Bernie's Handicap Van
Organized by: Bernard Domann
In May of 1998 my brother Bernie was living a dream, working on the grounds crew of the Cleveland Indians. My dad was so proud of him because he, himself was one of the Indians biggest fans and here his son was working side by side with the players. Four months later in August, Bernie's world crashed. Our dad died of esophageal cancer and two weeks later Bernie was diagnosed with a rare dease with no cure, called Scleroderma. The doctor told him it was an auto immune disease. His body would get stiff because the body thinks that it is damaged and it produces scar tissue. The doctor said there was a chance his organs could get scar tissue and cease functioning and he would die. At the time of the diagnosis Bernie had a very active life. He is a fourth degree knight in the Knights Of Columbus and was very active with them raising money for different charities. He was riding his dirt bike, flying on weekends, hanging out with friends, and working at his other job as a ramp agent for Continental Airlines loading airplanes. He was a graduate of Ohio University with a Commercial pilot's license and was working on getting enough hours to get hired by Continental as a pilot.
As these 15 years have gone on, Bernie's health has worsened. He has reduced blood flow in his hands and feet which makes his hands and feet cold in the winter. He has a major problem with calcium deposits under his skin that feel like rocks. The deposits break through the skin and cause infections. He has been in the hospital numerous times with infections in his bones. Due to his tendons tightening, he has had his toes amputated, surgery on both ankles, knee and his hand. Over the years as Bernie's desease has worsened, he has had to give up things he loved. One of those was his love of flying and his aspirations of being a commercial pilot vanished. Bernie no longer could pass his flying physical. In 2010 Bernie had to go on disability because he could not work anymore and had to quit the Indians also.The tightening of his tendons in his legs had gotten so bad that he had to use crutches to walk. By last fall, the tendons had bent his legs to the point that he had to use a travel scooter everywhere. He feels trapped in his home because it is so hard to go out anywhere now.
Bernie, understandably has gotten depressed many times, but still keeps a smile on his face. Sometimes this terrible change in his life with no hope has brought him so far down, that ideas of suicide has crossed his mind.Then, he thinks of his family and friends around him, and he feels something pushing him through it. A few months ago Bernie decided he wanted to do something special for people. He started volunteering at a nursing home, where he would visit the residents with his dog Bridget. The residents light up when they see them. They recall stories of their own dogs when they were younger. He has gotten back to church a few times, and wants to go more often. Bernie is thankful for his scooter carrier that is on the back of his car, but it is so hard and painful to load the scooter that he doesn't go out that much.
With the money we hope to raise for Bernie, He will hopefully be able to buy a handicap van with a ramp so he can drive his scooter right into it. If he got this van, it would bring him so much more freedom. He could go back to doing things with the Knights Of Columbus again, he could go to the nursing home more often, to church more regularly, and start going out with his friends more often. Bernie has been through so much and he still has so much to offer. This van would bring so much needed freedom that he hasn't felt in years.