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Willimantic Family With Neurological Disorders Gets a ‘Lift’ From the Community

March 02, 2022

When Jennifer Morrison, a social worker with Hartford HealthCare at Home, first visited Jonathan Rios and his mother, Maria Figueroa, last fall as part of their care plan, she immediately identified a critical need for both of them. Maria has muscular dystrophy and Jonathan, 32, has myotonic dystrophy. Both are degenerative neurological disorders that cause progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. Myotonic dystrophy is a form of muscular dystrophy that affects muscles and many other organs in the body. The family’s apartment in a Willimantic housing complex is a two-story unit. Maria basically spent all her time upstairs in her bedroom, where she was able to reach the bathroom with a walker and some assistance. Jonathan lived downstairs, and had tremendous difficulty getting upstairs to use the shower or visit with his mom. Another son living there also has muscular dystrophy but it is not as advanced. “I knew immediately having a stair lift would really increase their quality of life, and decrease Maria’s social isolation,” Morrison said. “Previously, she had to be carried down the stairs by her family to go to doctor’s appointments, which was not the safest way to go.” [embed]https://youtu.be/cq_rGAhhhmk[/embed] But insurance would not cover the cost of the equipment, so she called the Willimantic Lions Club, a local civic organization. The Lions put out the word, and member Chris Grant, a local real estate broker with The Miale Team at Keller Williams, heard the story. “I put it out on my social media right away and almost instantly I started getting comments, ideas, referrals,” Grant said. “It turned out that a mom from my son’s football league had one they no longer needed. So she gave it to me.” Grant contacted a builder friend, and they picked up the lift, brought it to the Willimantic apartment, and installed it. “The whole time we were there, I told Jonathan, I just felt overwhelmed with joy,” Grant said. “You know, when asked, people will answer. It’s so powerful how people can come together to help.” Morrison could not believe the speed with which this call was answered. “It was amazing,” she said. “I mean, it was a matter of days. You get so invested with the clients, you are in their home, you spend time with them, and sometimes they just need a little extra help. I appreciate the community caring so much.” For Jonathan, the arrival of the stair lift has meant a huge improvement in his quality of life. Other members of his care team at Hartford HealthCare at Home -- occupational therapist Robin Natale, physical therapist James Soroka and Kathleen Fortina physical therapy assistant -- procured a new walker and a state-of-the-art motorized wheelchair for him as well. Now, with the walker, he can get to the stairs, get upstairs safely, see his mother and take a shower. “When Jennifer told me this was happening, I was very grateful,” he said. “I’m very thankful, very glad. There are nice people out there.”