Alvin Blaha using a hydraulic platform lift to access the cab of his International 2555 Cotton Picker

In 2015, Alvin was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (ineffective production, or dysplasia, of all blood cells) which required Alvin to be in and out of the hospital taking treatments. Alvin had planted cotton in the spring and bought an International 2555 cotton picker, to use for the fall harvest. Unfortunately, because of diminished strength, Alvin could not safely get up into the picker; he needed a lift to put him on the upper platform of the cotton picker so he could operate the equipment.

Alvin had worked with AgrAbility Virginia and the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), in the past, to address issues with mounting his combine. Alvin contacted former AgrAbility Service Coordinator, Joe Young, who reconnected Alvin with DARS through Rehab counselor, Dolores Heisler. Dolores re-opened Alvin’s file and contacted Dave Law, a DARS Rehab Engineer, to design a system that would enable Alvin to safely mount his cotton picker.

Dave sent DARS engineer Tom Rybak and OT John Allen out to Alvin’s place to assess the situation. Tom and John took precise measurement, gathered other data needed and made that information available to Dave. Dave then proceeded to design, construct, and implement a custom lift for Alvin that allowed him to access the operating platform of the picker.

This new lift provided Alvin easy access to operate his picker in time for the harvest. But the lift had an unexpected benefit as well. During the initial stages of harvesting, the cotton in the picker bin caught fire, and Alvin had to descend from the picker. The lift allowed Alvin to escape without injury! The lift was not damaged in the fire so Alvin bought another International 2555 Cotton Picker and transferred the lift to the replacement picker which enabled him to successfully complete his cotton harvesting.

Everyone is grateful that Alvin had multiple beneficial outcomes from the AgrAbility and DARS assistance!

For more details and background, visit Farm Bureau's site for a story on Alvin's collaboration with AgrAbility and DARS