By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
Holly DeWitt’s bones break all of the time. So often, in fact, that sometimes she doesn’t even know they’re broken.
She once broke her jaw and didn’t find out until years later.
DeWitt has broken her nose more times than she can count. She said her son used to break it as a baby when he’d bob his head around and accidentally headbutt her as she held him in her arms.
She’s had more than 200 fractures in her lifetime and well over a dozen surgeries to repair the damage.
The Kokomo woman was born with a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta — more commonly known as brittle bone disease.
Her bones are so fragile that even a small spill could leave her with a lifetime of debilitating pain.
That’s what happened about four years ago when she was maneuvering her wheelchair down the sidewalks in her neighborhood and slipped off a curb that she couldn’t see.
Her wheelchair flipped over, she fell out, and her leg shattered.
“I landed on my femur and pulverized it,” she said.
Even after surgery, it’s painful to walk. So she’s essentially confined to her wheelchair full-time now, she said.
That means to get around, she needs a wheelchair-accessible van.
Her family sold all of their vehicles years ago to purchase a used one, but now it’s falling apart.
“Our van is 15 years old and has so many problems that we cross our fingers every time we have to go outside the city limits,” DeWitt said on her Facebook page, Hot Wheels for Holly. “Even locally our van is consuming so much gas that it’s a financial burden, not to mention the innumerable repairs that need to be done to it right now that we can’t afford due to all of my extra medical bills.”
So DeWitt is trying to win a van through a contest sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.
It’s a popularity contest of sorts. More than 700 people from across the country are vying for America’s votes.
The people who get the most votes win.
By Friday afternoon, she had received 937 votes. That doesn’t even put her in the top 10 for Indiana contestants.
William Pfingston from Evansville had 1,879 votes Friday. Anthony Nauman from Avon had 1,343 votes. Brad James from Lafayette had 1,418 votes. Tyler Casteel from Jeffersonville had 3,282. Hunter Darlage from North Vernon had 8,816 votes. Marissa Rogers from Jasper had 1,250 votes. Amber Chafee from Oxford had 5,860 votes. Erin Reed from Indianapolis had 6,589 votes. Alexandra Darland from Logansport had 4,921 votes. Curt Todd from Evansville had 1,279 votes and Ranzel Howard from New Castle had 3,140 votes.
DeWitt needs the community’s help to get more votes. She said she’s asking people to take a minute out of their day to vote for her and help her win.
“I’m not asking for any money,” she said. “I’m asking for a minute of time to change mine and my family’s life.”
Having a van that works would make all the difference, she said. Especially to her 10-year-old son.
Sebastian is a fourth-grade honors student involved in 4-H, Cub Scouts and children’s theatre. DeWitt and her husband have a hard time getting him to his after-school activities because their van is so unreliable.
When it’s in the shop or broken down, they’re forced to use public transportation, which doesn’t run at night, DeWitt said.
“I want him to not miss out on things because mom’s messed up,” she said. “ I want to be able to take care of my son. It’s important to me.”
She also wants to be more of an advocate for people with disabilities, especially those who are confined to a wheelchair.
She has to have the means to travel around town, though.
DeWitt said there are some places in the area that aren’t accessible to people in wheelchairs. She wants to change that.
“Discrimination is alive and well,” she said.
That even applies to this contest, DeWitt said. People don’t vote because they don’t think you need the van that much, she said.
“Everyone sees it as you’re used to this,” she said. “You don’t need a hand up. You’re acclimated to this.”
For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Kokomo Tribune eEdition, or our print edition.