Technology opened world of independence for woman with MS


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Posted Online: Oct. 07, 2011, 6:59 pm
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By Stephen Elliott, selliott@qconline.com
ANDALUSIA - For the simple things in life, Sharie Moran is grateful.

With a puff into a tube, Ms. Moran, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987, is able to turn on her lights, ceiling fan, computer or television, and answer her telephone.

"I actually feel about as normal as you can," she said from her wheelchair. "I can't move my hands or my legs, but I can do so much. Think how boring life would be without these things?"

At 10 a.m. today, St. Ambrose University is dedicating 'Jim's Place,' the college's New Assistive Technology (AT) House at 2126 Brown St., Davenport.

A St. Ambrose Occupational Therapy Program, 'Jim's Place,' will feature adaptions for people with disabilities, such as those with which Ms. Moran lives.

Through assistive technology, assistant professor and program director Jon Turnquist and occupational therapy students quietly have helped thousands of local, regional and international people with disabilities, helping them lead lives of meaning and independence, university spokeswoman Jane Kettering said.

For 20 years, Mr. Turnquist has had a relationship with John and Sharie Moran, rigging up devices and computer programs that allow her to do things.

"Her life, it's not easy," Mr. Moran said. "Imagine just laying in bed and waiting for someone to come help you. At least this way, she has some control. We're really blessed by the things we can do."

"Jim's Place" is named in honor of the late James O'Rourke, who became a quadriplegic after an injury in 1963, but embraced a motto of never giving up.

He helped create O'Rourke Brothers Distributing (now O'Rourke Sales Co.). Ms. Kettering said his family donated money for the AT house.

Through the years, Mr. Turnquist has developed computer software and invented items with a tinkerer's curiosity to help people. He has won several national awards for his work.

Rigging devices, such as the ones he did for the Morans, is rewarding for Mr. Turnquist. He hopes, with today's dedication of the AT home, he will be able to help more people.

He said Jim's Place is a typical ranch house built half a century ago. But inside are inventions and various technologies for assisting people. "I don't know if there's another home like this."

The focus, he said, is on what people can do, not what they can't.

"We want students here to have a good base of knowledge when they leave," Mr. Turnquist said. "This will also be used for community members thinking about remodeling their house. And, it will be used for training clinicians."

Because of gadgets and programs Mr. Turnquist developed, John Moran now can go to the store and leave his wife alone. He can volunteer at the library. His wife can puff on a tube and visit different worlds on her computer.

"Jon Turnquist opened up everything for me," she said. "When my husband was working, I had to sit at the table, watch the same channel. I couldn't turn the volume up or down.

"Now, I use a head piece for my computer. Jon's awesome."






 












 



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