Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wheels for Johnny

The job of a Project HOPE Public Affairs Officer is not always easy.

Our medical volunteers work long hours in emotionally draining jobs, often in blazing heat and sopping humidity. Prying stories out of them at the end of a hard day’s work can be a challenge.

But every now and then they have an experience that is so moving, so inspiring, and so memorable that not one, but two or three volunteers approach me to share it. This post is about one of those experiences, and about the life-changing difference Project HOPE volunteers made in the life of Johnny, a 7-year-old Tumaco resident.

HOPE volunteer Carolyn Springman, a nurse at the University of California, San Francisco, was working at the Max Seidel clinic when she passed by a group of patients in line for pediatric care and noticed a strange sight: a woman carrying a boy almost as large as she was, straining under the weight but never setting him down. From the pain on the boy’s face, Carolyn could see that something was wrong.

She took them out of line and brought them to Dr. Ken Iserson, Project HOPE’s medical director.
It didn’t take long for Dr. Iserson to diagnose the problem: the boy, Johnny, suffers from diffuse juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. His joints ache so much that he cannot walk, and his mother must carry him around wherever they go. At only 7 years old, Johnny is already almost as big as his mother. He’ll soon be too big for her to carry.

Johnny and his mother are also homeless. They rarely stay anywhere longer than a few nights. It’s a sad twist that two people so ill-equipped should have to spend their lives on the move.

Johnny’s arthritis made a wheelchair the only option. But by then, the fourth day of the clinic, the Physical Therapy Department had already given away all the wheelchairs it had brought ashore. So working with the U.S. Navy, Carolyn, Dr. Iserson, and HOPE volunteer Kendra Dilcher arranged to have a Navy helicopter bring Johnny a wheelchair from the Comfort.

A short time later, Johnny had his new wheels. His beaming smile overwhelmed his mother. Through tears of joy, she hugged and thanked Carolyn, Kendra, and the Navy physical therapy team for changing both of their lives with one act of kindness.


Support Project HOPE Volunteer Missions

No comments:

Post a Comment