Little person gets a big boost

Assisted living gives a resident unexpected independence
By: Melody Stone, journal staff writer
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After four back surgeries and being 4-foot, 4-inches tall, Linda Risch never thought assisted living would give her more independence than ever. Risch happily sat in a red upholstered chair, and her feet touched the ground. “I’ve never been able to do this,” the 64-year-old Risch said. “It just gives you such a feeling of security.” The chair is just one part of an entire apartment overhaul in Risch’s Auburn Ravine Terrace Assisted Living apartment. The staff at Auburn Ravine also lowered and narrowed her counter tops and cupboards, lowered her sink, vanity, toilet, and mirror. “I’m so used to climbing and now I don’t have to,” Risch said. “I’m able to get around much faster.” For Risch’s entire life she’s lived in standard-sized houses, with standard counter tops and chairs. She never expected to move into assisted living and be able to wipe down her entire counter top while standing on the floor. “I never expected this to ever happen,” Risch said. “I don’t think anyone’s as comfortable as me.” Risch grew up in Napa. Her parents didn’t notice anything different with their baby till she was about two years old when the doctors noticed her arms and legs were shorter than average. Risch has the most common type of dwarphism called Achondroplasia. Risch said she’s actually taller than average little people with Achondroplasia. Risch said her parents didn’t draw a lot of attention to her dwarphism. " “They just made me not aware that I was little,” Risch said. “When I was growing up I didn't know any little people.” Risch married a regular-sized man named Peter Risch. They had a son, Rob Haines. Haines had dwarfism as well. Linda Risch said the doctors were surprised at this. The condition is very rare and a person with dwarfism giving birth to a child with dwarfism is highly uncommon. When Peter Risch suffered a brain stem hemorrhage in 1989 at age 42. The death shook Linda Risch really hard. Shortly before that her back went out. She said she had a doctor who didn’t understand her anatomy and injured her back further. She had three additional surgeries and they all seemed to make the condition worst. Linda Risch said it was a very dark time. "Life was not good,” Linda Risch said. “Not good at all before I got (to Auburn). Ever since my husband died I kind of lost my way." Linda Risch said she feels like she’s found her way again. She said she loves living in Auburn Ravine Terrace and is so grateful to the staff for their care and her remodeled kitchen and bathroom. The staff at Auburn Ravine Terrace were happy to accommodate the space for Risch. Keith Zirkle, director of environmental services at Auburn Ravine, said it’s not uncommon to remodel resident’s apartments, but Risch’s remodel is more extensive than most. “We have a large community here and we do our best to make it comfortable for everyone,” Zirkle said. He said an average remodel costs around $1,800, Risch’s cost around $2,500. “It helps her out immensely,” Zirkle said. She was having trouble with her shoulders when the counter tops were higher and after her back surgeries climbing is no longer an option. By narrowing the counters and cupboards Risch can more easily maneuver around her kitchen in her motorized scooter. Risch said she couldn’t be happier with the adjustments to her apartment. “I really want everyone to see how great this is,” Risch said. “I’m thrilled.”