Jarod Coursey wasn't expected to make it.
Born healthy, happy and loved, Jarod began attending daycare when his mother went back to work after his birth. Mom Sherry Perry says while at daycare, he suffered multiple rib fractures, bleeding in both retinas and severe brain trauma. "He was on a ventilator to breathe and in a medically induced coma," she said. "I was told that he would most likely die."
He was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome. Thirteen years later, Jarod still suffers seizures, is legally blind, nonverbal and quadriplegic; he needs help in every aspect of daily care.
Although a person was charged with child abuse, she said, the defendant was found not guilty; Perry said she has no legal recourse, and as Jarod grows older, it has become more difficult to help him keep up with family outings and activities.
Perry has made it her cause to promote National Mobility Awareness Month in May in an effort to win a wheelchair accessible van for Jarod.
Perry said she and her husband (Jarod's biological father is deceased) work full-time jobs and their vehicles are paid for, but they do not have handicapped-accessible vehicles.
Helping Jarod into their cars has become more difficult as he grows. He must be placed in a car seat, and his wheelchair must be folded and placed into the vehicle. Jarod recently had surgery to put rods in his spine to correct the curvature that has occurred from a lifetime in his wheelchair, making transport harder still.
Perry said she long ago made the decision to include Jarod in as many aspects of family life as possible, but mobility is becoming a problem.
Sometimes forced to cancel medical appointments when the weather is unfavorable because transfers are time-consuming and risky, she said Jarod's condition makes him unable to handle extreme temperatures and weather.
The mother said she recently came across the National Mobility Awareness Month contest to win a handicapped-accessible vehicle and has been working overtime to reach out through social and traditional media venues with her story to help people understand how important accessible mobility is.
"It never really dawned on me how much your life changes," she said. "We take for granted every day that we can just jump into the car and go someplace. When you have a family member with mobility issues, it is a whole different ballgame."
Perry has entered the contest for local heroes and hopes to win a customized, handicapped-accessible van for Jarod and her family, but she needs votes for her entry at www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/sherry-perry-georgetown-de.
Voters may cast one vote every 24 hours in the days leading up to the May 9 deadline, she said.
In its third year, contest is sponsored by the National Mobility Dealers Equipment Association and leading automakers, and was launched to help raise awareness of vehicle adaptations that improve mobility.
Now, the Georgetown mother said, she just hopes can get the community to rally for her son and this cause.
"He fights every day," Perry said of her son. "He has been through more in 13 years than most people endure in a lifetime, and he has opened my eyes to a whole new world, without ever speaking one word."