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August 13, 2007

Nothing Runs Like a Deere

An innovative modification to his lawn tractor allows Nova Scotia’s Kevin Murphy to plow and mow independently.

It’s been said that every man needs a tractor—maybe even as much as he needs a TV remote control. For Kevin Murphy, an incomplete C5-6 quad who works as a rehabilitation counsellor for CPA Nova Scotia, the itch just had to be scratched.

“Construction of our new home in the summer of 2000 had me yearning to participate in the ‘ground work’ of the building process,” explains Kevin. “I wanted to drive a machine of some sort--excavator, Bobcat, whatever. Upon completion of our landscaping this spring, I could no longer ignore the urge inside of me to participate in the upkeep of our property.”

What Kevin decided to do was buy a lawn tractor, which would allow him to mow his grass and plow his driveway in the winter. He set out to investigate the many brands and types of lawn and garden tractors available, searching for one that required minimal adaptations.

“In the end,” says Kevin, “I settled on the John Deere. It featured an automatic transmission, a desirable frame structure to accommodate easy transferring and adapting, and hand controls for the mower and other attachments.”

The only problem was actually getting on and off the tractor. So, in cooperation with the local John Deere dealer and a metal fabricator/welder, Kevin designed an adaptation that would solve the problem. The end result features a used wheelchair seat (to give Kevin the extra back support and stability he needs) that is attached to an electrically-powered screw drive, which is powered off the regular tractor battery. The screw drive raises the seat up off the frame of tractor several inches. The seat then swivels 180 degrees, so it faces to the rear, then lowers down to a more desirable height for Kevin to transfer into. After transferring in, the seat raises him up, and he can then swivel back to face forward before lowering and locking into a driving position.

“It’s not really rocket science, but it took a fair bit of logistical ‘ciphering’,” says Kevin. “I approached this challenge no differently than I approach any other task. I examine every detail of the process and situation, and then approach it one step at a time, analyzing each little logistical challenge preventing me from doing this task. Then I come up with a method, gadget or some way around each little challenge, until at last I’ve achieved the end result--in this case, mowing my lawn!”

In fact, says Kevin, it’s the first time he’s mowed his lawn or plowed his driveway since he was injured more than 16 years ago. He adds that, without the cooperation and patience of the dealer and the fabricator, he wouldn’t have been able to complete the project.

For more information, you can e-mail Kevin at kmurphy@canparaplegic.org

From Total Access, Winter 2001

1 comment:

Judy Lugar said...

Remarkable persistance produced a very practical solution! No rocket science, just creative solutions. Well done. Please do a demonstration on my lawn next summer, Kevin!