All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2002

Labor of LOVE

Husband revamps bus to aid his ailing wife

3rd Oct, 2002
By Wes Johnson
The Hutchinson News

When Don Murray bought a vintage 1960 Greyhound bus for $6,500 with plans to turn it into a motor home, his wife, Abby, was less than thrilled.

"I was adamantly opposed to it," Abby said. "But when our grandson was born in 1995 in Colorado, we took the bus to see him. When we got back I had to admit, 'You were right and I was wrong.' "

But there's more to the story about the Nickerson couple than that.

Don, 65, transformed every inch of the old bus with his wife's comfort, safety and mobility in mind.

Abby, also 65, has required a wheelchair to get around for 22 years, after having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago.

The Murrays always enjoyed camping with their children in trailers, and eventually moved up to motor homes to enjoy the freedom of the road. But the aisle in their last factory-built motor home was too narrow for Abby's wheelchair. And getting in and out of the vehicle proved difficult at best for her.

"We had to do something or we couldn't travel together anymore," Don recalled.

A retired electrical contractor, he figured out a better way.

He gutted the Greyhound, removing three pickup truck loads of debris from the interior. Then he spent an entire summer rewiring the bus to accommodate his inventions.

Don cut a hole in the side of the bus, strengthened the opening and installed a used electric-powered wheelchair lift from an old school bus. He designed several operating switches so his wife could get in or out of the lift by herself, from ground level or from inside the bus.

"Until the handicapped door was cut in, she'd never been inside the bus to see it," Don said.

"If I'd seen it, maybe I would have stopped him right then," Abby said, laughing.

He built extra wide floors so Abby could easily maneuver her wheelchair inside and installed a toilet and shower she could access by herself.

"I tried to keep the counters low so she could reach stuff," Don said. "There are pull-out shelves instead of drawers. The oven is below the counter so she can reach it. I didn't want it high, where she could spill hot food on her."

He replaced the original bus windows with screened windows designed for motor homes. He added two air-conditioning units, built a sofa and installed a Flexsteel swiveling captain's chair up front for his wife.

He replaced an engine and a transmission, and so far estimates that he's spent about $40,000 upgrading the former passenger bus into a traveling home.

To help Abby live even more independently, the Murrays six years ago obtained a service dog named Rivers, who travels with them wherever they go.

"Rivers picks up things I drop, empties the dryer of clothes I can't reach, closes doors and even takes the trash out," Abby said. "She was raised by a prisoner at Norton (Correctional Facility), and trained by Kansas Specialty Dog Service of Washington, Kansas."

Now 8 years old, Rivers underwent several surgeries to remove cancer, a prospect Abby will soon face, too.

"We are taking things one at a time," Don said. "Having a handicap changes your lifestyle, but it doesn't mean you can't go."

Once Abby's medical problems are taken care of, the Murrays have set their sights on seeing the brilliant fall colors next year back east.

"I really am proud of him and I really do appreciate what he did," Abby said. "I'm not ready to die. There's lots of places we want to go together."

© Copyright 2002 The Hutchinson News