HAMILTON HEIGHTS — Butler Dowery hasn’t been able to use his bathroom or kitchen since 2010.
The 81-year-old man has been using a wheelchair for the last five year after he suffered a spinal stroke while taking a bath on a Memorial Day weekend in Virginia Beach.
“I got in that tub and that’s the last thing I remember, I passed out,” he said. “The only thing that kept me from drowning was that the tub was short.”
Now he's looking for help raising $33,000 to renovate the bathroom and kitchen doors of his Riverside Avenue apartment which he can no longer fit through because of his wheelchair, he said.
Both rooms also have small steps that make it impossible for his chair to get through.
Two full-time aids help him cook meals, clean his apartment and bathe him.
A nonprofit, Rebuilding Together NYC, is trying to make him more independent by making his apartment wheelchair-friendly.
Rebuilding Together helps low income New Yorkers renovate their homes. They have spent a lot of time rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, said Amy Dupper who works for the nonprofit.
But they also have a program that specifically helps those who are accessibly handicapped. In some cases, not being able to move around a patient's home makes their recovery much more difficult, she added.
“There is a huge need for this kind of service in the city,” she said.
The organization has raised $11,000 in funds and is seeking $33,000 more to complete the repairs.
The money will be used to widen the doors, install grab bars in the bathroom’s toilet and shower, and replace the sink with a lower handicap-accessible one. They also plan to lower the kitchen’s counters, surfaces and cabinets, and install ADA compliant electric stove.
They hope to have the project funded and under construction by June, said Adrianna Hardaway, who works with the nonprofit. So far they have enough funds to widen the doors enough for Dowery to easily get through in his chair, she added.
Dowery, who worked as a teacher and guidance counselor for delinquent students for nearly 30 years, retired in 1990. He spends his time going to physical therapy, volunteering with Omega Psi Phi and traveling.
One of his favorite things about visiting new places is getting to stay in spacious, ADA-compliant bathrooms. They are a massive difference from the sponge baths he is used to getting at home, he said.
“I love those showers,” Dowery said.