By Megan Trimble of the Journal Sentinel
It's been nearly two years since Ja'Vaire Ezell stepped out onto Teutonia Ave. to reach his Roosevelt Middle School bus stop — the day his older brother, Steve, pulled him out from under the vehicle that struck him and dragged him down the street.
Ja'Vaire, 15, underwent 13 brain surgeries and an ear graft. He suffered a mild stroke, trauma to his kidneys and liver, a heart contusion, broken arm and fractured leg.
He spent six months in the hospital. He left on his birthday.
Today, it takes at least two people — it might be the bus driver, neighbors, his 16-year-old brother Steve and 9-year-old brother O-Marion — to help his mother move the 115-pound Ja'Vaire and his 50-pound wheelchair out of the house.
They lift him down a few inches from the door frame onto the front stoop, and then down precariously positioned front stairs.
"I look at him from day one he was in the hospital to today," said Shalonda Ezell, Ja'Vaire's mother. "We're doing good. It's a challenge, but we're doing OK."
Ja'Vaire has regained his ability to communicate and interact, but now his mother wants one more thing for him — easy access to the outdoors.
Soon life will get a bit easier for her family, thanks to the construction of a concrete pad, deck, staircase and vertical electric wheelchair lift at their N. 27th St. home.
Work started last week and is expected to wrap up this week, thanks toVariety, the Children's Charity of Wisconsin, which paired with Tri-North, a Fitchburg-based construction firm, to help the family.
Ja'Vaire's mother sought help through Variety's Freedom Program, which buys durable medical equipment for children with physical disabilities.
"We want to make sure kids can be kids, and it starts with them being able to get out of their houses," said Gerise LaSpisa, executive director of Variety.
The entirety of the project to transform the uneven, cracked concrete stoop costs about $15,000, according to Tri-North Superintendent Chris Patti.
Tri-North donated labor and materials for the project, as well as the more than $8,000 lift, which it had from a previous project.
Up to four builders work on the project each day from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Patti said.
The Day Life Changed
Shalonda Ezell won't forget Sept. 19, 2012 — the day their lives changed.
The driver did not initially stop during the accident until she saw the neighborhood friend Ja'Vaire had been walking with and realized she had hit someone, according to Ezell.
The driver's vehicle came to a stop so the boy's body could be freed. Steve rushed over from across the street to pull Ja'Vaire out from under the vehicle.
At one point, Ezell said, her son's pulse stopped before he took a deep gasping breath, and she channeled the experience she had gained from 11 years of working with the Veterans Affairs hospital.
"I just went into a different mode. He wasn't my son; he was somebody who needed help," Ezell said. "I held his hand, and I said, 'Relax, your mommy is here. Relax. Breathe. I'm right here with you, and you can do it. We can do it.'"
The image of Fire Department officials cutting off her son's clothes at the accident scene remains fresh in Ezell's mind, but she said she had to stay strong for her son.
"If (Ja'Vaire) felt me break, it would've caused a lot of health problems for him," Ezell said.
The search for help and strength led Ezell to Variety.
Ezell said she contacted Variety to apply for the help in December, but construction could not start until the ground thawed.
Since then the Ezell family has been "cramped, stuck in the house" without the ability to move Ja'Vaire in and out quickly for any length of time.
"It's challenging. I'm never ashamed of the disability though. I'm proud to walk with my son," Ezell said.
Ezell said she has taught her three sons the importance of helping others and not being afraid to ask for help.
"If you let others discourage you, you'll never find out what good there is," she said.
For the future, Ezell said she knows Ja'Vaire will never return to the life he had before the accident, but wants him to live with a high quality of life. That, she said, begins with him being able to move outside his home instead of watching his family from the front door.
"We could be able to go back outside," Ezell said. "We love to do a lot of stuff outside like BBQ or plant flowers."
Some people leave kids with disabilities out of activities, but Ezell said she doesn't worry about Ja'Vaire because she isn't afraid to advocate for him.
"I speak for my child," Ezell said.
And now she'll be able to easily go outside with him, too.
Click here to view original article.