17 November 2009

Wrap Up a Wish: Hopes for greater mobility

Published online on Monday, Nov. 16, 2009
By Ron Orozco / The Fresno Bee
About the series

The wish: Criselda Ruiz wishes for an EasyStand Magician chair. Cost: $2,236

How to help: For the 17th year, The Fresno Bee, in partnership with the United Ways of Fresno, Tulare and Madera counties, is publishing Wrap Up a Wish, a series of stories about families, individuals and organizations with special needs -- and inviting readers to help with cash contributions. It's The Bee's hope that you, after reading these stories, will help make your neighbors' wishes come true. Just use a coupon that will appear inside The Bee through Dec. 10 to designate the recipient of your donation. On Christmas Eve, we'll follow up with a report on your response to Wrap Up a Wish.

Criselda Ruiz is the mother of seven children, including two sets of twins. She says she loves all her children the same but devotes quite a bit of attention to Janessa, 7. Janessa has cerebral palsy. All the other children, ages 2 to 13, are healthy, including Janessa's twin, Jonathan.

At 6 months old, Janessa began hemorrhaging. Doctors diagnosed her with cerebral palsy, a disorder resulting from damage to the brain that can affect coordination and muscle movement.

She wears leg braces and can't walk. She speaks just a handful of words, including "agua."

"I still love her either way," Ruiz says, tears welling in her eyes. "She's my special kid." The doctors told Ruiz that Janessa needed to sit up on her own by age 5. Otherwise, it may be harder for her to eventually walk on her own.

Sitting up hasn't happened yet -- and that concerns Ruiz.

Doctors believe an EasyStand Magician, a system that helps support a child in sitting and standing positions and can be easily moved, could help the girl. The device costs more that $2,000.

Ruiz's income is limited to $486 she receives monthly from Fresno County to care for Janessa. She lives in government-subsidized housing and receives food stamps.

"It's hard every month," says Ruiz, who has been separated from her husband for six months. "After all the bills are paid, there's a little left."

Janessa previously attended Storey Elementary School, which offered therapy programs suited for her. For a while, she needed the help of oxygen tanks. She now is in the second grade at Lane Elementary School.

Ruiz says Janessa is constant with her smile. "She is always happy," Ruiz says, adding that she is hopeful that Janessa will be able to walk.

"I pray for her all the time."

The reporter can be reached at rorozco@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6304.

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