Jul. 6—HAMPSTEAD — At 31, Quinn Foss should have more years to spend in a firehouse, doing the job she loves.
Instead, the Hampstead woman is mostly housebound, living alongside her husband-to-be in an unfinished basement with limited space to navigate her motorized wheelchair.
The only bathroom is upstairs, which is a problem, especially when the rest of the members of the household are at work. A donated wheelchair ramp never fitted to the space is too unsteady to be reliable.
Her good friend, retired Lawrence fire Lt. Edward Murphy, is calling on the recovery community, where the two met, and local first responders to help one of their own by making her home accessible to her.
"It's unacceptable that anyone lives like this," Murphy said. "Especially a former firefighter who dedicated herself to the community."
Foss, still smiling, explains how life as she knew it ended in 2017.
"It's made me really stop and appreciate the smallest things," said Foss, who was a firefighter and EMT in Kingston and most recently in Stratham. "If there's a day I can get a sock on my foot, I'm so happy about that."
Having navigated the foster care system until she was adopted at 5 years old, Foss grew up without much knowledge of her biological history.
Chronic back pain landed her in a doctor's office regularly for spinal injections. It was eventually discovered that she was born with a form of spina bifida that never made it onto her medical charts. This information provided a long-sought answer to why she was hurting.
But the condition was unrelated to what happened next.
"The doctor hit a nerve that went down to my legs. I got an infection and was paralyzed within a week," she said of what was supposed to be a routine appointment. "I signed a paper saying I knew the risks, so I couldn't sue. This happens to one in 500,000 people."
Foss developed problems with her bowels and bladder, she explained. She had dozens of feet of several organs removed, and then suffered two strokes.
"I'm considered an incomplete quadriplegic, meaning I have some use of my limbs, but nothing meaningful," she said.
The medical struggles continue. A gastronomy tube to deliver nutrients directly to Foss' stomach is likely next.
Still, the young woman's disposition is bright.
"I am extremely happy," she said. "Given the right tools for life, I want to have just as good of a life as everyone else."
Of all the losses during the last four years, Foss gets emotional about having to leave her job.
"I started training when I was 16. I had brothers and they were in the service," she said. "It was kind of like that — I just really enjoyed helping people."
Her aspirations have changed, but she still has career goals. Foss recently completely a makeup artistry course, she said. She was part-way through hair school when she needed a massive surgery and suffered a stroke.
"What's stopping me from going back now is not having a wheelchair ramp," she said. "It's the first step to getting out of the house."
Murphy, 72, has spent hours reaching out to local charities and community organizations in search of resources to help his friend. An online fundraiser created to offset the cost of home renovations and a wheelchair van can be found by searching for Quinn Foss on gofundme.com.
"The woman is somewhere between a daughter and a granddaughter to me," he said. "Anything that anyone can do to help is appreciated."
From her home this week, Foss was confident, "I have a lot of life left to live."