Original Article on Sun Sentinel – December 8, 2016

From walking four miles every day to being confined to a wheelchair; life changed in a moment for Julieta Zepeda almost four years ago.

The Coral Springs resident, who was rushed to the hospital in February 2013 after feeling sharp pain down her arm, has Transverse Myelitis, a rare neuro-immune disorder. Initially paralyzed from neck down, her determination has seen her regain some mobility in her hands.

“I try to be strong and think of the positives,” Zepeda said. “I can breathe on my own; some people have to use a tube to breathe. I can move my hand; I can sit. I am in a better position than so many of the others.”

Jackie Guzman knows she may not be able to see her mother walk again, but she is determined to help her parents get back at least a semblance of the life they were used to.

“I want my mom and dad to once again enjoy some of the things that we take for granted, such as scenic drives, the beach and dinner dates,” Guzman said. “My parents have missed out on both of my sons’ sports. I want them to enjoy a little bit of life together, outside the house.”

Guzman said she hopes that the community will support her efforts to raise money to help her parents buy a used wheelchair accessible van. She has signed up with FundLatinos, a crowdfunding site, to make it happen.

“She will still be in a wheelchair, but having a wheelchair accessible van will change my mother’s life,” said Guzman. “She won’t be just staring at the four walls every day. I am doing this for my dad as well; he is her 24-hour caretaker.”

Zepeda spends most of her time at home these days. When she goes out, mostly for visits to the doctor or to church, she has to depend on public paratransit.

“Paratransit is not the easiest to use; we have to call them 24 hours in advance,” she said. “I miss going out in the spur of the moment. I love going to the beach, looking at the ocean.”

Zependa concedes to feeling depressed occasionally. “My husband tries to keep me going. I do have an aide but he is with me most of the time. I know I will be paralyzed for the rest of my life, unless the one up there decides I am going to walk again.”

Friends and family members have stepped forward to help, said Guzman. “We have received some donations, but there is still ways to go. A used wheelchair accessible van will cost about $40,000. I am not going to give up until we get that van.”

To donate, visit www.fundlatinos.com/van4paralyzedmom .