Wheels of Fortune
Two days before MedWish International’s Medical Brigade to Nicaragua and our staff had made another wish a reality. MedWish supporter and Band Aid Bash volunteer Amy K. had connected our staff to a family living in Masaya, Nicargua. The parents, known for their charity in their neighborhood, were raising a paraplegic girl, along with their four biological daughters. The girl, Maria Jose, spent most her days surrounded by the four concrete walls of her room. Whatever brief sojourn she could manage from the room was in a baby stroller, too small for her eight year old body, and only when her sisters, always there to serve, could set aside some time. With an obvious need and the appropriate chair in the MedWish International warehouse, physically getting the chair to Nicaragua proved the bigger test.
“Wow. How am I going to get that down there?” said MedWish International’s Founder and President, Lee Ponsky, MD. After selecting the chair, MedWish staff had placed the spindly item into the back of a hatchback car for transport to his own home. Dr. Ponsky planned to arrive in Nicaragua a few days before the brigade to not only prepare the location, but spend time with his family, before giving another week to MedWish’s dual mission. Fitting the chair into the back of Honda speaks to its portability, but its paraplegic focus, with wide head rests out of Top Gun and leg braces from a NASA gyroscope, it was not easy. In a post 9/11 flight world where overhead cabinets are the new gold rush, Dr. Ponsky had to check not just the chair, but also five bags of the over 2100 pounds of the brigade’s medical supplies. The chair’s ultimate arrival in Nicaragua and delivery to Nicaragua represented the confluence of bureaucracy, pluck, and creativity that makes many a MedWish shipment happen.
On August 1st, Lee Ponsky welcomed the first wave of brigadiers to Nicaragua. When the second wave was delayed and twilight falling, he and his family decided to head to Maria Jose’s home. The brigadiers stayed at the hotel to prepare the supplies for the first day of brigading, but the initial benefit of our brigade was to be much more personal.
The home was low slung and surrounded by a concrete waist high fence. Slats were cut into the cement to give the walls a lattice work that cast long rectangular shadows against the driveway in the fading light. Tropical foliage hemmed the other lines of the property and the flourishes of wild ginger and starbursts of wild ornamental peanuts painted the scene for a rain forest symphony. The only animals were stray dogs, kept out the low fence and the flies fanned off of Maria Jose’s face by her doting sisters. “They were literally treating her like a queen, fanning her with fronds,” said Dr. Ponsky upon his return to the hotel were the story brought brigadiers to tears. Just the first of a singular week of service.
During the visit, Maria Jose’s mother also cried. Her charity began nine years ago when a teenage girl in her village announced she was pregnant. The biological mother planned to abandon the child or to terminate the pregnancy, something anathema in a country where public buses are embossed with logos that read “Gift of God” and “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” Born into the poorest country in Latin America and from parents unconcerned with her growth, Maria Jose found a second chance in her adoptive parents who did not flinch when thinking about another mouth to feed. As her condition emerged and treatment options dwindled, her parents realized that Maria Jose would be a lifetime of care. That care became just a bit easier with MedWish’s donation of a wheelchair. With Dr. Ponsky’s final snap of the straps around her chest and waist, Maria Jose had her first trip in her new ride. Just a jaunt around the tiled driveway with Dr. Ponsky pushing from behind, but a new opportunity and way to view the world courtesy of our Nicaragua Medical Brigade.