He wasn’t always paralyzed. In 2005, avid hunter Jake Veltman of Michigan was returning to his hunting cabin in Oceana County, when his car hit black ice. As his vehicle spun out of control, he was struck on the side by an oncoming vehicle. “I heard the crash,” he says, “heard the noise and, boom, it was lights out.”
Veltman awoke in Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids to discover the accident had resulted in his being paralyzed from the neck down. Suddenly, he wasn’t able to walk or even feed himself, let alone hunt.
Over the next four years, as he learned to live with his injury, the 71-year-old thought that he would never be able to hunt again, and he did his best to adjust to life without hunting. “I love being outdoors, ” he said. “It’s not just the hunt. I like to listen to the birds and watch the squirrels. I have fun even if I don’t get a deer. It’s still enjoyable being with Mother Nature.”
Now, thanks to a Sip-and-Puff device, Veltman is once again able to engage in his favorite pastime.
Veltman was introduced to the Sip and Puff in 2009 while sitting with his wife in a local AMVETS post near his home, when heard of a special hunt for veterans with disabilities. He managed, with help from friends, to get an invitation to join them. It was at this hunt he discovered there was a device that would allow him to fire a gun using the power of his lungs. The Sip and Puff allows people with disabilities to control devices by inhaling (sipping) and exhaling (puffing) into a tube. The device cost Veltman $2,000, and to him, it was worth every penny.
“It’s quite a pick-me up, ” Veltman says. “I feel alive again. Hunting is something I love to do, and I never thought I’d do it again until they made it possible. When I couldn’t hunt, a whole bunch of my life was gone. This gives me something to look forward to every year.”
Veltman’s sister, Sally Rundquist, says, “It gives him something to look forward to and live for. It’s the highlight of his life. He was an avid fisherman and hunter. When he had his accident, it eliminated those things. The two weeks out of the year when he hunts is what he lives for.”
When Veltman is no longer able to use his Sip and Puff, which is, not surprisingly, the day he retires from hunting, he plans to donate the device to the veterans’ hunt that first introduced him to the means by which he could reclaim his beloved pastime. Here’s a video that demonstrates firing a gun using Sip and Puff technology. Ready! Aim. Watch!