CENTER HELPS BLIND WOMAN STEP INTO THE LIGHT.Byline: Dennis McCarthy Dennis McCarthy may refer to:
``I wouldn't say she was sheltered. Incarcerated incarcerated /in·car·cer·at·ed/ (in-kahr´ser-at?ed) imprisoned; constricted; subjected to incarceration.
Confined or trapped, as a hernia. is more the word.''
- Joan Zeluck-Leeds
Maybe it was out of love, or maybe it was out of fear and ignorance that the little girl never was allowed to interact with the world outside her mother's San Fernando Valley San Fernando Valley
Valley, southern California, U.S. Northwest of central Los Angeles, the valley is bounded by the San Gabriel, Santa Susana, and Santa Monica mountains and the Simi Hills. home.
Never allowed to have any friends. Never allowed to attend public school and get an education. Never even taught to talk - communicating her whole life only with grunts and squeals.
Maybe her mother was just trying to protect her deaf and blind daughter from the harsh realities of a world outside.
Whatever the reason, it was wrong. And only now, at age 52, is it being made right for Barbara Melane.
Only now is she being brought out of the darkness and into the world - first at the Therapeutic Living Center for the Blind in Reseda, and now at the Helen Keller National Center for the Deaf and Blind in Sands Point, N.Y.
Only now is she learning the concept of money, grocery shopping and eating out at a restaurant. Only now is she learning how to talk and communicate by sign language.
Her journey in the past four years since her mother died is nothing short of remarkable.
``The reality is that Barbara was not mentally retarded Noun 1. mentally retarded - people collectively who are mentally retarded; "he started a school for the retarded"
developmentally challenged, retarded as everyone had assumed,'' says Joan Zeluck-Leeds, her mobility and orientation specialist at the Therapeutic Living Center. ``She was artificially retarded by being denied life experiences outside of her mother's home her whole life.
``Barbara had no native tongue,'' Zeluck-Leeds said. ``She just made noises, grunting grunting
a forced expiration against a closed glottis. It is characteristic of painful and labored breathing and of expiratory effort due to any cause, e.g. emphysema.
grunting and pointing to her stomach when she wanted to eat or had to go to the bathroom.''
But there were hints that there was something more in Barbara.
When her mother went into a diabetic coma diabetic coma
A coma that develops in severe and inadequately treated cases of diabetes mellitus. Also called Kussmaul's coma.
Diabetic coma toward the end, it was Barbara who dialed 911 and squealed into the phone for help. The call was traced and the paramedics arrived to save her mother.
Her mother died a year later. Before then, she realized that her daughter was going to need help to survive. There was nobody to take Barbara in.
Reluctantly, she enrolled Barbara in the day care program at the Therapeutic Living Center for the Blind in Reseda, and slowly, the horrendous story of Barbara's life for almost half a century began to emerge.
By day, the staff at the center worked hard to teach Barbara some of the skills she never had the chance to learn. But, by night, they were powerless to help her because she returned to the residence where she was placed after her mother died.
At that residence, she received little mental stimulation because it was assumed she was mentally retarded and beyond help, Zeluck-Leeds said.
They were wrong.
With the help of Zeluck-Leeds; Dave Lohr, Barbara's counselor at the North Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. County Regional Center; and Rusty Rothstein, the regional representative for the Helen Keller National Centers, Barbara was accepted at the Helen Keller Sands Point Center for a comprehensive 18-month rehabilitation rehabilitation: see physical therapy. and job preparation program for the deaf and blind.
Her accomplishments since her arrival there in April are incredible, the staff says.
``She has opened up as a human being, and this wonderful person has emerged from the darkness,'' said Barbara Hausman, director of public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most at the center.
What has emerged is a person who now interacts with her peers and staff, and ``loves to hug.'' A person who now helps stock the soda machine in the cafeteria as part of her work experience, and is taking the biggest step of her work life this week.
Barbara begins a job at the local food cooperative A food cooperative or food co-op is a grocery store organized as a cooperative. Food cooperatives are usually consumers' cooperatives and are owned by their members. Food cooperatives follow the 7 Cooperative Principles. in Long Island, N.Y.
``She has a great personality, and when we go out into the community, she hardly needs any prompting to help her with her tasks,'' said Mike Richards
Michael "Mike" Richards (born 11 February, 1985 in Kenora, Ontario) is a Canadian professional ice hockey center who currently plays for the Philadelphia Flyers , who works with Barbara one-on-one from early morning until bedtime seven days a week.
Words like this are music to the ears of Zeluck-Leeds.
Sure, Barbara couldn't see or hear, but there was nothing wrong with her mind. It just needed stimulation.
``Everything's possible for Barbara now,'' Zeluck-Leeds said. ``The give and take of social relationships, bowling, horseback riding horseback riding: see equestrianism. , carnivals - everything people do out in the real world.''
Barbara Melane finally is getting her chance. All that was so cruel and wrong is finally being made right for her.
MEMO: Dennis McCarthy's column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday.