Young Girl Gains Much More Than Mobility
One by one they arrived on this day. Some like Jose crawled.Others were carried. What brought them together is what breaks so many of them apart: disability.
“I’ve had lots of the moms tell me that their mother-in-laws tell them, just kill it, kill it, it’s just going to ruin your life,” Therapist Amy DeYoung said. “I tell her it’s not her fault. That there was nothing she did that caused her baby to be born with those special needs.”
In Guatemala, opportunities are limited for all people, but even more so for people with disabilities. Wheelchairs are often more expensive than some homes. That’s why this day was even more special. 40 people received wheelchairs or P.E.T. (Personal Energy Transportation) devices.
But a little more than two hours into the morning, for one girl, everything changed.
“The minute I saw her I knew it was a life or death thing,”Wheelchair Specialist Dick Rutgers said. “The way she is right now if she stays like this, and doesn’t get the help, she’s not going to make it much longer."
The reason is that at six years old Jessica weighs just sixteen pounds. She lives barely on a diet of tortillas and coffee because that is all her family can afford. Her mother is a widow with six children. It’s cerebral palsy that threatens her mobility, but malnutrition threatens her life.
But Rutgers wasn’t going to let that happen.
Eleven years ago he went to Guatemala on a week and a half wheelchair distribution and never left. He now sponsors about more than 70students for school. Mostly disabled kids that can’t get in on their own. In his free time he fixes wheelchairs for challenged youth.
Rutgers said he’s watched 10 kids die in his arms this year alone. He couldn’t get them to help in time.
“You let it break your heart, you shed a few tears, then you get back to work and you do something about it,” Rutgers said.
That’s what he did for little Jessica. After talking with her mother he took Jessica in his pickup to a nearby hospital to try to save her life. Now Rutgers reports Jessica’s healthy, stronger and her family is getting help with nutritious food.
He could have stopped there. But when he took her home he saw Jessica’s house. He called it one of the worst he has even seen. With the help of some his friends Rutgers is now building Jessica a new home in their Guatemalan village.
A family once shattered by a string of bad luck now can share a smile, because this starving girl got her life back.