Grant Money To Help Back Pain Disabled Woman Get Accessible Truck
by Jerelyn Chong
(Honolulu, Hawaii, USA)
Dad, me, Mom
My name is Jerelyn Chong. I am 19 years of age. I live in the state of Hawaii. I started having back pain In 2004.
I was a freshman in high school at the time and at first I thought It was just a simple muscle pain in the middle of my spine but things soon worsened. I couldn't walk straight. The pain in my back felt like someone was poking it with a big needle.
I had to have assistance going to the bathroom and into the shower. My family thought it was nothing serious. They thought it was a way to get out of my chores (which was never the case).
I was constantly in pain. I couldn't feel my toes. They realized that I needed to see a physician as soon as possible. My doctor ordered an X-ray but didn't find any source of mass or tumor in my spine.
He told me to take Advil or Tylenol because he thought it was just a tight muscle in my spine. A couple of days after it started getting worse. I was now feeling numb from my thighs down.
My doctor ordered an MRI to be done right away. When the MRI was complete, my doctor soon realized that it was a tumor in the middle of my spine (T-11 - T-12) that was affecting my ability to walk and the cause of my feet being numb.
That very same day I was rushed to the hospital in Honolulu, Oahu, which is a different island from where I lived. My family and I had to catch a plane to get there in a Medevac plane right away.
I remember lying there. The EMT (Emergency Medical Technicians) were starting an IV in my arm and I felt so helpless, vulnerable, in pain and sick of how everything turned out.
I felt so hopeless. I was ready to give up. I was really negative about my situation because I was only a teenager at the time and I felt like everything was my fault. But I wanted to get better and I wanted this tumor to be removed to I could get back to my family.
A week went by and the doctors and surgeons performed my surgery. When the surgery was finished, I couldn't move or feel my thighs down to my toes no matter how much I tried.
I realized I was going to be in a wheelchair, and that's what scared me. I was afraid for my life. I was concerned about how other people would treat me because I looked "different."
Another week went by and my doctor said I should get some physical therapy to get stronger on my upper body strength because being in a wheelchair you will need a lot of your upper body strength.
So I did. And it was a very nice experience. I even made quite a few friends and I was the youngest person there. I was starting to be more independent on my own. My family was with me every step of the way and I loved them so much for that.
When I was finally home. I started isolating myself from everyone else because I was ashamed of how I looked. My mom and dad would do everything they could to get me out of the house but I refused.
I refused people to look down on me because of my appearance. Soon after, I was going through a depression because a lot of my friends had stopped being friends with me because I was in a wheelchair.
Never did any of them keep their word and that's what made me sad the most. I knew I had family but it's nice to talk to people your age.
I started cutting myself, and locking myself in the bedroom. And I "hated" everything around me: my life, myself, and just everything. I blamed myself. My mom and dad never really knew what was going on, because I would play it off like everything was okay.
My mom later made me do homeschooling with my teacher (Ms. Zager) for two years. She was an amazing teacher and helped me throughout my assignments.
My dad would have my grandma and great-grandma come over on the weekends and I was slowly getting out of my room, but not out of the house.
I loved my grandma so much. She taught me a lot. She was and still is my hero to this very day. Before she had gotten sick I told her "Grandma I promise you I will walk the line. I will graduate and make you proud." She smiled and said, "That's a promise I will never forget."
I could always count on her. She knew things that no one else knew. I could tell her anything!
One day I was sick of the way I viewed my life. I was sick of people who were my friends and disowned me. I was sick of putting myself down. I was sick of being negative. I was sick of homeschooling when I should be out and going to school. I was sick of isolating myself from everyone. I was sick of the negativity!
So I dropped all my books and went straight to my mom. I said "MOM I want to go to school, back to school. I want to make new friends, even see people around me laugh and gossip. I don't care. I don't want to isolate myself anymore. I want to get out more!"
My mom was shocked and awed when I had said that. Right then and there I made calls to my school and told them I want a meeting ASAP to discuss my going back to school.
