In late 2002, at age 35, Bill noticed physical problems starting with lethargy and low energy. Then came pain and weakness in his legs, culminating in a fall and a fractured ankle. Bill’s arms, while still functional, became too weak to lift the heavy loads required in his work. Finally, our veteran was forced to leave his much loved driving job. Soon thereafter came the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
Bill entered a nursing home. At first, he could feed himself and do other light tasks. Eventually, all use of his arms was gone. Life at the nursing home was, as Bill described it, “….a lot like being in a prison.” There was little in-house activity and few trips out. Staff indifference added to Bill’s worsening depression.
Mr. Skiles began searching for a place where he could find better treatment and opportunities for personal growth. Highly recommended was the Missouri Veterans Home. Bill applied and in 2012 he began a new life here. Bill relates, “In minutes, I knew I’d come to the right place. I was welcomed and shown around the home. Staff members’ attitudes were up-beat as they helped me get settled. I started feeling hopeful.”
Previously, Bill used a mechanized chair that provided transportation but offered few other options. Today, Mr. Skiles’ life is enhanced by a mobile chair that provides a wide range of functions and conveniences. Controlled by the operator’s head, the unit tilts, reclines, elevates the legs and raises or lowers the seat. It will rotate in place, reverse position or travel forward at a speed selected by the driver.
From his chair and bed, Bill accesses an environmental control unit (ECU) to turn on his room lights and flash the nursing call signal. The system activates the cable box, the television set and telephone. Bill regularly studies or communicates using his voice-prompted computer. In the near future, he will benefit from a high-tech bed that features therapeutic and comfort positions not now available.
For many years, Bill Skiles has enjoyed painting, ceramics and other visual arts. Since his arrival at the Veterans Home this practice has been renewed – sometimes brilliantly. Through his participation in the Recreation and Arts Program at the VA’s Jefferson Barracks Facility, Bill has discovered ways to broaden his creative skills. In early 2014, he was interviewed by PN Magazine. Photos were taken of Bill busy on a current project. He and his work were featured in the October 2014 issue of the magazine.
Wheelchair and Powerchair games highlight Bill’s sporting life. Starting in 2012, Bill traveled to Tampa, Florida where he distinguished himself in Bowling and Slalom. Then came the 2013 Wheelchair Games at Spokane, Washington. Here, our veteran won medals in Bowling, Slalom, and Powerchair Soccer.