Community comes together for 12-year-old Jones girl

Taelor Heron, of Jones, didn’t realize when she was younger that her days of playing with friends and being a gymnast would one day become harder.

It wasn’t until later that the once active girl was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.

The now 12-year-old just recently started requiring the assistance of a wheelchair. But as her condition worsened, funds to buy an electric one were limited — at least initially.

“If you think you can get through it, then you can,” Taelor said.

After Josh Smith, with Opus Entertainment, held a community fundraiser, Heron received funds that finally will allow her to obtain an electric wheelchair.

“We had tissues handy all day during the event,” Smith said, who also goes by the name Shorty B.

Even though Heron mostly is wheelchairbound, the disease has not stopped her from being a light to everybody she meets, her teacher said.

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“She is always inspiring everybody to try harder,” said Angela Bandy, a fifth- and sixth-grade science teacher at Luther Middle School.

“I have never seen her down or sad. She always has a smile,” she said.

Facing challenges

During her childhood, Heron was a gymnast and very active. After her family had moved into a new home, though, they noticed a difference in her mobility.

“She was having problems getting up the stairs, and that is what clued us to take her to the doctor,” said her mother, Tacha Heron-Taylor. The young girl had been to regular checkups her entire life.

“Nobody thought anything,” Heron-Taylor said.

It took six months to get the test results, and then her mother broke down in tears.

“My mom started crying,” Taelor said. “I was freaking out.”

Taelor was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare form of the disease that is usually found in males, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

“I had heard of muscular dystrophy, but never knew about it,” Heron-Taylor said. “No parent that has a normal child, that does everything, would ever expect something like this.”

Tracking the disease also is challenging, her mother said.

“There is no expecting things at a certain age,” Heron-Taylor said. “No planning at all.”

All the family could afford was a manual wheelchair, but her condition continues to get worse. Getting around has become a challenge, and many of her friends push her around during school.

“They help me with everything,” Taelor said. “They will push me to the buildings, and if I am done with a paper, they will turn it in for me.”

The average cost for an electric wheelchair is about $8,000, her mother said.

“She will be strictly in that chair and will lose the little bit of functions she has in her muscles,” Heron-Taylor said. “She is the strongest person that I know.”

Taelor still can walk short distances, but she has pain when she does.

“I can walk here and there, but not a lot,” Taelor said. “I am kind of happy that I can still walk around.”

Staying strong

Smith does free fundraising for families who are in need and said that even though the first fundraiser event was rained out, they pulled through on the second one.

“Everyone should have that special place in their heart,” Smith said. “We have had a lot of support throughout this entire event.”

Now, Heron-Taylor is saving up for a van that can transport her daughter, but she said it will be several years until the funds can be raised.

“Sometimes it makes me sad, but not all the time because my mom tells me to be strong,” Taelor said.

She said she is reminded to stay strong with several wristbands that are representative of strength.

During her free time, Taelor has found things to do, including painting, reading and being an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, with the dream of meeting Russell Westbrook.

“Trying to be positive and keep her mind in the right place. I mean it would be so easy for her to get down,” Heron-Taylor said. “Her smile brightens up the world.”

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