Wish List: Honduran immigrant mother needs wheelchair ramp for sonDecember 14, 2017
The Enquirer and United Way of Greater Cincinnati are collaborating for the 31st year to provide assistance to families in need through the Wish List giving season. Today, here's the story of an immigrant mother and her 17-year-old son with Sickle-cell disease.
Who is the person in need?
Nelvia Acosta Zelaya, 35, is the mother of three sons and lives in East Price Hill.
Her oldest child, Nelvin, 17, moved here in April 2016 from the family's native Honduras. He had been living with his maternal grandmother and weight about 40 pounds when he arrived.
She has a job in demolition, removing asbestos, and she pays taxes. She proudly shows a visitor the stub from her paycheck. She has permanent resident status after receiving a U Visa as a violent crime victim. She moved to Cincinnati in 2009 and has worked multiple jobs since, sending money back to Honduras to support her two oldest sons and extended family.
What difficulties in life are they overcoming?
As a single mother, Acosta works hard to feed, shelter and educate her children. She spends nothing on herself, says her social worker with Santa Maria Community Services.
The complication is Nelvin's disease, an inherited blood disorder that results in a deficiency in the oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin. Swelling and malformations of the hands and feet can develop. Shooting pain and bacterial infections are common. Even in the developed world, life expectancy is 40 to 60 years.
Nelvin's health has improved dramatically in the year and a half since he came here. He receives treatment a physical therapy at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. He has undergone successful surgery on his head and skull. He can now feed himself and has gained almost 60 pounds. His weight is nearing 100 pounds.
What is their wish from the Wish List giving season?
Acosta drives a used minivan. She often has to miss work to take Nelvin to medical appointments at Children's. He uses a motorized wheelchair. A bus picks him up for school at Aiken High School, where he is in the special education program. He did not attend school in Honduras, and he is learning English.
He has a quick smile and says he likes school and American food, including chicken. His favorite subject is science. He told his mother he wants to become a dentist. He works and can write on a specialized computer.
His mother's wish is to have her van equipped with a ramp, the estimated cost of which is between $2,000 and $3,000. As Nelvin has grown, lifting and lowering him has become increasingly difficult for the family.
What does the holiday season mean to them?
They live modestly but are happy, Acosta says. Their living room has a couch, television and space heater. Wood floors allow Nelvin to move around in his wheelchair. Nelvin and Jose are on a path to permanent resident status, like their mother. That worry is almost behind them.
Having her three sons safe, going to school and with her makes every day Christmas for this single mother.
"The gift of a wheelchair ramp would be the biggest blessing to help us," she said.
How to help Nelvia
Donations may be made online to help at this web address: www.uwgc.org/wishlist.
People wishing to mail donations may send them to the United Way at this address: The Wish List, P.O. Box 6207, Cincinnati, OH 45206