Ottawa

'What am I going to do?': Ottawa woman relies on electricity to survive

For most people, the outages caused by Friday's tornadoes are an inconvenience. For Ellen Lougheed, it could be a matter of life and death.

Ellen Lougheed relies on electricity to power her bed, her wheelchair — even her door

Ellen Lougheed relies on electricity to power everything from her wheelchair and bed to her sleep apnea machine and her apartment door. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

For most people, when the power goes out, it's an inconvenience.

For others, like Ellen Lougheed, it could be a matter of life and death.

Lougheed is one of tens of thousands of customers are still without power in the National Capital Region after two tornadoes tore through the region Friday evening.

The 70-year-old lives on the seventh floor of a downtown apartment building. She requires a sleep apnea machine at night to help her breathe and — because of a heart condition — an electric bed to make sure her head is higher than her legs. ​​

What am I going to do? And what's next?- Ellen Lougheed

She also uses an electric wheelchair, which can last two days before it needs to be recharged, something she usually does every night.

Without power, Lougheed said, she can't even open her apartment door, which uses an electric opener.

"I have to rig it so people can come in and out because I can't let them in."

When the power went out Friday, she hoped it wouldn't last long. But then the hours ticked on and on.

"It's all that kind of worrying," said Lougheed, who — when the power's on — considers herself reasonably self-sufficient.

"What am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do? And what's next?"

Ellen Lougheed relies on her sleep apnea machine at night. That machine relies on electricity, something her apartment doesn't currently have. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

'Just unacceptable'

Lougheed said she spent Friday night sleeping in her wheelchair because she couldn't lower her bed enough to get in and couldn't turn on her sleep apnea machine.

She awoke with cramped and sore muscles. The next night, her part-time personal support worker told her that wouldn't suffice.

"I came here, told her, 'We can't have you sleeping in your wheelchair. It's just unacceptable,'" said Stephanie Milonas.

"I know there's unfortunate people right now who've lost their homes and stuff. But for her, [the situation is] hard too."

Stephanie Milonas works as a personal support worker. She tearfully explained how she couldn't stop thinking about Lougheed's situation and how she felt compelled to help. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Sunday night uncertainty

Milonas said she called around for a generator. Eventually, she found out about the emergency shelter at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex in Stittsville.

Luckily the elevators in Lougheed's apartment building were working. They packed up and spent the night on cots at the complex, but she's not sure what she'll be doing Sunday night.

Lougheed said she's feeling panicked because she's since returned to her apartment and has no way to make it back to the recreation centre.

Even if she could, she doesn't think she can keep spending her nights on a cot.

Lougheed now wants the City of Ottawa to do more to help people with disabilities.

"I'd like them to know that there's more than able-bodied people affected by the lack of electricity. And perhaps they should have generators that they can lend out to people who need them."

Ellen Lougheed charges her wheelchair every night and needs it to get around her apartment and outside. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

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