Most eight-year-old boys wish for snowboards, scooters, or science kits. But Wesley Powell's desire was a bit different. He wanted a motorized wheelchair.
For a year-and-a-half Wesley has been battling cancer. In early 2011 he started having focal seizures that progressed to regular occurrences. An MRI revealed he had a glioma brain tumor lodged in the base of his brain and going down his spine.
In May 2011 a surgery on the tumor at West Virginia University's Ruby Memorial Hospital rendered Wesley paralyzed on his left side. "They didn't get it all, so he is terminal," reported his grandmother, Trina Powell of New Martinsville. Doctors did not give his family a life expectancy estimate, just the verdict that there is nothing more they can do, medically, for him.
Wesley has undergone both chemotherapy and radiation, but the grim reality remains. They had hoped he would regain more mobility after the surgery, but four months later it was determined that his current paralysis is permanent reality. Despite all the bad news, Wesley remains upbeat. He has never complained about his situation or treatments.
Wesley's uncle, also named Wesley Powell and subsequently referred to as "Powell" in this story for identification purposes, was so moved by his nephew's courage and grace in the face of such an illness that he and his family have moved to the area from California. Powell is a nurse and knows he can offer valuable assistance to Wesley and his parents, his twin brother Russell and Cinthia Powell of Moundsville.
"They've turned their world upside down for his brother," said Trina. Powell and his wife, Amy, have an 18-month-old daughter, Garnett, and are expecting another child in March. "We left everything we have," acknowledged Powell. "He means the world to us."
Powell is also the leader of the Doolin Run Band, a country/southern rock band that has met with some success. While his bandmates were left behind in California, Powell said he is in the process of building a "super band" out of Pittsburgh to keep the music playing.
The band is actually the vehicle through which Wesley got his new wheels. "The majority of my fan base is in the Ohio Valley," noted Powell. "The area has bombarded us with good tidings."
When Wesley said he wanted a motorized wheelchair, something Powell calls "one of his last wishes", Powell knew he had to do what he could to make it a reality. Unfortunately, once Wesley was enrolled in hospice, he was no longer eligible for a power wheelchair.
"I just felt if he wasn't qualified for something like that, then none of us are," said Powell, who encourages people to question such legislation.
Hitting brick walls in the quest to fulfill Wesley's request, Powell turned to his fans. He put word of the dilemma on Facebook, asking if anyone knew of a way to get Wesley the desired motorized wheelchair. Within an hour he had seven offers to fulfill Wesley's wish.
One of those offers came from Angela Cross, a clinical case manager at New Martinsville Care and Rehabilitation, where Trina also works in the dietary department. Knowing they had an extra motorized wheelchair, Cross went to Administrator Chanda Spragg who immediately gave the approval to donate the chair.
"It was a total surprise when they offered," said Trina, who said the family gratefully accepted the gift.
"If you can't count on the government, you can count on the people of Wetzel County. That's for sure!" said Powell.
The chair had been given to the center by the family of a former resident. Maintenance Director Alan Jones and Maintenance Assistant Jimmy Utt cleaned the chair and made any necessary repairs so it would be ready for Wesley.
On Nov. 28 he arrived at the center, all smiles and ready to try out his new ride.
"He can play a video game with one hand like you wouldn't believe," said his grandmother, who noted that operating a motorized wheelchair should be easy for him. She was right. He immediately began navigating it down the hall to tell the administrator, "Thank you."
Spragg and Cross have downplayed their role in the exchange, but to Wesley and his family, it is no small thing. "I've told her, you're giving a little boy his legs back," said Trina.