Written By Astrid Raisa Subingsubing, Writer, Operation Blessing Philippines

She dreams of being a stewardess when she grows up. “Kahit sa ospital, eroplano iniisip niya, (Even when she was hospitalized, she dreamt of being on an airplane,)” said her mother, Mercy Bardenas, 49.

MARY JANE (2)21 year old Mary Jane Bardenas is a statuesque girl who could sure fit the bill of a flight attendant. She is the fourth of seven children born to Mercy and Hernani Bardenas, 58, who make a living by chopping firewood.

Unfortunately, she has difficulty walking. When she was 13, she came down with appendicitis, and the infection spread to her brain, even causing her to go into a comatose when she was confined. This resulted in her losing the strength in her lower legs, allowing her to walk only with the assistance of another person helping hold her up. She is also unable to hold a pen to write and has difficulty using a spoon to eat as well.

She was restricted to nasogastric tube feeding (NGT) and was also unable to speak for about three months after her operation in 2007. She was also limited to a lying position for about five months. As such, she had to stop schooling. She underwent therapy for about three years, but stopped when her family did not see much difference in her condition. Last year, they also tried enrolling her in the alternative learning system, but her father found it too difficult to transport her on his motorcycle.

However, she is still able to help out at home in her own little way by folding laundry and sewing to repair clothes. And when you meet her, you would have no trouble talking to her despite her slightly slurred speech. This gave us hope that she still has a bright future ahead of her. More important was her fighting spirit and desire to continue her studies.

Our volunteer doctor, Dr. Aldrin Yap, therefore recommended she acquire knee braces, and only use a wheelchair temporarily. “Matagalan talagang therapy ‘yan, pero malaki ang chance na makalakad pa siya kung ituloy-tuloy kasi bata pa siya, (It will really require long-term therapy, but there is a good chance that she will be able to walk again if she continues because she is still young,)” he said.

He added that if she undergoes thorough therapy to bring back her fine motor skills to allow her to hold a pen again, she can go back to school in no time.

Thanks to Free Wheelchair Mission (FWM), a cheerful Mary Jane got her wheelchair at the Operation Blessing wheelchair distribution held at the Antipolo City plaza. Hopefully, this will help her get back to school. Then she would be able to soar high, whether literally as a stewardess, or as she defies the challenge of her condition along another path.

Mary Jane has a long way to go ahead of her. If you are burdened to help out in whatever way, whether to refer or volunteer as an orthopedic doctor or to give monetary support, please feel free to contact us at 477 7802 to 04.
When you help provide wheelchairs, you not only give the gift of mobility – you also give back the hope of fulfilling dreams.