An Unfortunate Accident
For Elizabeth Soden, life was not meant to go this way. Once a vibrant woman with a promising career, a freak accident left her partially paralyzed, completely derailing her dreams. Thankfully, her husband remained by her side; however, Elizabeth began to notice he would often go out on his own and when she found out why, she was moved to tears.
Before the Accident
Prior to her life-changing accident, Elizabeth was on the road to success. Not only did she enjoy her job as a bus driver, but she was a reserve sheriff with hopes to one day join the police academy. She also had a wonderful boyfriend, Brad Soden, who was a combat veteran and firefighter. Overall, life was good!
Both Brad and Elizabeth spent a great deal of time volunteering at local schools. They also enjoyed maintaining an active lifestyle and would camp, hike and water ski on a regular basis. Staying indoors was simply not an option for this couple.
A Blended Family
At the time, Elizabeth was a mother of two, while Brad had three sons of his own. Together, they made an amazing team and Brad admitted that after only a few weeks of dating he was completely in love with Elizabeth. According to him, she was the most unselfish person he knew.
Sadly, life was about to take a drastic turn for both Brad and Elizabeth.
Three days after Elizabeth’s 35th birthday, she was involved in a severe car accident that left her with a broken back. She flew to Vegas where a specialist delivered a grim prognosis, even going as far as to tell her to say her goodbyes now.
Could Elizabeth pull through this horrible time?
A Turn in the Tide
Despite her prognosis, Elizabeth fought hard to live. Thankfully, her condition improved over time, but she was made aware that she would never walk again. Realizing she could be saddling Brad down with more than he bargained for, she made it clear he could leave her if he wanted someone “normal.”
Is it possible Brad could actually leave her? After all, she was the love of his life.
A Noble Man
While some lesser men would have probably taken the easy way out, Brad was not. He proposed to Elizabeth right in her hospital bed and six months later they were married. “Through sickness and in health,” right?
No Wheel Chair Allowed
At the wedding, Elizabeth refused to have her wheelchair in any of her wedding photos. Therefore, Brad arranged for her to sit in a golf cart. She was driven down the aisle by her grandfather and later by her husband to the reception. And you know what’s even more romantic? Their first dance he carried Elizabeth the entire time!
Although things were looking up, there were still MANY challenges ahead.
Tough Times Ahead
Unfortunately, Elizabeth’s happiness would be fleeting and she would spend years in and out of hospitals due to infections and complications. She would undergo over 12 blood transfusions, five surgeries and 32 sessions in a hyperbaric chamber. Doctors hoped the treatments would speed up her recovery.
Unfortunately, things wouldn’t be that easy.
Doctors hoped that the 32 sessions in a hyperbaric chamber would help boost healthy blood flow and eliminate any infection, as hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been known to do wonders, but in this case, it didn’t seem to do much. In fact, the harder they tried to save her, the worse she seemed to get.
Elizabeth would continue to struggle with her health issues and would develop severe reactions to her antibiotics. The reaction caused her liver to shut down and she spent almost a week in intensive care. These spells would continue off and on, with Elizabeth spending most of her days bed bound.
According to Elizabeth everyday tasks became quite challenging, but no matter how bad it got, she refused to dwell on the negatives. For Elizabeth, positivity was the key to survival, although she spent every day in pain.
Thankfully, she had Brad to rely on.
A Dedicated Husband
Despite her disabilities, Brad devoted his life to his wife. “My job for the rest of my life is to make her happy,” he said. “She needs something, I put it there. If they don’t make it, I’ll make it. If it’s bad, I’ll find a way to fix it.”
The family tried to continue their normal activities, but when Elizabeth ran into obstacles, Brad knew he had to do something. “We were out there one day and a herd of elk came through the campgrounds,” Brad Soden recalled. “We tried to get her in the chair and get her out with the kids, and the chair kept getting stuck. She was crying, saying, ‘Just go on without me,’ and I just found that unacceptable. So I told her I would build her something.”
And this, this was the beginning of something that would go on to change many, many lives.
The Secret Project
Wanting to make life easier for his wife, Brad began to spend significant amounts of time away from home in order to build something that would ease Elizabeth’s pain. His creation was called the “tank chair” and would allow for Elizabeth to drive across rough services thanks to its heavy-duty trends. She would even be able to glide up staircases and speed through snow, mud and hills.
Love, Work, and Patience
According to Brad, he created the tank chair by using a motorized caterpillar track system for the wheels in an effort to make it useful in various situations and terrains. “People who design wheelchairs generally design them for getting around inside of a building or a home. For that, they’re great, since they don’t damage carpets or flooring. But it also means they want you to basically just exist, but not to live.”
This wasn’t going to be an easy task by any means, and it would take time before he could prefect it.
Years of Hard Work
It would take two years of testing before Brad would settle on the final components for the tank chair that he was 100% comfortable with. His biggest fear was creating something that would put Elizabeth in danger. All in all, the wheelchair would cost over $50,000 when it’s all said and done.
A Special Chair
Because Brad wanted to make the most unique wheelchair in the world, it wasn’t going to look like your average ride. This design, was sure to cause heads to turn.
The Perfect Surprise
To say Elizabeth was excited when she saw her new wheels would be an understatement. Knowing her husband cared so much about her mobility, brought her to tears. It also made her a local celebrity in her neighborhood.
Fame wasn’t all that this chair brought Elizabeth.
More than Her Disability
Elizabeth had this to say to Bloomberg News, “We’re taught as a society that it’s not polite to stare. But people who get hurt don’t want to be shunned. Once they get in the chair, people will stop and come over.”
This new chair has given Elizabeth some of her freedom and independence back, but more than that, it has made her feel special again.
The final product Brian built Elizabeth was truly unique. It came equipped with abilities specially designed to help Elizabeth and her adventures.
Elizabeth shared with Bloomberg news how she felt about her new found freedom, “The freedom was just…awesome,” she said. “It was like I was handed my legs back again. [Prior to the accident,] we were always camping and being outside and being a mom with five kids, I would set up the camp,” she said. “After the accident, I got put next to the fire and everyone else went off and did everything. I tried so hard not to cry. The kids wanted to go on hike and I couldn’t go with them.”
Quickly the family realized how important this chair was, and how it could help so many others.
Giving Back to Those in Need
Realizing how much freedom his special tank chair gave his wife, Brad decided to start selling his wheelchairs to people with the same needs as Elizabeth. He even made custom chairs based on his client’s needs. One tank chair was designed with text-to-speech abilities for someone who could not speak. Of course, these chairs are pretty expensive, so brad was determined to get the cost down.
$50,000 to $15,000
Through trial and error and much research, Brad was able to get the cost of each chair down to around $15,000, from the original $50,000. This was a huge win for the couple, as they wanted to reach as many people as possible, but they knew there was room for improvement.
The Liz Soden Foundation
With the tank chair gaining in popularity, Brad decided to launch a foundation named after his wife that would donate wheelchairs and scooters to people who were not able to afford them. His next goal is to bring the price of his tank chairs down to around $10,000 so more people have access to them.
Making a Real Difference
As Brad continues his mission to provide wheels for those in need, we have no doubt that he will make a difference others in lives. Of course, the person he’s impacted the most would be his wife Elizabeth. We wish them many more years of happiness.