Dave and Lorraine Renton were travelling in Tasmania in June, 2000 when Lorraine had a left-sided stroke. She was admitted to the local hospital at Burnie and two months later was transferred for rehabilitation to a centre in Geelong, close to their home in Ocean Grove, Victoria.
Dave spent his time while Lorraine was in rehab learning the ins and outs of her therapies to use when they eventually went home. The stroke affected Lorraine’s right side and left her with speech difficulties. She used a motorised wheelchair to get around but was restricted because the couple had no way to transport it.
“We didn’t go anywhere for 12 months, we were sort of stuck,” Dave says.
A year later a moment of genius struck Dave at 2am - black lead pencil in hand he wrote the basic plans for the disabled wheelchair he would call Carryit. Within a week, with the help a local engineering firm, it was built and they were off on holiday to a respite house in Merimbula. They could travel again at last.
The Carryit is a type of platform, like a big bike rack, that sits on the back of the car. The idea is simple, as good designs often are, and makes use of gravity and the weight of the wheelchair. The Carryit has a tilting ramp which the chair reverses up. The weight of the chair pushes the Carryit to a horizontal position and the ramp separates, tilts back on itself and is then secured by bolts.
The Carryit has “no electrics, no hydraulics,” says Dave. “It gravity-tilts and is loaded in 15 seconds.” Its checker plate aluminium manufacture means it is light weight and “there’s no maintenance and nothing to rust.”
It uses a Hayman Reese towbar (the square peg in square hole type) and can be fitted to almost any car. At the moment Dave has it fitted to his four- cylinder X-Trail and previously to his Commodore. The Carryit is wired for regulation tail lights and stop lights and requires registration in Victoria. Vicroads were unsure how to classify it.
“They hadn’t had anything like it before,’’ he says. “They eventually decided to call it a ‘tow-bar accessory’”. It requires a number plate and a once-only registration fee of $15.
The disabled wheelchair Carryit runs on a notfor- profit basis. Dave, along other volunteers, has supplied and fitted over 100 units for people with mobility limitation, including to caravans.
Dave, who has been a carer for over 10 years now, has this advice for other carers: “Take some time out doing something special, just for the carer. Carers need to take time out for themselves because it’s a tough job, it can be very stressful and depressing”.
Dave does this through the Surf Life Saving Club at Ocean Grove. He has been a member since 1966 and has never missed a patrol. A life member since 1984, he now rides the club’s surf skis (like a slim line kayak) and helps out with the children’s Nippers program. He is also involved in Disabled Surfers - which Lorraine has boldly tried!
For Carryit enquiries ring Dave Renton 0418 575 880 or visit www.disabledsurfers.org
Alison Bakker is a stroke survivor and sometime writer. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and two children, and works part-time as a registered nurse