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5199 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. #608
Post Office Box 15679
Long Beach California, 90815-0679
Phone: (562) 597-8000
Fax: (562) 597-9410
Feature Stories

We Get 'Thank You' Letters

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 2

Gary Hooper and his new scooter.

On January 10 the Beachcomber published the article “Overcoming Obstacles to Ambulate Again” by Kirt Ramirez, which reported on Gary A. Hooper losing his leg due to flesh-eating bacteria. Gary asked me to write to you to express his deepest gratitude to the Beachcomber for their kindness and understanding of his situation.

Within one hour of the article hitting the streets, Bill & Margie Hearn of Long Beach, called Wayne Slavitt at Mobül – where Gary’s Medical Registry is listed to donate a Driver Knee Walker – which was one of the items on his list of needed equipment.

From Denise Hauk Hensley, Gary Hooper’s significant other, to be continued...

The Beachcomber received the following email the next day:

“I just read your article about Gary Hooper and immediately telephoned my colleague and mentor, Dr. JoAnne Gronley, about the scooter on Mr. Hooper’s wish list. We are physical therapists and researchers in the Pathokinesiology Laboratory at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey.

“Dr. Gronley was Dr. Perry’s dear friend and caregiver until this spring, when she passed. Dr. Gronley has been looking to donate Dr. Perry’s scooter to someone in need. Most of our clients at Rancho require pressure-relieving and/or posturally supportive seating systems and thus cannot benefit from the scooter.

Unfortunately it does need a new battery, which may cost around $300. Perhaps this could be purchased with the proceeds from the fundraiser, if Mr. Hooper is interested in the scooter. I would be happy to donate $50 towards the battery.

“Thank you for your story about Mr. Hooper’s ordeal and need for mobility devices. We look forward to hearing from you!

Lisa Lighthall Haubert (On JoAnne Gronley’s behalf)
[Editor’s Note: Lisa Haubert is the wife of Long Beach City Prosecutor Doug Haubert]

Hensley continues:

When Kirt Ramirez called me and shared the great news and email, I just broke down. Naturally assuming it was from joy of hearing the good news, Kirt had no idea what I was about to tell him. You see, 23 days before Gary lost his leg, my baby brother, Stephen G. Hauk lost his battle with heart disease and passed away. He was only 47 years old and the youngest of nine children.

Last year, Stephen underwent major heart surgery in which they installed a Bi-Vad Machine that was worn like a fanny pack around his waist with battery packs. Stephen was then put on a heart transplant list and the long wait began. Nine months later, Stephen received the call that they had finally found him a new heart. Fifty-three days after receiving his new heart, Stephen passed away from complications and multipule organ failure.

The reason that I was so overwhelmed when Kirt called me with the great news is because of the shock of where this scooter was donated from. You see, Stephen was born with scoliosis of the spine and in 1968-69, Stephen was a patient for six months at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center.

My first thought was, Stephen made this happen. I have no idea if Dr. Perry, Dr. Gronley or Stephen had ever met or crossed paths, but the fact that he was a patient the same year Dr. Perry began her work at Rancho was an amazing coincidence.

Wherein I am still in deep mourning over the loss of my baby brother, the joy of being able to watch Gary survive his traumatic loss of his right foot and part of his leg has given me great comfort and feeling that Stephen is watching over us.

You can’t even imagine what this equipment has done to help Gary want to fight and move forward. Every day little things that we take for granted have become major milestones that bring us to tears of joy. Just being able to go to the store by himself to pick up something I need or to take a ride around the park to get away from me (chuckle) has lifted his spirits tremendously.

As each day goes by, Gary is learning new things and experiencing newfound freedom. His fear of falling and not being able to take care of himself is slowly decreasing to a reasonable level of concern. Again, something one would never think about is learning to walk on uneven ground, over cracked sidewalks, debris and rocks in his way, all of which make it quite difficult for him to maneuver around.

As time goes by, we are encouraged that things will get better and we are strong enough to overcome any obstacle we might encounter. Our next major step in moving forward is to find a nice little two bedroom place that is downstairs that we can rent within our budget.

Unfortunately, we have been unsuccessful, as rents continue to rise and with only one income to work with, we have to watch every cent spent. Even though Gary with the aid of the Iwalkfree 2.0 has mastered climbing up and down the stairs at our apartment building, it is still extremely stressful to watch him do so not to mention having a small one bedroom apartment that is now getting smaller and smaller with the additional equipment that is necessary.
Again, Gary and I would like to thank you, the Beachcomber and Wayne Slavitt for taking an interest in our story and sharing it with others. The generous donations from everyone have enabled Gary to walk and be able to move around with comfort. Not to mention renewing our faith in mankind that people really do still care!

Denise Hauk Hensley