By Carson Abrams*, MedSend grant recipient serving in North Africa
John* has been coming to therapy for years. He has severe cerebral palsy and requires assistance for every component of living – he is unable to sit up on his own, feed himself, or turn himself over in bed. He will always require care from family for even the most basic of care items. He’s a sweet 7-year-old boy, while limited significantly from his impairments, he will quickly engage you with eye contact and is quick to produce a warm smile when greeted.
John’s mom left to work in another region several years ago – she was unable to find work in her small town in our area and needed to find work to provide for her son. Her mom, Hannah*, John’s grandmother, took up the task of caring for young John.
Hannah works every day in a small stall she owns, selling toiletries and small odds and ends. Her shop is 6 ft by 6 ft, and is tucked away off a side alley in a poor part of town. She sits in her shop daily waiting for friends or neighbors to purchase needed items from her. In the back of this small space, she has an old crib mattress. Every morning she carries John on her back to her small shop, once there she lays him down on his back on the mattress where he spends his days. She explained that he eats lunch and drinks water while laying down on his back – at great risk of aspiration.
She shared that if she set him up on a chair, he lacked the trunk control and would fall out of the chair if she didn’t hold him continuously – which she could not do while trying to feed him and tend to the occasional customer. Additionally, she shared that it was too taxing to move him from the mattress to a chair for lunch, and then back to the mattress afterward. She is elderly and has a small stature, while her grandson continues to grow as he ages.
When I heard about John’s situation, I contacted a co-worker and discovered that we had a used tilt-in-space wheelchair that had been donated in America and shipped across for us to use. After some refurbishing with local materials, my co-worker brought the chair from his city to ours.
We met Hannah with John at her stall on a brisk winter morning. I had presented the idea of this wheelchair to Hannah and she was ecstatic at the idea. She had borrowed a baby stroller from a neighbor for her 7-year old grandson for the day because she had pulled out the crib mattress to make room for this new chair in her shop.
After the warm cultural greetings so common in this culture, my co-worker and I lifted John out of the stroller and placed him in his new tilt-in-space wheelchair. I showed Hannah all of the straps and buckles to help secure and keep John safe in the wheelchair – so he could sit up while she fed him to lunch or tended to customers.
I showed her how the tilt feature worked and how it was easy for her to recline her grandson in space when he was tired and needed to sleep or to return to an upright position to eat and drink with less risk of choking, or simply to be more engaged with his environment, allowing him to watch the world around him.
And I showed her the brakes, and how the width of the chair would fit through the narrow door of her stall, allowing her to back John into her stall at the beginning of the day, and push him home at the end of the day – no longer having to walk down steep hills with her grandson secured to her back.
Hannah teared up as she saw so many of the hardships she had expressed – now addressed with the arrival of this chair. Looking to John brought the greatest joy, his head bobbed up and down rhythmically and a smile stretched broadly across his face. We asked him if he liked his new chair, and his smile grew larger.
Please pray for the spiritual component of our work here. Pray for ears that would hear and eyes that would see, that God would bring growth to the seeds that are sown. Pray for all of the relationships in the different areas of our lives here – that we would be bold to share as frequently as possible, that God would give dreams and visions to people that He is calling to Himself. As we’ve been able to share more recently, we’ve been reminded so clearly that it’s God that will cause people to believe, and we are just His messengers. Pray that we will be faithful to deliver the message to those that He has destined to receive it.
*names have been changed for security reasons
Find out more about Carson and his work in the Middle East in this profile.