Within a day we had our meeting and I was very specific on why I wanted to go back to school. I told them "I don't want to do homeschooling anymore. I want to be IN school. I don't care if people treat, act, or look at me different because I will just smile and say, "YES I am in a wheelchair!"
The counselors and principal said, "I wish the kids that go to this school had the confidence and determination you have!" A couple of days went by and I had my schedule for my classes.
I was a senior. My younger sister was a sophomore at the time so she helped me get to my classes. And I loved school! I met new people, made a lot of new friends and you know what was the most enjoyment of it all?
NO ONE, I mean NO ONE, looked down at me and they didn't even care if I was in a wheelchair or not. A lot asked me what happened and I would smile and say "Life. Life happened."
I worked hard in school and kept my grades up so that I could graduate. I promised my grandma and myself, also my family. My older brother and two sisters didn't get to walk the line and I WANTED to. I didn't want to look back and say, "I should have walked the line. I should have graduated."
Towards the ending of my senior year, my grandma was very ill. The cancer in her lungs had spread throughout her whole body and her doctor said she didn't have much time.
Everything was overwhelming for me: school, graduation things, my grandma dying. I didn't know how to handle it. I would visit my grandma from time to time because I wanted to spend all my time with her before she passed. After all she was my hero and inspiration and I didn't want to let her down. I loved her too much to do that.
A couple of weeks later, my grandma couldn't open her eyes any more. she had a breathing machine to help her breathe. As I went into her room too see her, my heart dropped.
My eyes got teary and I started to cry for hours just holding her hand and kissing her hand telling her I love her so much and that I was graduating in a couple of weeks.
She and I always talked about watching me graduate. On April 12, 2009, my grandma Rita passed away. She was with the angels.
It was a couple of weeks before graduation and I couldn't concentrate on my schoolwork. I tried really hard not to cry, but I would picture my grandma everywhere I went. she was constantly on my mind. Everything was just overwhelming me emotionally.
But I stuck it out and I never gave up! I become strong, determined, and confident, and I built my strength to remember my grandma is in a better place and to remember the promise I made to her.
On June 6, 2009, I am in my graduation gown. I wore my grandma's pants with my gown. I gripped on it tight and said to myself "I did it grandma. I wish you were here to see it. We did it! Thank you so much. We're going to walk down the line together!"
And I did so. Graduating was the most exhilarating experience I had ever had in my life! If I could I would do it all over again. What a night to remember!
This is why I like to encourage young adults that all your years of school will pay off in the end! I am still in the wheelchair but I'm happy with life. I constantly remind myself to "NEVER GIVE UP!" Which is what I tell my friends and family all the time.
The financial hardship I have now is getting out more, getting my own truck and just socializing more and interacting with the community. I watched my family suffer throughout the years and I want to do something about it.
I know I can help them in every way possible, because I will never give up! My mom is the only one who works and there's six of us living in an apartment building with $1700 rent!
My mom works so hard and I can see it when she comes home every night. My dad and baby sister takes care of me but I don't want them to take care of me for the rest of my life.
I want to be able to do things on my own. I don't want to have to rely on people. I have SSI but it isn't enough to help my family. I pay the cell phone bill because we can't afford a house phone.
And I also pick up supplies that sometimes my medical doesn't cover or they're late on deliveries. I help my dad and mom with gas money and food. It's a struggle. I know I can do something to better our lifestyle and I won't rest until I find a way. I never give up so why give up now?
The most important benefit I am looking for is to have my own truck (no van or car because I had that all my life.) With my own truck under my name, I could go to college and be out more in the community instead of staying cooped up in the house.
It would be a truck with all the modifications in it so I can just get in and out very easily and also help my family out in every way that I can, which is why I am writing this letter.
I am hoping to get a grant because all that I have mentioned here in my letter is all that the money will be used for. It would be one step to helping my family for a better life, and one step towards my Independence.