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since April 16, 2012


One of our clients is a 34-year-old man born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. After his mother passed away, his long-term caregiver and her husband assumed full responsibility for him. He requires assistance with all daily living skills: feeding, bathing, dressing, transferring and toileting. Over the years, the physical demands of caring for him have taken a toll. Lifting and bathing him, for instance, is a two-person task that waits until the caregiver's husband comes home from work.

Our goal is to give this family hope by improving the safety and comfort of their home. The students plan to install a bed lift; make the bathroom, doorways and backyard wheelchair accessible; install hardwood floors; and provide other renovations that would otherwise go undone allowing them to manage his daily needs with less overall stress.


Donna is 53 and used to work as a Registered Nurse. We have lived in Nipomo in the same house for 23 years. Donna was injured January 2013. She had stomach problems, went to bed sick and fell out of bed. When I found her, her head was against a box on the floor. The neurosurgeon said it was the perfect story . The angle her head was, the time she laid there, and the genetically small passage in her spine for the main blood vessel. They all added up to what was essentially a stroke to the spine, with the blood shut off, her nerves died. Now she has no feeling from the chest down and cannot walk and can bearly use her arms.

She spent half of 2013 in rehab hospitals near San Jose, 5 months on a ventilator. She stayed strong and was weaned off the ventilator, but because of her impaired diaphragm function she is always at risk from respiratory problems, even a simple cold. In the hospitals she was unable to rehab as she could not sit up in her wheel chair long enough due to a sore on her tailbone that progressed to a hole big enough to stick a golf ball in with infection down in the bone. They wanted to discharge her to a nursing facility but instead our son and I brought her home in June. He was a big help as he was an army combat medic over in the war in Iraq.

She stayed in bed to heal and Thanksgiving weekend we had surgery to close her wound. Two more months of lying flat for the surgery to heal. In January, she spent a month in Santa Barbara Rehab Hospital so she could get use to sitting up again in her wheelchair.

We learned a lot about spinal cord injuries quickly. How a simple ingrown toenail can drive her blood pressure so high that without intervention she can stroke out, as the brain can't send signals down the spine to lower her blood pressure anymore when an injury or other irritant , like a full bladder or bowel occurs. Her body now has poor temperature control, and a hot day or room can trigger the same results. She also has continuous nerve pain in her arms and neck, that she describes as on fire with pins & needles thrown in with her hands stuck in an ice bucket.

I tell you all of this, so you can understand how a simple thing turned our lives upside down and how much she has endured, and the level of despair she deals with daily. She is completely dependent on others for all her needs, and we are now working on transitioning from her life in bed to life on wheels. Hence our need for a bathroom remodel.

We want to express our gratitude for the help your team from Cal Poly has offered to us. It is not just the physical remodel that is important to us. which will make our life easier, but it is knowing that people we never met, care enough to help us and others in similar situations out.

Lately, when people visit, I say, "Donna, tell them the good news." And she gets a big smile and says, "The students from PolyHouse are coming to build me a new bathroom."

You all have given her something she hasn't had in awhile…Hope.

And for that I thank you,

Herb Birnbaum