Gift of wheels
Published Friday, December 22nd, 2006
By John Trumbo, Herald staff writer
Melissa Williams received a Christmas gift Thursday that was beyond her wildest expectations.
Two Federal Express employees drove up to her front door in Pasco at 10:45 a.m. and unloaded a new motorized wheelchair that had been shipped overnight from St. George, Utah.
The 200-pound package was a gift from people whose mother acquired it earlier this year. But she died of brain cancer without having used it.
Williams and the wheelchair connected through the good will and initiative of Richland's Linda Urza, who works in the office of Williams' dentist.
Urza said she knew about Williams' debilitating condition, called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and was surprised how quickly it had advanced. She also knew that her son-in-law in St. George had access to the motorized wheelchair and might be willing to donate it to Williams.
After making several phone calls, the donation was set.
"He said family members decided it would be a blessing to give it as a gift" to a total stranger, she said.
Urza flew to Las Vegas on Nov. 20 to meet family members and take the wheelchair to St. George, where a trucking company was to ship it to the Tri-Cities.
Urza's son-in-law and son, who owns a furniture store in St. George, arranged through Federal Express to transport the heavy wheelchair at a discounted rate. But the shipping company executives had a better idea -- they'd do it for free, and deliver it overnight at no extra charge.
Williams, 37, was aware the gift was on its way, but didn't expect it to arrive until the day after Christmas.
"It was a total surprise that it came today." said Williams, who is thrilled to have the battery-powered machine.
"The way I had to get around before was in a 60-pound manual wheelchair like hospitals use," she said.
But Williams no longer has the strength to push herself in the manual wheelchair, and she has not been able to convince her insurance company to pay for a power chair like the one she received Thursday.
"The insurance company says I already have a wheelchair and they won't replace it unless it is over 5 years old or totally broken," she said.
"My doctors have written letters of my medical need (to the insurance company), and they still deny it," she added.
The new wheelchair, which Urza said still had the $5,600 price tag on it, will allow Williams to be more independent and not have to coordinate her schedule with others when she wants to go somewhere.
"It is absolutely fabulous for my Christmas," Williams said.
"It's amazing the generosity other people are willing to do," she added.
Urza said the way the gift came about amazed her too.
"I mentioned it to one person and it went from there. It was the right people at the right time who were able to make a big difference in her life," Urza said.
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