April 2011

8-Year-Old Denied First Communion Due to Disability


Priest Father Phil Henning of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in  Floresville, Texas denied an eight year old boy, Kevin Castro, with cerebral palsy of partaking in his first communion. Henning has been accused by the boy’s family for discrimination after he refused to carry out the communion ritual.

In place of the communion, the priest suggested Kevin receive the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. Kevin’s grandmother was very upset by this and said, “That anointing they give you before death. That was very offensive.”

The priest says due to Kevin’s cerebral palsy and having a mind capacity of someone who is 6 months in age, communion cannot be initiated because he is not able to understand the meaning of receiving the body of Christ. The Catholic doctrine does say that for a person to receive the Holy Communion, they must have sufficient knowledge of Christ, however the doctrine does not state exactly what is technically accepted as sufficient.


The rite of passage is a very important step towards confirmation, however the decision of whether or not to allow someone to partake in the Holy Communion is up to the priest. Decon Pat Rodgers says, ” It’s never our desire, hope or wish to withhold a sacrament from someone who wants or needs it.”

After months of preparing for Kevin’s communion, his family is quite upset.  His grandmother says, “I hurt for my grandson and my family.”



Wheelchair User’s Dream Cruise Turns into a Nightmare


Jim Keskeny, 66, signed up for what he thought would be an unforgettable cruise with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as a retirement present. Keskeny would indeed never forget the trip, but not with fondness; Keskeny was treated with appalling discrimination and was thrown off the cruise with the result of being left stranded on an island to find his own way home to Detroit, Michigan.

Keskeny took all the precautions he thought he would need to have a perfect 10 day cruise vacation of the East Caribbean. He paid $4,000 for his ticket to ensure he would even have a bigger stateroom that would accommodate his wheelchair and even paid extra to have the services of a butler since he would be traveling alone. He was assured he would have all the extra assistance he needed before he booked his trip. Keskeny was a seasoned traveler, having been on several previous vacations through the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation.

As he checked in, everyone was aware he was a wheelchair user and cruise line officials were aware he had paid for extra assistance if needed. As the ship left port on Valentine’s Day, the trip quickly turned into a nightmare. The day after the ship left port, the butler refused to assist Keskeny get his wheelchair over a non-ADA compliant lip to get into the bathroom of his stateroom. Unfortunately, this was only the first of a shocking list of discrimination and general intolerance to Keskeny’s needs.

After lunch that day, the manager of the tour company and two cruise line officials came to his stateroom to “talk.” After refusing to even sit down in his room so that Keskeny could speak with them at eye level, they informed him that they had no intention of even “touching his body.” Should Keskeny ask them to do so or lift him, he would be made to disembark the ship.

On the third day of the trip, Keskeny slipped off the toilet in his bathroom. After cruise line employees refused to assist him, he was assisted back to his chair by fellow passengers. After a $200 trip to the ship’s infirmary, Keskney was dropped off in the port of Quadalupe, taken to the airport, and left to fend for himself and find his own way home.

He spent a total of $1500.00 to get back home and endured dangerous stopovers in Haiti with a compromised immune system from the multiple sclerosis and none of the required vaccinations to be in such areas. After an overnight layover in Miami at a hotel paid at his own expense, Keskeny finally returned home to Detroit, scared at the possibility of being exposed to the diseases running rampant in Haiti since the earthquake.

Upon returning home, Keskeny began searching for a lawyer. Surely he would be able to recover extensive damages after being stranded at an island airport and left to find his own way home. The actions of the cruise line would horrify an able-bodied passenger, let alone a 66 year old man that uses a wheelchair and has multiple sclerosis. Keskney met Richard Bernstein, a blind attorney, that offered to represent Keskney pro bono.

Unfortunately, the event isn’t an open and shut case as one would think. At check-in, passengers are required to sign a ticket contract. This contract bends the conditions of resolving disputes between the cruise line and passengers. Bernstein was forced to go to Miami, Flordia for litigation of the case as the contract demanded. In addition, passengers that sign the contract agree to submit to binding arbitration (a 3rd party arbitrator that reviews the case and hands down a binding decision) making it impossible to bring the case into the court system.

The contract also prevents Bernstein from recovering any of his expenses to travel to Miami and any related court costs paid to represent Keskney. Bernstein will be unable to recover any punitive damages for the treatment Keskney endured. He said Keskney would be fortunate to recover the cost of his ticket and the money he paid to return to home after being stranded on Quadalupe island.



Physiotherapist and his Piggy Pals are Making Quite a Squeal


Felix, a miniature pig and porky sidekick, Rudi, are owned by Daan Vermeulen, a Dutch Physiotherapist who travels around Germany to help his older patients with physical and emotional quandaries. Felix and Daan also make their rounds on the children wards.

