Rotary helps toddler take first steps
Harvey Parry stands on his new legs at A Step Ahead Prosthetics and Orthotics. With him are (from left) Carol Parry; Stephanie Sokenis, president Hicksville-Jericho Rotary club; and George Hannau, Bethpage-Plainview Rotary club. Photo courtesy Bethpage-Plainview Rotary club.
Two-and-a-half-year-old Harvey Parry of Edmonton, England, is learning to walk on prosthetic legs he received during a visit to New York.
The trip was made possible partially by the generosity of Rotary clubs on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Rotary Club of Edmonton, England, along with the Rotary clubs of Bethpage-Plainview and Hicksville-Jericho in New York, USA, have helped offset some of the family's travel expenses while Harvey undergoes therapy at A Step Ahead Prosthetics and Orthotics in Hicksville, where he is learning to take his first steps.
Fight for life
At 15 months, Harvey contracted meningococcal, the deadlier bacteria form of meningitis. Resulting septicemia, or blood poisoning, forced doctors to amputate both of his legs above the knees and three fingers on his right hand.
In England, public health care does not pay to fit children under the age of five with a full-length prosthesis. Instead they are equipped with hard plastic discs which fit over the remains of the limb. Children learn to scoot around on their stubs until they grow old enough for full legs.
Worried their son would lose valuable development time waiting for full-length legs, Carol and Jonathan Parry decided to seek out the help of A Step Ahead, known worldwide as a leader and innovator in prosthetic design.
"Bilateral movement takes a lot of strength, balance, and coordination," said Phil Kreuter, a physical therapist who works with A Step Ahead. "The sooner we can get them, the sooner they learn a more normal gait."
Still, the move was not without risk. Turning to private care meant Harvey’s therapy would not be covered by public aid when he returned to England. Carol Parry began a year-long fundraising campaign to raise money. The family’s plight caught the attention of their florist, David Fuller, a member of the Edmonton Rotary club.
"They were invited to one of our meetings, when it was decided to help them as much as possible," recalls Dennis Perkins, club secretary.
The Edmonton club initially raised £1,300 (US$2,500) at a garden party at Fullers' home. The club then gave Harvey a 15-pound Easter egg, which captured local media attention, and the club's Christmas float stopped at the Parry home for Father Christmas to deliver toys the club had bought Harvey, again making the evening news.
Virgin Airlines flew the family over for free, and the Marriott Residence Inn-Plainview offered reduced rates. The Edmonton club put in a call to Hicksville-Jericho and Bethpage-Plainview, and Rotarians in those two clubs contributed more than $800 and various gift certificates.
"We just had to do something, they are right in our backyard," said George Hannau, past president of the Bethpage-Plainview club.
The family plans on staying in New York through the middle of August. Already, they face a $12,000 bill for rental car and lodging. When they get back home, Parry says she will have to immediately begin fundraising for a return trip to continue Harvey's therapy.
"Right now, we're broke. We've used up all our funds," Parry said. "I'm a little scared. But I know what we have to do. My son is walking, and he is happy. And that's what is important to me."
Parry is full of praise for Rotary.
"Before this, I did not know that much about the organization," she said. "I can honestly say they have saved our lives. They have been so supportive."
Visit the Parry Web site to see media coverage of their story and fundraising information.