Dekalb County man cultivates need for adaptive tractor
Bryan Thomas of Fyffe will soon be able to independently tend to cattle on his ranch after necessary adaptations are made to his four-wheel drive tractor.
“In all my years with Rehab,” said Kenny Maness, Thomas’s rehabilitation counselor, “I thought I had just about seen it all. That is, until I had a request from Bryan to add adaptive driving equipment to a tractor.”
For years, Bryan Thomas owned and operated Thomas & Son, a furniture store located in Rainsville. While he had originally planned to eventually hand the store over to his children, Thomas decided to sell it to become a farmer when his kids showed no interest in running the family business.
“Bryan was going from a furniture salesman to cattle rancher,” Maness said. “That’s a big change for just about anyone to make, but there are a whole other list of considerations to make when you are missing your entire left pelvis.”
Thomas has transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord which often affects transmission of nerve signals to the extremities. Though his condition was well managed, he eventually developed a pressure sore that became infected and led to the amputation of his left leg and pelvis, said Maness.
In early February, ADRS Rehabilitation Technology Specialist Bynum Duren completed an assessment of the viability of an adaptive tractor meeting Thomas’s needs. In his assessment, Duren noted that Thomas had been using adaptive driving equipment in his car for years and adaptively driving a tractor would not be much different.
Since Thomas already had the strength, knowledge, coordination, balance, and abilities to successfully operate and control the tractor, it only needed hand controls and a lift to make it operational for him, Duren said.
“I was really surprised in assisting Mr. Thomas with the needed modifications to his tractor,” Maness said. “The needed modifications are pretty straightforward, and it is not nearly as expensive to accommodate as you might think. All in all, we were able to come up with a creative solution to a problem and make another great rehab story in the process!”