was also very conscious of our budget. A Stiltz Home Lift was significantly cheaper than removing walls and installing a ground floor wet room in Yvonne’s existing property.”  

Sandra and Ian Polson managed the entire process with Stiltz, including the initial site survey, liaison over the building regulations and installation. The installation was completed within just two days and Yvonne and Simon moved in the day after, in March 2021.

Yvonne commented “Having an acquired disability or life changing diagnosis is stressful enough, you really do have enough to deal with, without the difficulties involved in adapting the home or looking for somewhere more suitable to live. Luckily for us, the process of installing a home lift was very straightforward.”

Freedom and independence
A Stiltz Home Lift has given Yvonne the independence and dignity needed to get her life back on track.  “Before having the Stiltz installed, I couldn’t go upstairs to access my clothes. Simon used to choose items for me, he would bring them downstairs but they were never right – I’d ask for a pink top and he’d bring green! I can now get to all my personal belongings which is important to me. I’m fully independent and do not need to rely on Simon anymore. I can carry out everyday tasks for myself such as getting dressed, going to bed when I want, going to sleep when I want, getting up and moving around the house as it suits me”.

Benefit to the family
It’s not only Yvonne who benefits from the Stiltz Home Lift, Yvonne’s husband Simon – who suffers from ill-health also makes use of the lift which has improved his mobility and confidence around the home . Yvonne has seven grandchildren who all think her Stiltz Home Lift is great. “My granddaughter keeps saying to my daughter, ‘Mummy can we have one?’ It is a lot of fun for them. None of them see it as a disability aid; which is important to me.”

Independent living
Installation of the home lift has also made a significant difference to Yvonne’s work routine. “In my role it’s important to have a blended life which includes work, rest and play. The lift enables me to do this independently. I don’t need anyone to help me to get around the house or to get up in the morning. For me, it has opened up a whole new world of independent living. Because I am able to engage fully with my parishioners, I can comfortably say my Stiltz Home Lift enables a deeper understanding of my parish as my work is not as restricted or distracted as it was before.”

Accessible environment for parishioners
As well as proving invaluable for Simon and Yvonne, the Stiltz Home Lift contributes to creating an accessible, calming environment for her parishioners, some of whom are wheelchair users too. “Downstairs we have designed a snug, it is a special space for people to come and relax, feel at ease and talk freely. I didn’t want a space which felt like a traditional vicarage with paperwork, books etc. Because of my home lift we were able to move all of my admin material upstairs into the study. We are now blessed to have an informal meeting space with room for three wheelchair users with the added benefit of a downstairs toilet and bathroom.”

Impact on health and wellbeing
Yvonne continues, “Mental health and wellbeing are so important, both are reliant on being able to appreciate outside spaces, having the ability to wash and dress independently, to eat and sleep with your partner, and to be able to access all areas of living and relationships. Stroke patients are affected in many ways, not only physically but cognitively; it takes up a lot of energy for the brain to gradually repair itself. A Stiltz Home Lift enables me to function without using up too much of that valuable energy. A home lift helps people with all manner of mobility challenges, particularly for people who use a wheelchair, as this is the perfect solution to enable upstairs access. It really is incredible and it makes a huge difference to our lives”.

Yvonne was ordained in Sept 2020 by Church of England Deacon Bishop John of Brixworth, then ordained into the Priesthood in June 2021 at Peterborough Cathedral by Rt Revd Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough.

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