To the Stranger Who Saw My Daughter's Wheelchair Fall Apart

Dear Deanna,

We met you on our first trip to the local YMCA to go swimming. I was on edge all morning, worrying about going to a new place — getting in and out, getting Lucy changed, hoping the relaxation of swimming would not make her poop in the pool… the usual. I practiced reclining her wheelchair several times in the hopes I could change her in and out of her swimming suit in her chair. I thought I had all bases covered. But then I pulled into a side street parking spot to realize I had no change for the meter.

I felt irrational panic, and then in the two minutes it took me to run into the Y and get change, a mean old meter maid gave me a ticket, even though she saw I was putting money into the meter. I nearly cried, but I pulled it together for Lucy and soldiered on.

Unfortunately, as I was reclining the wheelchair, just as I’d practiced, a crucial screw fell out, leaving the back of the wheelchair falling apart in my hands, as all 41 pounds of Lucy bore down on it. That instantly brought on the tears. I stood there for several minutes trying to get the screw back in while preventing Lu from falling backwards. Sweat was pouring down my face and sides. I just didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t let go of the chair or Lucy would fall, but I couldn’t get her out of her chair to safety without letting go. I was in a full-on meltdown right there in public.

I like to try and always remember that each person we encounter has their own things they’re dealing with, whether they’re obvious or hidden deep down. Well, on this day, all of my stuff — my struggles and challenges — were on display for the whole world to see. However, the only other person around was you, Deanna.

image1 (2) When I was just about to crumple in defeat, I looked up, still bawling and sweating, and saw you washing your hands at the bathroom sink. When I called out to you for help, you just came running. You came running with your arms outstretched asking what you could do. After you helped me get Lucy out of the wheelchair, I couldn’t even believe my eyes. You lovingly cradled Lucy in your lap, sitting there in the floor of the locker room, as if you cuddled my daughter every day.

As I continued to try and fix the chair, you just calmly talked to me and Lu as if we’d been friends all of our lives. And when I couldn’t seem to get it fixed, to my further surprise, you helped me lay Lu down on a towel, since she can’t sit up well on her own, and proceeded to squat right down beside me to try and figure out how to get the screw back in. When we discovered it was bent, I couldn’t believe my ears when you told me to go get Lu in the pool and you would get it fixed for us. At this point I was so beside myself and just so grateful for your help. I listened to you.

As Lu and I sank into the warm pool, the anxiety and stress seemed to just melt away from us. We instantly began to smile again and even laugh. The pool was closing soon, so our swim was brief but wonderful. And then, toward the end you wheeled in Lu’s wheelchair, beautifully returned to the upright position. I asked your name and thanked you profusely, and you simply said I was welcome and you were gone.

I had never seen you before in my life, and months have passed and I still have never seen you again. You’d told me that usually you swam early in the morning, but that day you chose to swim after work, and even then, you almost just drove by the Y and went home.

I will never, ever forget how loving you were to my daughter. She is a child with so many needs that I often see intimidation and uncertainty in the eyes of people who see her just as a child with a disability. But you Deanna, you just saw her as a child. She was just a child whose momma was in need of help, and you swooped in with your loving arms and your huge heart and just helped us. I will never forget you or the day a stranger treated us like family.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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