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June 08--Walking is something most people probably take for granted, but for one man and his wife, it is a gift that can't quite be explained, only felt.
OA reporter Jon Vanderlaan has dealt with Cerebral Palsy, specifically spastic diplegia, since he was born and while he never felt any different from anyone else, the pain and complications caused by the tightening of the muscles in his legs began to mount.
In order to help the Vanderlaans pay for a surgical procedure, friends and family have devised a benefit for Jon called "Stand with Vanderlaan."
Cerebral Palsy is defined by the Center for Disease Control as "a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture."
Lauren Vanderlaan first researched the surgical procedure. At first, Jon Vanderlaan said he wasn't ready to get into the surgery. Yet the pain he had recently experienced began to sway his decision in the other direction.
"She's been incredibly supportive," Jon Vanderlaan said. "She recognizes that this opportunity is something that's a gift and that we should take it and it will ultimately improve both of our lives."
So Jon and Lauren took a trip up to St. Louis to speak with Dr. T.S. Park, who has specialized in performing this surgery to see whether he was a candidate.
"Before we went up there to visit with the doctor, my wife and I prayed about it and we had our families pray about it, so when he told me that I was a candidate for the surgery, I was a little bit in shock," Jon Vanderlaan said. "I never thought I would be in the position to have something done that can so drastically change my life."
Luckily, Jon Vanderlaan was accepted and recommended for the surgery and his wife said it was a special moment for both of them.
"When he said that he would recommend the surgery for Jon, all the worries and questions kind of went away," Lauren said. "It was kind of a relief knowing that something that could really help him was something that was right for him."
The surgery Vanderlaan is looking into is known as select dorsal rhizotomy and has been successfully performed on more than 2,000 patients, according to the hospital website, but will require many weeks of physical therapy post procedure. For the Vanderlaans, physical therapy is what will be the most financially taxing process as his insurance will cover only a certain number of days.
In order to help assist the family, attorney Justin Low and other members of the community, began devising a plan to benefit the Vanderlaan family.
"Well, I didn't get the full story until recently and we decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to host a benefit for Jon," Low said about getting the benefit started. "It was exciting to hear that he was going to have a possibly life-changing surgery and we were excited to get involved. We will be behind him any way we can."
The benefit, to be held Saturday at 6001 Ponderosa Drive, will feature barbeque, beer, a raffle that will include a signed guitar and musical performances by James Dupre and Priscilla Kay. Jon Vanderlaan says he is just overwhelmed by the support he has seen from the community.
"The response has been overwhelming," Jon Vanderlaan said about the benefit. "You know, I have always known that the people of Midland and Odessa are generous people but to be on the receiving end of that, it's a real blessing and it is something that I don't know what I'll ever do to thank those people."
Lauren Vanderlaan echoed the sentiment made by her husband.
"It was really hard for me to describe how it makes me feel that people are willing to help him like that," Lauren Vanderlaan said about the benefit. "It feels good to know that there are nice people out there and they are willing to help him. It really means a lot."
Jon and Lauren Vanderlaan will be traveling back to St. Louis on July 18 for the surgery but are looking forward to the future possibilities once it has all been completed.
Jon says he is looking forward to many activities once the surgery and physical therapy are completed, including walking, running and geo-cashing, but most of all, he is excited about the pain he has experienced being an afterthought.
To donate to the cause or get involved with the benefit, call Justin Low at 638-8482.
"To have donation before there is already a benefit, I don't even know how to feel about it because I just can't believe that some of these people who know me and some who don't know me hardly at all, to think that they would be so generous is so humbling and it really touches me that they are there to help me realize this goal," Jon Vanderlaan said.
"It will be here in like six weeks and then the new adventure begins," Lauren Vanderlaan said about the surgery in July.
Contact Jared Wilson at 432-333-7786
(c)2014 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas)
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