David Gregory has a condition that causes him to need a van equipped with a chair lift so he can access it from the driver’s seat of his vehicle. The van he currently uses is in poor shape, so he is in need of a new van. Friends have opened a bank account to help him get the equipment he needs.
HOMOSASSA — David Gregory knows that life is precarious.
Born with osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bone disease, he’s had more than 80 broken bones in his 61 years, has spent weeks in traction and has undergone surgeries to have steel rods implanted in his legs.
In 2004, Gregory had heart bypass and aortic valve replacement surgery — serious enough for someone with normal bones, but for him, the risks were multiplied.
But he recovered and returned to work at the county property appraiser’s office in Crystal River 10 weeks later.
“With this disease, it’s bad when you’re young,” Gregory said. “In middle age you get better — your bones harden. Then when you get older, you go downhill again.”
When he was younger, in his 30s, he worked as a garage mechanic. He lifted machinery; he dug ditches. Throughout his adult years he has operated boats at the Marine Science Station, managed a Wilson’s Leather store and worked as a substitute teacher.
He could walk.
“I walked with a limp, but I was normal — in my opinion,” he said.
When he could no longer walk, he began using a motorized scooter. To get it onto the rack on the back of his car he would prop himself against the car and “drive” the scooter onto the rack using his hands, secure the gate behind it, then slowly make his way into the car.
When he got to work, he would reverse the process and do it again to go home.
He’s never been one to give up.
Five years ago, he got a van, a 1993 Ford E-150, with a lift. Even then it was old, but it lifted his chair, which lifted his spirits.
But now, the van keeps breaking down and the lift broke. A friend loaned him a lift that hooks on the back, which means he has to walk from the back to get into the driver’s seat, and he can’t walk well anymore.
“I call it my ‘McGuyver van,’” Gregory said. “I keep a roll of duct tape, nylon string and a tool kit handy.”
The list of what’s wrong with it is longer than what works.
His friends have opened up an account for him at TD Bank, 1000 S.E. U.S. 19, Crystal River, to help him purchase a wheelchair-accessible van.
He found a van with a lift and a chair included on Craigslist for $3,000, although he said he hasn’t looked at it yet or even knows if it’s still available. The owner lives in Sanford.
“For the past five years I’ve lived on a contingency basis, fixing things as they break,” he said. “Even my chair. I’d think, ‘Which one will go first?’ I was able to get a chair at the Sheriff’s store for $200 the day before my other chair gave out.”
Gregory said he tries to stay hopeful and positive, but is struggling to do so. He’s not one to complain, and said he knows other people have it much worse than he does.
“He tries so hard,” said his supervisor, Sandy Garrison. “He’s always here, he’s a hard worker. He’s a thinker and so intelligent. It’s a shame, though. He just can’t seem to catch a break.”
For information, call David Gregory at (352) 228-3230.
Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy can be reached at (352) 564-2927 firstname.lastname@example.org.