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Out-of-order elevators don’t keep student from class

Disability support services arranges to carry a wheelchair while the student climbs.

Published: Friday, October 2, 2009

Updated: Friday, October 2, 2009 16:10

hunt, amputee, elevators

Priscilla Reyna-Ovalle

Math freshman Nathan Hunt, an Iraqi war veteran, goes downstairs Friday in Chance because elevators in the building were not in service.

Marotta, hunt, amputee, elevators

Priscilla Reyna-Ovalle

Civil engineering sophomore David Marotta helps his friend, math freshman Nathan Hunt, an Iraqi war veteran, go downstairs Friday in Chance. Elevators at Chance have not worked when Hunt needed to get to class.

For the last two sessions of Professor Michael LaRocca's Econ 2301-002, Principles of Macroeconomics, class, mathematics freshman Nathan Hunt has descended two flights of stairs from his class on the third floor of Chance Academic Center walking only with his hands.

Hunt does not complain much — he is used to adversity. He served in Afghanistan and twice in Iraq where he lost both his legs.

Hunt, a medically discharged career soldier, said lately, to attend his class, he has been relegated to climbing and descending the stairwell on his own in Chance because the building's elevators have been malfunctioning for several days.

To propel himself without his wheelchair, Hunt grabbed the railing with one hand and lifted himself on the other to drag himself along.

To show his conditioning, he paused at the bottom of the stairwell today to perform push-ups that would shame most people's attempts.

LaRocca said, "You should see him going up and down the stairs on his arms. This is one strong hero."

As a combat engineer in the Engineering Corps, Hunt had four tours overseas in his 10 years of service: in 2001 he served in Kuwait, 2003-04 in Iraq and from 2006-2007 in Afghanistan.

During his second tour to Iraq in 2007-08, he lost both of his legs searching for roadside ordinance.

As an Army sergeant, Hunt said he barely stood 5 feet 8 inches and was forced to tip-toe to store his weapon in the rack of his truck.

Since his injury, Hunt constantly works out using two nontraditional exercises; inverted push-ups and training for arm-tricycle racing competitions.

In April, Hunt competed in a race from San Antonio to Dallas and in May from Washington, D.C., to Virginia Beach, both in excess of 400 miles, he said.

He competes for the nonprofit organization Ride 2 Recovery that raises money for bicycles and bicycle programs to benefit wounded warriors.

"Guys come out and ride for them a couple of times," Hunt said. "That's how we are all able to raise money and awareness."

Next week, Hunt is off to San Francisco to compete in an event that will take him some 480 miles to Los Angeles. And, in December, he races in Florida from Tampa Bay to Jackonsville, about 200 miles.

Despite these feats, Hunt has some difficulty traversing this campus.

"If I couldn't do push-ups, I wouldn't make it up the stairs," Hunt said.

Hunt said there are only two or three other students who are capable of making it to class in a similar way.

"DSS got someone to help bring my chair up," Hunt said, while he "climbed the stairs using the strength in my arms."

Hunt worries other students who are not as strong as he is or who get around in electrical chairs that weigh a significant amount more than his standard wheelchair

"I work out all the time anyway," Hunt said. "But DSS has a girl in an electrical wheelchair, and they can't lift the wheelchair."

So Hunt said many students have been forced to miss classes the last three days because of elevator maintenance issues.

On Wednesday, when the elevators began to malfunction, Hunt said the other DSS student in his class was fortunate that maintenance workers were in the building at the time the class let out, so they opened the door to an elevator for her and manually operated the cart.

But on his way to class today, Hunt ran into that same student who told him she could not attend class because the lifts were still out of order.

Hunt said administrators should be aware of the disadvantage the students are in come test time by missing one or two class sessions.

"And if it's not fixed by Monday, that's three classes," he said. "Depending on when they get it fixed, that is going to put some guys behind their peers in class."

Facilities superintendant David Ortega confirmed the elevators began to malfunction Wednesday, but one of the elevators has been repaired and is fully serviceable.

It is unfortunate that the electrical problem occurred, Ortega said. His department has been assisting DSS students, along with the DSS department, since the malfunctioning began.

Ortega said the two elevators function succinctly using a main control to operate what are called the lead and the lag elevators.

"The lead has a lot of the main controls," he said. "And it also provides some controls for the lag."

So if the lead elevator malfunctions, it has the capability of incapacitating the other, Ortega said.

Some the main components in the lead elevator shorted out, Ortega said, causing both lifts to malfunction.

Circuit boards and electrical relays have been ordered for an overnight delivery, Ortega said, so he expects them to arrive either tomorrow or no later than early Monday to replace the damaged components and have both elevators back on line.

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