Residents Rally To Help Mother, Wheelchair-Bound Son

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AXTELL (March 18, 2014) An Axtell mom and her son who has spinal muscular atrophy could soon be getting a new ride thanks to a nationwide giveaway.

Dede Lee is a finalist in the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association’s annual giveaway of a brand new wheelchair accessible van.

Nearly 700 finalists have been selected from across the nation; the public ends up voting online for the winner.

Lee’s son Tristan, 11, has had SMA since he was a child. He can't walk and Lee has to do almost everything for him.

The Axtell mom carries a lot of responsibility already as it is. She’s a mother of 5 and has raised almost all of her kids on her own.

Many around her say she’s the definition of “super mom.”

"It's a 24/7 job and I don't get a break. Plus, I don't have someone helping me out. It's very overwhelming at times," Lee said.

Lee takes her son everywhere in a 1998 Plymouth Voyager van. It’s not wheelchair accessible, has almost 300,000 miles on it, and Tristan is outgrowing the vehicle.

Every time the two have to travel, Tristan’s wheelchair is placed on a lift on the back of the van, and Lee has to carry Tristan into the car and strap him in.

Lee’s friend Leann Fortenberry, whose 2-year-old daughter also has spinal muscular atrophy, nominated Lee for the contest via a letter to the NMEDA.

News 10 reported on Fortenberry and her daughter last November when they stayed in a nursing home together for a month after her family’s health insurance carrier denied coverage for vital medical equipment.

“I thought it had to be hard as a sixth grader for all of your friends seeing your mom picking you up and putting you into your vehicle. I not only hurt for her, but I hurt for him,” Fortenberry said.

The contest ends in May.

According to the NMEDA, 3 winners were chosen last year; all received fully customized wheelchair accessible vehicles.