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Powering through obstacles

(ROCKWALL COUNTY, TX – March 22, 2016) When I was a young lad turning six, the year was 1942. That may seem like eons ago, but to me, it’s still frozen in time, as if it happened yesterday. My best friend and next door neighbor, Loice O., looked forward to each new day and the joy of playing under the two large oak trees that covered our front yards on Ennis Avenue in dear, old Ennis, TX. We looked forward to a lot of fun that summer; we were going to be first graders and knew that our lives would change forever with the coming of fall and going to school for the first time.

But, in an instant, the dreams of an unending summer of play vanished. My best friend could no longer come out to play, as he contracted a disease that confined him to bed with the life slowly draining from his legs. Within a very short time, his legs were rendered useless. He had contracted polio.

As time went by, my friend was able to regain use of his upper body, but little could be done for his legs. That is, until my mother, through a family friend, was able to get Loice O. into Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas. Through a series of major operations, the herculean efforts of my mom, the knowledge and skill of doctors and the divine grace of God, he was miraculously able to walk again. Loice O. was truly an inspiration and, even though he was severely disabled, he maintained a positive attitude, married a girl from Ennis and was blessed with two sons. When I was 22, I married my wife of 57 years, Cornelia; Loice O. was my best man. I’ve always looked up to him as being a truly remarkable achiever and one of my most unforgettable friends.

Fast forward some 75 years and residing in Heath, I have found a new neighbor and friend, Jesse E. Stansel. Jesse and I were born a few miles apart, in Navarro County – myself in Corsicana and Jesse in the city of Navarro. I met Jesse four years ago when his beloved wife passed away due to a stroke and heart attack. Jesse and Needy were not ones to be out and about very much, but each week Jesse would be on his riding lawnmower grooming his immaculate one and a half acre homestead, just like any other average guy in the neighborhood. But Jesse is not an average guy; he too is an inspiration, for you see, Jesse lost the use of one of his legs at the tender age of one and a half, due to that dreaded disease, polio. He too endured many operations at Scottish Rite Hospital. He has been able, through the use of braces and crutches and partial use of his right leg, to work and earn a living as a jeweler in Mesquite. Even though he suffered the consequence of this devastating disease, Jesse completed high school and attended Kilgore College with a specialized degree in the art of becoming a jeweler.

Jesse lost the use of his other leg about three years ago and became incapacitated to the degree that he cannot use braces and crutches for mobility. From the time he lost the total use of his legs, Jesse’s mobility has been mainly through the use of his arms and hands and on occasion, a second-hand, fold-up manual wheelchair. Jesse now lives alone in the home he once shared with Needy. He maintains his home in a neat and orderly fashion, does his own laundry, keeps the carpets vacuumed and is truly an inspiration to those of us who are amazed as to how well he is able to live as independently as he does.

Through the efforts of Meals on Wheels Senior Services of Rockwall County, several Christian care groups, and his friends and neighbors, Jesse enjoys a variety of foods that are prepared and delivered to his home each day. Loving home health care providers regularly monitor his health. Jesse hadn’t been away from his home since his wife passed away, but now he regularly sees a private care physician and cardiac specialist who have provided him with medical care that has greatly improved his quality of life.

Efforts to provide Jesse with an even more improved quality of life were undertaken over five months ago by providing him with a battery powered wheel chair. This proved to be the most difficult and time consuming task undertaken on Jesse’s behalf. Many times the phrase was heard, “He will not be able to get a powered chair,” due to stringent requirements imposed by insurance companies and the complexities of the processes of application, evaluation, medical approvals, and physical requirements.  Each obstacle was addressed, re-addressed and overcome, due to perseverance of those involved. When it was finally determined that there was a glimmer of hope – that the battery powered wheelchair might actually be made available – the construction of a new wheelchair ramp began. The old sidewalk at the front of Jesse’s home was removed and replaced with a concrete ramp that would provide much easier entry and exit from his front door. A wooden railing and banister were installed to provide a greater measure of safety while the new battery powered wheelchair is in use. The supplies and material used in the construction of the ramp were provided by Modern Woodmen of America fraternal services, a strong supporter of Meals on Wheels.

The objectives set forth five months ago have been realized with the delivery of the new battery powered wheelchair. It is safe to say that Jesse Stansel’s quality of life has been greatly improved by the conscious effort of friends and neighbors and medical consultants. In addition, one of the objectives of Meals on Wheels – keeping senior citizens in their own homes – has been realized. My two friends, Loice O. and Jesse E., are an even greater inspiration as they’ve overcome many obstacles and have not allowed their illnesses to overshadow their lives. To all of those who have supported this effort, the most sincerest of thanks.

Submitted by Monte Allred, Jesse’s friend and neighbor, and a Meals on Wheels volunteer.

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