Leann Juatco and Mark Brough. Photo by Dauna Ditson

Wheelchair assist could help local teen with fragile bones

Garage sale fundraiaser this Saturday in Radium

Leann Juatco has such brittle bones that she can’t even tell you how many she’s broken. The 16-year old high school student might have a fracture now, but hasn’t gotten it checked out yet.

“My bones are really fragile,” she said. “Just a little bit of a fall can break my bones.”

Even a two-foot drop can have devastating consequences. When Leann slipped while moving from her bed to her wheelchair, both of her arms broke on the way down.

Leann and her mother are from the Philippines. Her mother moved to Radium first, with Leann following in 2017. It’s easier to get around in the Valley than in her homeland, Leann said, adding that many of the buildings here are accessible and that she is grateful for sidewalks, which don’t exist in her old neighbourhood.

While the paths and buildings are more accessible here, making her way through town is still a big challenge, “especially when going up.”

That’s because Leann uses a manual wheelchair. She doesn’t trust electric chairs anymore after an accident in 2014 when her electric chair tipped, leaving her with broken bones, a fractured skull and bleeding in her brain.

Now Leann and her family are fundraising to buy a $9,000 device called SmartDrive that would add power to her manual wheelchair.

Leann had a chance to test out the device and was thrilled to use it.

“It’s easier to control,” she said. “It feels safer.”

Leann currently relies on her arms and helpers to push her where she needs to go and believes the device would allow her to gain more freedom. She said the SmartDrive would allow her “to be independent and go by myself anywhere I go.”

Leann’s family will be holding a garage sale with no prices where all the goods will be for sale by donation. She has two younger siblings – a three year old and a baby – and her step-father Mark Brough said the family has “an enormous excess” of baby items.

“We could probably clothe about a dozen babies,” he said.

The garage sale will take place on Saturday, June 22nd from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 103 Edelweiss Street in Radium. There is also a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/leann-juatco-smart-drive-fund.

Leann plans to go to university and take visual arts when she finishes high school. She expects that the SmartDrive would help put the future she envisions for herself within her reach.

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