Meet Leslie: Finding hope in life’s uncertainties
Leslie K. loves animals, sparkly nail polish and her home state of Texas.
None of those things have changed.
But after a tragic accident in October 2021, much of Leslie’s life will never be the same again.
“I was on my way to LA, and I stopped because there was an accident in my lane,” said Leslie from her Jurupa Valley home. “I had gotten out and evidently, somebody got inpatient and went around us and … took me for a little drag down the road.”
The car that hit Leslie ended up on top of her, causing severe injuries to her lower body. Throughout the entire ordeal, a police officer on the scene stayed with Leslie – even lying on the pavement with her – until the vehicle was removed and she was transported to a hospital.
When Leslie woke up after an emergency eight-hour surgery, she discovered the devasting results of that fateful day.
“I just lifted the sheets and went, ‘Oh, I have no legs,’” said the Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) member.
‘TRIAL AND ERROR’
Once Leslie was discharged from the hospital, some immediate needs became apparent quite quickly, including:
- Learning to operate an electric wheelchair
- Fitting through narrow doorways at home
- Using the bathroom safely
It was a time of uncertainty and worry for Leslie and her husband, Robert.
“I was scared, I didn’t know what to do – I didn’t know what I was supposed to do,” said Robert B., wiping away tears at the memory of those first days as his wife’s primary caregiver. “I didn’t know about having this house ready … how do I feed her, how do I bathe her?
“… You don’t know. It’s just all trial and error.”
As they navigated their new world, the couple had to find ways to adapt to a completely different lifestyle.
“Because you can’t just go out and get in my truck and go do something,” said Leslie, a cowgirl who grew up on a ranch, routinely riding horses. She still proudly wears a Texas-shaped gold charm Texas around her neck.
Leslie also used to raise chickens and sell their eggs to neighbors, but she can’t maneuver her wheelchair in the coop. And Robert gave up his truck driver job to be available for his wife. He has now taken over the chicken coop duties as well as laundry tasks since the couple’s washer and dryer are in their home’s basement.
Leslie and Robert soon learned – thanks to the community partnership among Inland Housing Solutions (IHS), CalAIM and IEHP – help was available.
In August 2022, Leslie and Robert received an authorization from IEHP for the CalAIM Community Supports Home Modifications (Environmental Accessibility Adaptations), which started the remodel process. With this program, individuals receive access to specialized care – whether that means changes to the inside or outside of their homes – ensuring the best quality of life.
“We were doing so much on our own because we didn’t know what to ask for, who to ask for help – and that all kind of just started falling into place when Ron (Estrada of IHS) found us and he stepped up,” said Leslie.
In many ways, Leslie and Robert simply needed their same home to function differently, but with things most people take for granted in their own homes.
“They need those accessibility renovations to be able to use their space the way they used to,” said Kate Nazareno, director of client services at IHS.
The renovations, which were completed for free in November 2022, focused on the couple’s only bathroom and included:
- Widening/adjusting doors
- Installing grab bars
- Modifying flooring to tile for electric wheelchair access
- Repositioning/rewiring of electrical outlets and switches
- Adding a wheelchair-accessible vanity, medicine cabinet and towel bars
The vanity may be Leslie’s favorite update.
“So I can blow dry my hair, put my make-up on and all that girly stuff,” she said.
According to Robert, the modifications to their bathroom represent something much bigger for his wife than just the actual construction work.
“She wants to be as independent as she can and having that bathroom finished in there was a huge burden taken off of us – big,” he said.
And that’s exactly what this kind of multi-agency collaborative effort intends to do: help Inland Empire residents experiencing life-changing circumstances.
“Through this program with CalAIM and IEHP, we are able to provide the home modifications and other services to help people like Robert and Leslie return to their homes, recover and be healthy and stable in their homes,” Nazareno said.
For Leslie and Robert, receiving the accessibility modifications with no out-of-pocket costs is a welcomed positive change.
“When things like that happen, it gives you hope that hey, it’s gonna get better,” Robert said.
“That remodel has been a God’s gift – it’s made a big difference,” she added.
See an inspiring video about Leslie and Robert.