Environmental Control Unit (ECU) Allows 84-year-old with Parkinson’s Disease to Communicate with His Wife
Eighty-four year old Alfred Combee had quite an active life. The former fire investigator was also an avid wildlife photographer. He and his wife Anna loved to mountain bike together. Three years ago, Alfred found out he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. His disease progressed quickly. He has already lost his speech and his ability to write, which left him unable to communicate.
Alfred’s wife Anna is now his full-time caregiver. Frustration grew among them both as Alfred struggled to convey even the simplest information.
“It got to the point where he could not even tell me if he needed something,” explains Anna. “He could not communicate basic things like when he had a headache or if he needed his medicine. It is very scary when you do not know what is wrong.”
Alfred’s dream was to be able to speak to his wife again, so, his hospice social worker suggested they contact Dream Foundation. The California-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is the only national dream-granting organization for adults and their families battling life-threatening illness. Dream recipients are 18 years of age and older, have received a limited prognosis, and lack the resources to fulfill their dreams themselves. Anna submitted an application on behalf of Alfred, and, much to their excitement, they were selected. With more than 20,000 dreams served since 1994, Dream Foundation has never turned away a qualified dream request.
Dream Foundation contacted Accessibility Services, Inc. (ASI) in Homosassa, Florida to see if they would be willing to develop and donate a device to help Alfred achieve his dream of being able to communicate with Anna. ASI manufactures the autonoMe ECU and customizes the devices to fit the specific needs of each client. When ASI president Maggie Thompson heard Alfred’s story, she was more than willing to help.
“We knew how important it was for Alfred to be able to speak to Anna,” says Maggie Thompson, President of ASI, “We sent our technical team to Alfred’s home multiple times and developed a solution which now allows him to communicate with Anna. We were determined to do whatever it took to make one of his final wishes come true.”
According to Anna, Alfred is able to type into the device, which, in turn, speaks to Anna.
“They also programmed pre-fabricated sentences he can choose from, such as ‘I need to take my medicine’ and ‘I have a headache’,” says Anna. “I can now quickly respond to what he needs. We can also have a conversation, which we could not do before.”
According to Dream Foundation Executive Director Kisa Heyer, “Our organization was touched by Alfred’s story and his unique needs. Working with ASI was an encouraging and heart-warming experience that allowed us to help restore Alfred’s quality of life. We are thrilled for both him and Anna that he is once again able to communicate.”
“Alfred and I have been together for 25 years. My full time job is taking care of him. This is what you do when you love somebody,” concludes Anna. “I am grateful to both the Dream Foundation and ASI for making sure Alfred got exactly what he wanted.”
About Dream Foundation
The only national dream-granting organization for adults, Dream Foundation enhances the quality of life for individuals and their families battling life-threatening illness. Dream recipients are those individuals who have been given a year or less life expectancy. Dreams range from basic need items, like a working stove, to bedside reunions and meaningful experiences with children and loved ones. Founded in 1994, Dream Foundation serves more than 2,500 dreams each year and relies on a network of volunteers, sponsors and individual donors. For more information, visit www.dreamfoundation.org.