For many years we have seen cats, dogs, rabbits, and even horses used for therapy, so why not a pig? Studies show that pets and animals in general have a positive influence on our physical and mental health. A person gets the exercise to walk, bath, or feed the animal along with the unconditional love animals are infamous for.  Even holding them allows for a person to lower their blood pressure. Animals are quit the healers.


Daan has even stated that getting his patients up and moving to interact with Felix also helps them in interacting with other patients, thus giving his patients a more human connection. To someone who has physical and emotional ailments, just knowing there is support is assuring. Whether it be human or animal, the outcome is phenomenal.

Everyone should start looking at these amazing creatures in a new light. They can do more for you than you know.





Man With Scissorhands Climbs Mountains Again


Mountain climber Stephen Ball, 54, was climbing one of America’s tallest mountains, Mount McKinley, when an unexpected snow storm hit causing him to fall almost 2,000 feet. He was trapped for several hours before he was able to get help. Due to extremely severe frost bite he lost part of his left hand, his right fingers and thumb, part of his nose, and his right foot. He also broke his leg in 12 different places and was forced to get it amputated, and yet his climbing days aren’t over.

Ball says, “Even straight after the accident I knew I couldn’t give up. I just refused to be defeated. I wanted my life back, and I wasn’t prepared to pack everything away and say that’s the end of things for me. I went to Phil to get my new leg, and while I was there I asked for his help with some custom-made hands. He’s very innovative and he won’t let obstacles get in his way. He’s looking to improve the prosthetics he makes for me all the time. These hands are quite specialized pieces of kit, he’s invented a slide mechanism so I can adjust the position of the axes. I adapted to them really easily, and I am now climbing better than I could have ever imagined.”

Ball came across award winning prosthetic technician Phil Myers to help him with his new prosthetic leg and “axe hands” which were specifically designed to support Ball while ice climbing.


Myers has also designed a unique “shock absorber” arm for a motorcyclist and won an award for Limbcare Technician of the Year at the British Association of Prosthetics and Orthodontists. He has been producing and engineering prosthetic limbs for over 21 years now and says, “the most satisfying part of the job for me is seeing the patients walk out of the building, especially when they came in by wheelchair. I just want to make a difference to people’s lives and it’s people like Stephen who make my job so worthwhile. His motivation is very inspiring.”

Paralyzed Wheelchair User Climbs Mountain with 18 Person Sled Team

With the determination and drive of a superhero, Barry West and his 18 person team of assistants reached the summit of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Britain on Sunday, April 10, 2011. In a total climb of 18 hours to ascend and descend, Barry and the volunteer assistants, aptly named Westy’s Warriors, took a 20 minute victory celebration at the peak of Ben Nevis after pushing, pulling, and carrying Barry in a self-made snow ready wheelchair prototype.

West and his Warriors are thought to be the first wheelchair user and team with a crew member having the level of disability Barry has to conquer the mountain in the snow. Barry refuses to stop there and already has his sights set on even greater accomplishments. Next on his list is to complete is the Three Peaks Challenge consisting of a climb of Snowdon, Wales, and Scafell. Ben Nevis in Britain was a warm up to the biggest challenge of Kilimanjaro, a 19,340 peak in South Africa next year.

Barry was paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident when he was just 19. Through assistance from organizations like the Back Up Trust which assists people with spinal cord injuries by helping them come to terms with their new life, West has accomplished skiing trips, repelling expeditions, scuba diving, and sky diving. West truly knows no limits.

West has turned his paralysis into a career by working as an instructor for multiple activities for power wheelchair users as part of the Back Up Trust organization that helped him reclaim his active life after the accident. In addition, Barry designs both business cards and  T-Shirts using a computer controlled by a mouth stick.

Barry has been training with his Warriors that act almost like a team of huskies for an Alaskan sled team. For the past two years, he and his team have been exploring the safest way to get Barry up and down a mountain safely. Ben Nevis was only the first of many explorations for the active West.

Source: https://news.scotsman.com/scotland/Wheelchairbound-Barry-and-his-amazing.6750114.jp?articlepage=1

Wheelchair that Converts to a Gym


The new Exercise Wheelchair offers wheelchair users another alternative to assist them in maintaining their independence. NeuroGym Technologies released this new Exercise Wheelchair, making it the first of its kind to give an opportunity for wheelchair users to strengthen and increase their functional independence, all while getting the kind of cardiovascular workout that is essential for cardiac health and weight control without ever having to leave the wheelchair.

With over 3 million North Americans using wheelchairs, the need for a rehabilitative wheelchair has steadily grown over the years. In addition to chronic degenerative muscle control, wheelchair users face the effects of a sedentary life such as weight gain, muscle atrophy, and permanent nerve damage. Everyday tasks such as rolling over in bed, sitting up, and standing unassisted are essential in maintaining a person with disability’s independence.

