Fethiye Times is a great fan of Alan Fenn’s blog, The Archers of Okcular. If you are too, you will know that he and his partner J have a ‘daughter’ called Gülay. If you haven’t heard about this extraordinary woman, she is a great character and exceptionally courageous. Just over a decade ago Gülay, a young active woman, was seriously injured in a hit and run accident.
Since then she has been confined to a wheel chair with all the problems that entails.
However, despite her injuries and the huge impact it has had on her’s, her husband’s and daughter’s lives she has become a talented artist, her painting and handicrafts going some way to supplementing her disability pension.
But it hasn’t been easy. A year ago an abscess opened up on her heel, which proved really difficult to treat. Two skin grafts have already failed and another graft, using muscle tissue as well as skin, was a distinct possibility.
This has been a daunting time for her. A big element in the grafts failing is her inability, as a paraplegic, to exercise properly and the necessity to get blood pumping to the area around the wound.
‘Heath Robinson’ to the rescue
Alan and his friend Ahmet from Istanbul, put their heads together to come up with what they hoped would be a solution to Gülay’s problem. Ahmet, whose university trained imagination knows no bounds, and Alan, who was indoctrinated by many years in the army and prison service.
“He’s a thinker, I’m a bodger – he works things out ahead of time, I knock something together and figure out later how to get my arse out in one piece!”
says Alan, ever modest and self deprecating.
They decided to ‘invent’ a prototype machine that would test their ideas and give Gülay’s heart, lungs and arms a good work-out whilst helping to pump blood to her feet and legs.
Once they’d figured out her requirements, they hoped it would be possible to have their machine made by professional engineers in Istanbul.
Their machine has already been patented and if it can be made commercially, it could eventually be made available for people with lower limb paralysis all over Turkey and beyond.
The idea being to remove third-party profiteering by making it available at cost.
A pile of junk transformed
Where to start? Alan and his partner J located a couple of perfectly serviceable, second-hand bikes, a pile of steel off-cuts, and a driver’s seat from a crashed car.
Alan’s well-equipped workshop seemed like a good place to set up the project.
They discussed with Gülay her needs and the problem of how to fix her legs to the machine when she couldn’t have any pressure at all because of the abscess.
She came up with a pair of redundant custom-made foot/ankle supports which together with a couple of bits of cut-down drain pipe, a baking tray and a few metres of velcro was transformed into ‘designer’ leg supports.
Eventually, the venture that started with some ideas and a pile of bits and pieces became a working/functioning model, in all its ‘Heath Robinson’ glory!
Real engineers in Istanbul, together with Ahmet, now have the task of turning this prototype into something that is chainless, fully adjustable, looks good, works good and by golly will do her good! It will also, in all probability, look nothing like the original pile of scrap!
Apart from any small modifications that may crop up to make things better with the ‘contraption’, the ball is now well and truly with Ahmet and his technocrats and engineers.
They are urgently looking for backing, whether technical or financial, so if you’re reading this and have some ideas please let us know.
Meanwhile, down in sleepy Okçular, everyone has the hard job of waiting to see what happens as Gülay starts to build her muscles, pump blood to her feet and model her fancy, spotted green ‘pantalon’ and lurid pink top.
The most recent news is that after just a month of working out on her machine, twice a day for half an hour each time, the doctors, Alan, Ahmet and Gülay herself, are incredibly impressed with the rate at which the ulcer is healing.
The increase of blood supply to Gülay’s heel is resulting in rapid improvement, spurring her on to even greater efforts on her amazing new machine.
For more information about Gülay and her paintings visit: http://www.gulaysgallery.org/
Alan Fenn’s excellent blog can be found at: http://archersofokcular.com