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Martinsville High School Alumni
Class of 1970 Message List
About Julie Fitzgerald - Julie Needs Us All - 17
05/23/09     Peka Wade  (1970)      Pekaat4PAWS@aol.com
Julie lives in a very small world and we all need to let her know we remember and care about her. She needs a TV, a new electric wheelchair and things such as toiletries, books, and anything having to do with Elvis. According to Julie, she is only allowed to have $40 a month for extras as all other funds go towards her stay at Blue Ridge.

Please be sure to send notes and cards. She has always needed us.

I am going to take her a bedspread for her bed. She does not even have a mirror...I will be searching for a mirror as well.

I have spoken with the nursing home to see if they can re-wallpaper her room as the sheets are staying on the walls with masking tape.

Please read the following. Julie's mother posted this on 1/18/2000 on Hearttouchers. It gives us the insight we all needed when we were back at Druid Hills School. It just only touches what Julie has been through.

A Portrait in Courage

By Jean Fitzgerald


I want to tell you about a young woman for whom I have the utmost
respect and admiration. This person was born with a very serious birth
defect. I don't know if you are familiar with spina-bifida but it is
an opening in the back where the spine does not grow together properly.
I don't know if you are familiar with hydrocephalus but this is when
there is an overabundance of spinal fluid and the fluid goes to the
brain, causing the head to grow. Sometimes a baby will have spina-bifida,
sometimes they will have hydrocephalus and on occasion a baby will
have both. This baby had both.

The doctors did not give much hope that this baby would live and the
parents took her home to care for her when she was 10 days old, not
knowing what to expect. It was a scary situation but they did better
than they expected. She needed special care but she was a good baby
which was a big help. At the age of five weeks her back began to seep
spinal fluid and they were told to take her to the UVA Hospital in
Charlottesville, VA. After a week the draining stopped and she was
sent home.

At the age of three months the draining began again and she was
taken back to the hospital. This time the doctors could not stop the
draining and surgery had to be done to close the opening in the back.
Otherwise there was a risk the baby would get spinal meningitis. The
child spent 4 weeks in the hospital after surgery and when she was
released from the hospital her head had grown at the rate of 1/2 inch
a week. The parents were told that her head would continue to grow and
she only had three to six months to live.

So with this hanging over their heads the parents took her home,
supposedly to watch her die, but full of faith that she could make
it and live. They put this child in the hands of the Lord and did all
they knew to do to help her grow.

Each time the local doctor measured her head he would find that it
had not grown. She began to eat, not only taking her bottle but
eating solid food, and she began to thrive. And thus began the fight
that this spunky little girl would wage over the years.
At one year of age she was taken to a surgeon in hopes of getting
her on her feet, but he said she probably wouldn't live to be two
years old and if she did she would never be 'right'.

She had a homemade walker in which she got around and was able to be
a little bit independent. She was talking very well before she was
two, learning her ABC's and spelling her name.

When she was two years old a doctor was found who would try to help
her get on her feet. She had surgery done on her hip, something called
closed reduction, where no incision is made but the hip is maneuvered
into place. She was put into a cast from her waist down both legs. She
wore the cast for three months after which a metal brace was put on
her shoes to hold her feet apart. Her parents took her everywhere with them.

When she was three years old she received her first leg brace. After
a while it was determined she would need a brace on both legs and she
was fitted with another leg brace. Now she could stand for the first
time, but of course, she didn't have the balance she needed. She used
parallel bars, made especially for her to use in her home, and learned
the walking motion. Then she received a pair of crutches and after a
lot of falls and a long learning process she was able to walk on her own.

When she was six years old she began school. With a wonderful,
understanding and patient teacher, problems of her getting about with
the other children were worked out and she did fine after that.

When she was in high school she worked as a candy striper at the local
hospital. Over four years she contributed more than 1200 hours, more
than any other candystriper at that time.

A year after she graduated she attended Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation
Center in Fishersville, VA, taking a secretarial course. While there
she met a young man and they fell in love. She graduated and came back
to her home and got a job with the local newspaper. She and her
boyfriend kept in touch and visited each other until he finished his
course. He went back to his home, took a job with a bank and one day
when he called her he proposed to her over the phone. She accepted.

In time they were married and she left her home and went to live with
him in Virginia Beach, VA, over 200 miles away. They both worked and
became good taxpaying citizens. Without God's help and the fight that
she had in her she would probably never have lived.

I know this young woman probably better than she knows herself
because, you see, I am her mother. And she does have my respect
and admiration for all she has been through and how she has handled
it. On January 15, 2000, she will be 48 years old and always on her
birthday I remember the grim words of many doctors, and I thank God
for all the blessings that have come our way.

Jean Fitzgerald
jfitzger@neocom.net

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