The Exercise Wheelchair targets these areas to strengthen a user’s ability to complete these tasks without being so physically taxing. Using the variable tension and extension technology in the Exercise Wheelchair allows users to not only hold on to their current ability to assist their caregivers in transfers in and out of the wheelchair, but also gain new strength in important movement muscle areas of wheelchair users.


In addition to working as a standard manual wheelchair, the Exercise Wheelchair has slide out leg braces and resistance technology that offer wheelchair users strength training, range of motion, and cardiovascular workouts. The backrest and seat of the Exercise Wheelchair turn into a variable resistance flexion and extension machine, while the special leg apparatus that’s stored under the wheelchair itself is easily accessed to concentrate the workout on lower extremities.

Invented by a physiotherapist to specifically target major muscle groups affected by long-term use of a wheelchair, the Exercise Wheelchair from NeuroGym is approved for use in all long term care and nursing facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and at home.

Source: https://www.marketwire.com/press-release/The-Wheelchair-That-Turns-Into-a-Gym-1425347.htm

Composer Invents Brainwave-Controlled Music Composition Software for Paraplegics

Disabilities like Lou Gherrigs disease, Guillian Barre, and total paralysis are often hard to understand by the general public. To be a prisoner in your own body while retaining a lucid mind frame is unimaginable by most. With such great physical limitations, these everyday heroes are often left with few forms of effective communication, independent living, and creative outlets. However, Eduardo Miranda has provided an avenue for such creativity by inventing a program that allows those without muscle control from the neck down a way to create music through eye movement, brain waves, and attention levels.

Although brainwave programs are already in existence, most focus on the user controlling a mechanical device such as a wheelchair or mechanical arm. Miranda’s project goes beyond existing music programs that make an audio representation of the user’s brainwaves to give the user full control of the music he or she composes by using a system of “buttons” on a computer screen. The level of attentiveness changes the size of the “button” and produces a unique sound. Of course as with any musical instrument, practice makes the process easier to control, however for those that live with a disability that limits body movement, a new realm of creative expression has opened up.

Based on electroencephalogram technology that reads the users brainwaves and eye movement detection to determine attentiveness levels and specific buttons for the user to concentrate on, this program puts the former composer and computer music specialist at the top of breakthrough programs that enhance the quality of life for a person with very limited independent movement.

Miranda remains inspired to further cultivate his invention into other outlets of expression for those that have limited mobility. His determination and bold explorations into uncharted scientific territory will continue to set mile markers and name him as both an advocate and hero within the disabled community.



Service Dog Saves Owner, Inspires Poetry


John Clark, a 6th grade teacher for 20 years, finally retired when his disease, progressive spinal muscle atrophy, became too much to continue. Regardless of the disease, Clark continued his education from home, receiving a Master’s degree in poetry, which he writes with the use of a mouth stick. In 1998, he was even published in the American-Irish Historical Society’s journal, The Recorder, and several other publications.

Despite the seriousness of his disease and the physical limitations it put on his life, he never thought he would qualify for a service dog because he always thought there were others more in need of one than himself. On a suggestion made by his brother-in-law, Clark finally applied for a service dog from Canine Companions for Independence, unaware that he had just begun the journey that would change his life as he knew it. After being accepted into the CCI training program, Clark and his family learned quickly that, in addition to an extensive vocabulary of a 125 words and 70 commands, Lex could also become Clark’s companion, life saver, and most recently, his muse.

Lex became Clark’s hero one day when a hickory nut that was lodged between two flagstones of the driveway caused John’s wheelchair to go into an uncontrollable spin, sending him into a stucco wall, where he became wedged in with three of his four wheels off the ground. Lex came to Clark’s aid with no verbal prompting and began to inch the wheelchair by pushing the right then left sides of the back of the chair slowly back onto stable ground.

Clark, overjoyed at the dog’s heroic feat, wanted to thank his dog in an appropriate way and immediately decided that the dog’s actions went above and beyond that of an extra bone to chew. He began to write his rescue dog a 150-page book of sonnets, inspired not just by the disaster from which Lex saved Clark, but also by the everyday “rescues” as well.

The sonnets are about everything Lex can do, according to Clark. “The work that he does picking up my mouth stick if I drop it, turning on lights, that sort of thing. It also shows that he’s got a sense of humor. It shows his marvelous personality.”

The Joy of Lex: Life with a Service Dog boasts an introduction from critically acclaimed author, Dean Koontz, and was published on Clark’s independent label, Black Lab Books (www.blacklabbooks.com), where you can find other work by Clark as well.

Clark’s message to others who are disabled is the hope that they will not wait, as he had, to apply for a service dog to enrich their lives, as Lex has enriched his own.

Source: https://bronxville.patch.com/articles/a-dog-a-wheelchair-and-a-story-of-dedication-and-redemption