PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Twenty-years ago, when Wendy Emery’s son Blake was born with severe brain damage because of strokes he suffered during her pregnancy, she knew each day going forward would have some difficulties.
It soon became apparent, however, that despite multiple medical issues that left him confined to a wheelchair, her son had a personality that could “light up a room,” Emery said this week. Everyone noticed it, whether he was at medical appointments, his sister’s pageants and band concerts or his brother’s sports events, she said.
However, less than two weeks ago the family experienced a setback when their sole vehicle, which was not handicapped accessible, was damaged in an accident while Blake was hospitalized. Now, they are turning to the community to help them win a wheelchair accessible vehicle in a contest being held as part of National Mobility Awareness Month.
The contest ends May 31.
Sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, the “Life Moving Forward” allows people to vote online for their favorite entry. To vote for Blake, go to mobilityawarenessmonth.com.
Wendy Emery said the top 10 percent of the vote getters will move on to be reviewed by a panel of five judges to determine whether they meet certain criteria, which she said her son does. The winner will be announced publicly June 18.
As of Tuesday morning, Emery’s page had more than 7,300 votes.
Blake is unable to walk, talk or sit up on his own but communicates by eye blinks, happy noises, laughter and tears, according to Emery.
The family was at first told he would not live to see his first birthday. Emery said her son has faced many health scares and illnesses but has always fought back.
Blake has many medical appointments that are three to five hours away from the family home. With no handicapped-accessible van, his mother has to transfer Blake from his wheelchair to a seat in a regular vehicle and prop him with pillows and blankets to help him sit up.
Then, she has to take his wheelchair apart and fold it to fit in the vehicle.
Traveling this way is unsafe, she said, as she often has to stop the vehicle to readjust Blake because he slides into an unsafe and uncomfortable position.
At times, Emery said, she has suffered injuries to her arms and back from lifting her son on her own.
“I am glad that Blake was in the hospital during the accident because if he was not he would’ve been hurt,” she said. “Our insurance company has been paying for a rental vehicle since then, but it is not anywhere close to what we need. We would love to win this, as we have never had a handicapped accessible van to transport Blake on our own. ”
Emery said she’s not sure what model van the winner will receive if they win the national competition but said it will be more suitable to transport her son.
“Unfortunately, health insurance will not pay for a van,” she said. “Winning this would really improve the quality of life for not only my son but our whole family.”