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Portsmouth sheriff's deputies rush to build wheelchair ramp for amputee

portsmouth sheriff wheelchair ramp project.jpg
Posted at 2:02 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 16:56:49-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – To Portsmouth sheriff’s deputies, it might just be four or five hours of work, but for longtime Portsmouth resident Gail Smith, their hard work means regained access to her home.

Smith recently underwent surgery to amputate her right leg after she says an infection spread from her foot.

She told News 3 that she hasn’t been inside her home since the end of February. The hospital released her, but she can’t get a wheelchair into her home because of the stairs. She’s been staying with a friend in the meantime.

That’s when another friend, Ronald Cooke, reached out for help. He contacted the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office to see if they could build a wheelchair ramp for Smith, and they got right to it. Lowe’s donated supplies, and the City of Portsmouth put a rush on the building permit.

On Monday, two deputies worked steadily to construct the ramp, trying to beat the rain.

After an appointment with the doctor, the Smiths pulled up to see the deputies in action. Sitting inside their van, Smith told News 3, “It’s wonderful. Being that I had a $13,000 hospital bill and I don’t have to pay for this, that’s even more wonderful.”

Smith added that they’re also trying to get a permit to put an addition onto the house, as the bedrooms are upstairs.

Soon, Smith will be able to heal at home, and she's already talked to her doctors about a prosthetic leg.

“As soon as I can get to the point that it’s healed, we’ll go through,” said Smith, who added that one of the nurses at Maryview Medical Center, who has a prosthetic herself, is an inspiration.

“Now, she’s eight months out of surgery and training to be a nurse,” Smith explained. “I said, 'You are my saint.'”

Portsmouth Sheriff Michael Moore said in the past, they would use the help of inmates on the workforce program, but don’t have any currently, as the ones eligible for that were released during the pandemic.

“That way inmates that are incarcerated learn a trade, and hopefully that trade can continue once they’re released from incarceration,” Sheriff Moore stated.

Moore said with the growing elderly population in Portsmouth, they often get requests for help. In fact, they have at least six more ramps they plan to build. These deputies serve the public in various ways.

“This is the same crew that helps facilitate taking care of lawns for our senior citizens of the city. So, altogether, we have probably 75-80 yards that this crew actually works on during the summer months.”

Sheriff Moore said if anyone is interested in helping with future projects, they can contact the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office at 757-393-5280.

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