Offbeat: Independence

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Claude Harris is paralyzed from the waste down and has been for more than 25 years.  He only has partial use of his left hand but even in a wheel chair, he's invented ways to keep his independence.

"I get frustrated.  I'd do anything to get my legs back.  I'd give everything I got.  Just got to deal with it.  Can't feel sorry for yourself...Not too much." expressed Harris.  "I just got to thinking what can I do to help myself and I tried to find some winches."

He found them, and had one mounted on the ceiling in his living room.  That way he can hook himself up and hoist himself from his wheelchair into his big chair.

Claude says he is "...trying to better myself and get around, to be less dependent on somebody else."

But independence is key.  As Harris puts it, "I try to do the best I can by myself."

The first lift worked so well, Harris hooked one in his bathroom, shower and bedroom!  As he explains it, all he has to do is "...pick myself up and set in that chair and take a shower."

Walter Stewart with the Northeast Arkansas Area Agency on Aging says Harris's commitment to independence is commendable.

"I was very impressed with his ingenuity and his pride." said Stewart.

And with the help of services from the area agency on aging, Harris can remain relatively independent.

"There's no place like home and if people can avoid nursing homes by getting a little assistance, that's what we want to do." added Stewart. "Mr. Harris is too busy thinking up ways to improve his quality of life to sit around feeling sorry for himself."

"The whole secret is not to worry about tomorrow.  That's the whole thing about it.  [It] makes you an old man to worry about tomorrow." said Harris.