Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 11, 2013

Family trying to raise funds for wheelchair accessible vehicle

Progress staff reports
Jacksonville Daily Progress

NECHES —

Sixteen-year-old Heather Lee would like nothing more than to walk around a track her stepfather, Kenneth Gibson, fashioned in their yard for their family to exercise on.

But Heather, a freshman at Neches High School, is now confined to a wheelchair 100 percent of the time because of her debilitating muscular dystrophy.

"She's so depressed," said her mother, Rebecca Gibson. "She just wants to be normal."

Unfortunately, "normal" isn't a way of life for the Gibson family.

Of the five children, three have muscular dystrophy. Eighteen-year-old Matthew Lee has a seizure disorder and mental retardation along with muscular dystrophy, a group of muscle diseases that weaken the musculoskeletal  system and impair movement. Muscular dystrophies are characterized by progressive muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins and the eventual death of muscle tissue.

There is no known cure and no definitive treatment to slow to stop the progression of the disease.

Thirteen-year-old Kathryn Lee also suffers from muscular dystrophy.  

The two youngest children are healthy.

Heather's condition has deteriorated rapidly since Thanksgiving 2012, forcing her into a wheelchair full time. The family's home is not equipped with a wheelchair ramp and the family car cannot accommodate either a wheelchair or a wheelchair carrier.

United Access, a company from Garland that offers wheelchair accessible vans and vehicle sales, service, and rental functions to people with disabilities, has a 2006 Ford van the family is trying to purchase for $24,000 in cash.  The van, which can fit Heather's wheelchair, also has removable seats in the likely event Matthew and Kathryn need wheelchairs in the future as well.

Kenneth and Rebecca, who are both disabled themselves, are trying to raise the funds needed to purchase the van.

The family has set up an account at Austin Bank under the account name "Kenneth and Rebecca Gibson Benefit for Heather Lee." If you wish to donate, contact Austin Bank.