Searching for a lift
The first thing you notice about Kira Andreas is her eyes.
They are chocolate-colored orbs that dart and dance as she wheels her way around Scotten School, playing with her classmates or working on a reading project.
Then, you notice her smile, because it never seems to go away.
“It’s just part of her personality,” said her mother, Joanne McIntyre. “I’m not sure I can take credit for that.”
On Friday, it was especially difficult not to notice the bond Kira, 10, shares with her father, Ed.
It’s a bond strengthened by the eight wheels beneath them.
Each was born with spina bifida, though they’re not the kind to dwell on their physical limitations. Both are paraplegics, unable to fully use their legs.
Until he needed an operation recently to further correct his spine, Ed spent countless hours ferrying his daughter to school and activities.
Now, Kira, a bubbly sort who loves the color pink and shopping at the mall, needs a motorized wheelchair, and Ed’s recent surgery has left him unable to hoist Kira’s chair into his van.
The students in Melody Arnett’s fifth-grade class are hoping to raise in excess of $6,000 so Ed can have a motorized lift installed in his van. Donations to the “How About a Lift” fund can be made to Washington Mutual bank branches in Grass Valley.
Kira’s full-time aide at Scotten, Alice Lawrence, suggested the idea to Arnett as a community service project after she saw Ed Andreas struggling to place his wheelchair-bound daughter in his van, heave her chair in the back of the van and then struggle to get himself situated and his own chair stowed away.
“I just looked and saw him trying to get in the chair, and it was such a humbling thing,” she said. “Ed’s very strong-willed. He would not ask for help.”
Ed’s father was a Marine who wanted to use his son’s physical ailment as a source of strength, he said.
“He was a tough guy and he said you had to learn how to figure it out, or you’d be watching the rest of your life,” Ed Andreas said.
“I can’t miss walking,” he added, “because I’ve never walked.”
So he’s decided to live a full life in spite of the fact his legs have little use.
Thirty years ago, Ed wheeled down the Southern California coast, from Ventura to San Diego, in a quest so grueling it sanded away the paw pads of the dog that was trailing him. Years later, Ed and McIntyre, his ex-wife and a resource teacher at Scotten, ran a nonprofit activity camp for people with disabilities.
Kira was adopted by the couple when she was five weeks old. They have a son, Cory, a 15-year-old sophomore at Nevada Union, whom they also adopted shortly after his birth. Cory was born with a curved spine.
“Who better to adopt them than someone who’s been there,” Ed said.
Kira’s wheelchair has hardly limited her ability. She plays wheelchair basketball with her Scotten School classmates once a week and, yes, loves going to 49er Fun Park and the mall.
Mostly, she enjoys being with her dad, a proposition made more difficult in the past few weeks as he has been unable to take her into his van.
“It breaks her heart not to go there,” said McIntyre, who shares joint custody of Kira.
Soon, she’ll be able to go there whenever she wants.
“We’re going to make it,” Kira said. “I’m sure we will.”
What is spina bifida
Spina bifida is an incomplete closure of the spinal column. In general, there are three types:
• An opening in one or more of the vertebrae of the spinal column without apparent damage to the spinal cord.
• The protective coating around the spinal cord has been pushed out through the opening in the vertebrae in a sac called the meningocele. This means the spinal cord remains intact, and it can be repaired with little or no damage to the nerve pathways.
• The most serious form is Myelomeningocele, in which a portion of the spinal cord protrudes through the back. In some cases, sacs are covered with skin, in others, tissue and nerves are exposed.
The effects of the most serious form of spina bifida may include muscle weakness or paralysis below the area of the spine where the incomplete closure occurs, loss of sensation below the clef, and loss of bowel or bladder control.
Increased doses of folic acid can prevent the possibility of spina bifida.
Sources: National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities, Spina Bifida Association of America
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