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Help Us Win a Ramp-van

May 17, 2015 | by Esther Herzfeld

Heart-rending words from a mother of four disabled children.

Esther Herzfeld of Teaneck, New Jersey is trying to win a wheelchair-friendly van from NMEDA, a non-profit dedicated to expanding mobility options for people with disabilities. Read Esther's story below, and vote for her to win (till May 31).

As a little girl, I expected that my life would go smoothly, happily. I expected to have a better life than my immigrant parents who came to America after their entire families were exterminated by Hitler. I expected to have a great job, husband, and kids, whom I would raise in good health.

I did not expect to have four children with muscular dystrophy.

I did not expect to have four children with muscular dystrophy.

Tziporah, now 21, began falling often at 11. She was diagnosed with CMT, a type of muscular dystrophy. Currently, she can barely walk. Tzvi, 18, was the next one to start falling; his degeneration, as he is male, came quicker. He hasn’t walked for 4 years, confined to a motorized chair.

Rivka, 23, called from her gap year, crying, because she had started falling too. She currently walks with a pronounced waddle, and falls frequently. Racheli, 15, started falling in first grade. She is currently confined to a motorized chair at school, and only walks at home, short distances, slowly, if my husband or I hold her hands, as one would with a toddler.

Out in the Cold

We all endure hellish struggles just to get through each day. Besides their walking/falling issues, those that still walk cannot transfer to a chair, toilet, or their own beds unassisted. They have enormous difficulty getting in and out of cars. My son, at 5-foot-9 and about 165 pounds, is the most difficult to transport because my husband and I can barely lift him in and out of our car.

I cried, knowing that I couldn’t help my son.

I recently went to the neighborhood movies, where my son and his friends were coincidentally going to catch a different movie at the same time. On a bitterly cold night, ice and snow everywhere, my son and I left simultaneously, he in his scooter, I in my car. I drove parallel to him as long as I could. When I had to turn down the next street, I cried, knowing that my son was out in the frozen night and would be for another 20 minutes – while I, his mother, couldn’t take him.

We rarely travel as a family, as we cannot maneuver everyone into the van; my son rarely goes anywhere – malls with friends, baseball or basketball games he loves – because we can’t lift him.

Medical expenses prevent us from affording a ramp-van. Winning one would improve all our lives.

Vote for Esther here. Voting ends May 31, 2015.

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