Thursday, December 28, 2006

Donated motorized chair gives woman independence



Donated motorized chair gives woman independence

By TIFFANY DE MASTERS
tdemasters@thespectrum.com

ST. GEORGE -
After being enslaved by a 60-pound wheelchair, Melissa Williams was given a piece of her independence back when strangers gifted her a motorized chair.

A new cart, costing $5,600, was delivered to Williams' home a couple of days ago.

Williams, 37, Pasco, Wash., suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, a painful disease which disturbs the sympathetic nervous system and can cause swelling and loss of use of an affected area.
Her legs have been a target of this disease, which has confined her to a wheelchair, crutches or a walker.

"There's a smile you have when you have independence," Williams said. "I lost that. It was really wonderful to get that back."

Jeff Harbach, one of the owners of the local business, David Gabriel Furniture, 1770 E. Red Cliffs Drive, said the chair originally belonged to his mother, Arlene Harbach, who died of brain cancer in 2004.

She was unable to use the chair because her cancer advanced so quickly.

Over the last couple of years, Harbach and his family didn't know what to do with it.

"We never really felt right about selling it so it just stood around," Harbach said.

The solution for the chair didn't come up until a few months ago, when Harbach's mother-in-law, Linda Urza, told him about Williams.

Urza, Richland, Wash., works at River Stone Dental where Williams has been going for dental work for 15 years.

She has known Williams for five years and has watched her go from a perfectly healthy person to not being able to do anything for herself. She said Williams ended up in a wheelchair. Then she could no longer push it because of the deterioration of muscle in her arms.

"She (Williams) has digressed so rapidly that she can't use her hands," Urza said. "I wanted in anyway to ease her burdens."

Urza offered money to Harbach but after discussing it with his sisters, Harbach said they wanted to give it to Williams.

"We were excited to do it," he said. "We knew that if we weren't going to sell it we wanted to give to someone who could use it."

Urza said everyone had to do something to make this happen.

"Everyone did something so she could have this miracle," she said.

David Mease, Harbach's brother-in-law and co-owner in David Gabriel Furniture, was part of helping getting the chair wrapped and finding shipping.

Mease said it was good to let Williams know that there are people in the world who still give.

"The neat thing is how it brings everybody together. It's touching for all of us," Mease said. "I've never met her, but it's as if I've known her all along."

Now that Williams has the chair, she has gained parts of her freedom back. Before, she said she had to coordinate with people to come over so they could open her doors and go out to the mailbox.

She said she can now take her service dog for a walk or go to the grocery store around the corner.

"It's a blessing that there's people still in the world willing to do that for people and expect nothing in return," Williams said.




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