Friday, June 3, 2011
Many high school seniors will walk across stages to accept diplomas in the next couple of weeks. There's at least one graduate for whom performing that simple act tonight will be a triumph in itself.
Tonight will be the first time Sweetwater High graduates see their classmate Jose Gildo leave his wheelchair. Gildo has a rare condition that reduces muscle control and causes him to harm himself and others. He hasn’t been able to walk for five years.
Last year he began working with Rachel Chavez, a physical therapist with the San Diego County office of California Children Services Medical Therapist Program.
It’s hard for GIldo’s adoptive father, Jorge Equihua, to explain what it means to see his son leave his wheelchair for even short periods of time.
“Do you have any idea how it feels to see your son – who is 18 years old - and who, little by little has deteriorated and then for him to move by himself?" he asked in Spanish. "Well, it’s a joy; it’s something good."
Gildo has been using a specially designed walker in his therapist’s office. His own walker to take home arrived just in time for graduation. The fact that he'll be able to use it blew even Chavez's expectations out of the water.
“Even the doctor was really surprised when I asked her to sign the prescription for him to have a walker because it really wasn’t the outcome we expected," she said. "I honestly told the family it was kind of a long shot, but I just wanted to try it. The family has been really dedicated and Jose is such a hard-working kid.”
Chavez said Gildo first wore braces to straighten his legs, the muscles of which were so tight he couldn't even sit comfortably in his wheelchair, and then began working on using the walker.