It was unexpected to say the least.
Not long after her 60th birthday, Bobbie DePue was at home one morning putting on her makeup.
“All of a sudden my left hand quit working,” the Fremont woman said.
“I feel a little funny,” she also told her husband, Mike, who reassured her that they’d keep an eye on the situation and went outside.
The next thing he knew, she was at the back door. She couldn’t move her left arm or left leg.
Mike got his wife into the house and called 911.
They would learn she’d had a major stroke.
A hospitalization, surgery and rehabilitation would follow before Bobbie could come home. Mike wondered how he’d get Bobbie up and down the steps of their house in her wheelchair. Then a neighbor told him about an article on Rebuilding Together in the Fremont Tribune.
Today, the DePues have a 40-foot ramp that’s helping to provide them with the safe mobility and independence they need. The ramp was built by volunteers through Rebuilding Together.
Rebuilding Together, Platte Valley East, Inc., is a nonprofit housing organization that makes critical home repairs to improve the health and safety of homeowners who meet income requirements, said Brad Wiese, executive director.
The agency, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary locally, serves the eastern Platte Valley region, primarily Fremont and North Bend.
With the ramp program, the organization has partnered with Fremont Area Community Foundation to help people be able to get in and out of their homes safely when they have catastrophic medical events or when age or a disability keeps them from coming and going as necessary, Wiese said.
For the DePues, the situation involved a catastrophic medical situation on Aug. 23.
Bobbie was taken to Fremont Health, where her husband said she was quickly diagnosed. After a CT scan, she was flown by medical helicopter to Nebraska Medicine hospital in Omaha. She was treated and on Aug. 26 underwent an emergency, life-saving, brain surgery.
“She initially wasn’t supposed to survive and now she’s doing really, really well,” her spouse said.
Bobbie later spent two months at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Omaha Campus before coming home on Oct. 31.
But before his wife returned home, Mike DePue wondered how he’d get her up and down the steps. A neighbor told him a locally based organization might be able to help.
Not knowing the organization’s name, DePue went to the Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity Home Store and asked if there was a group that could build a ramp.
He was referred to Rebuilding Together. DePue contacted the organization and completed the necessary paperwork.
Work began on Oct. 19-20, laying out and building the main structure of the ramp. A group of volunteers came Oct. 21 to put on hand rails and decking.
“We were still finishing on Wednesday of the next week,” Wiese said.
About a dozen volunteers, mostly Rebuilding Together board members and members of First Baptist Church in Fremont, assisted with the endeavor.
Wiese estimates between 150 or 200 human hours went into the project.
Made of treated lumber, the ramp was constructed in the house’s backyard near the driveway.
The DePues are grateful for the ramp.
“It’s a blessing,” she said.
“It gives us the ability to come and go as we want,” Mike DePue said. “If we want to go somewhere, I don’t have to worry about getting her to the car.”
Wiese also emphasizes the importance of safety.
Having a ramp prevents the possibility of a caregiver dropping a patient. It can keep the caregiver from falling and becoming injured as well.
“The issue of safety can’t be overstated for both the patient and the caregiver,” Wiese said.
Mobility is important, too.
“It does increase your mobility, because you might decide not to go somewhere because it’s just too difficult to get someone in and out of the house,” Wiese said.
DePue said he and his wife of 42 years haven’t ventured much out of their house, but now they can get to church and doctor’s appointments without having to worry about getting down the steps of their home.
The DePues are looking ahead.
“She’s starting to get movement back in her leg and arm,” DePue said. “Hopefully, it will just keep getting better.”
Wiese said plans are to have the Catholic Heart Work Camp paint the DePues’ home and do some general maintenance work.
“Our work here isn’t finished,” Wiese said.
DePue noted that the help has been humbling.
“I’ve had to learn to accept the blessings as they come,” he said.
Wiese looks forward to seeing more area residents be helped through Rebuilding Together.
“Next summer, I’d love to put in five more ramps if people are in need — so they can contact us for the spring ramp building season,” he said.
He added something else:
“It’s always a great feeling to know we’ve been able to help someone remain safely in their homes,” Wiese said. “It’s another example of the community coming together to help one another live a better life.”