On Feb. 24, 2012, 19-year-old Dove Bright awoke in her family's Indiana, Pa., home with a stiff neck. Minutes later, her mother, Melanie Bright, found her lying on the floor, unable to move her right arm and leg. Within four hours, the teen was paralyzed from the neck down.
A diagnosis of the rare neurological disorder called acute transverse myelitis followed.
Dove Bright, now 20, spent the next two months in the intensive care unit at UPMC Presbyterian. Ms. Bright, who requires around-the-clock care, then resided at The Children's Institute in Pittsburgh and now lives at Seneca Place nursing home in Verona.
While she occasionally gets to go home for a weekend visit with her mom and brother Dalton, 18, her family is hoping to bring the former Indiana High School cheerleader home for good.
Melanie Bright, a substitute teacher, acquired a grant through the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development for home modifications to accommodate her daughter's special needs.
Two fundraisers are planned to help purchase an in-home lift and track estimated at $14,000 to move Dove Bright from her bed to the bathtub.
The first is a spaghetti dinner from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at St. Bernard of Clairvaux Parish, 200 Clairvaux Drive, Indiana, Pa.
The second is in the South Hills: A craft vendor fair is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 11 in Finley Hall at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, 3609 Washington Ave., Finleyville.
All proceeds from the fundraisers benefit the Dove Bright Care Fund.
"I would feel so much better at home. The last time I was there, I didn't feel pain, and I had a visitor every five minutes," she said.
The young woman plans to attend both fundraisers in the wheelchair she operates with her chin.
The events are organized by Mary Jane Jurofcik, who was introduced to Ms. Bright by friends last summer and who now visits her regularly.
"She is inspiring, she fights so hard," Ms. Jurofcik of Finleyville said.
According to the Transverse Myelitis Association, the disorder, known as TM, is a rare inflammatory disease that causes damage to the spinal cord with sensory alterations and dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system that regulates unconscious body functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. Researchers are uncertain of its exact causes.
"You do everything to protect your kids -- keep them out of the sun, worry about their driving -- and this comes along," Melanie Bright said. "I learned that there is nothing we could have done to prevent it."
Doctors have told the Brights that one-third of those afflicted with TM experience full recovery; one-third have fair recovery and the remaining one-third experience no recovery.
While it is too early to tell in which category Ms. Bright will fall, she does show some improvement.
She can speak and can move her left arm a little as well as both thumbs. And, she is getting some sensations back. In December, her tracheotomy was removed and she began breathing on her own.
Ms. Bright spends her days operating her voice-activated computer, downloading books and staying in touch through Facebook.
She and her mother are grateful for the generous support of family, friends, neighbors and even strangers who have rallied to her support.
"You don't know there's so many good people out there until something like this happens," Melanie Bright said. "People write to me every day that I don't even know."
When she recovers, Dove Bright said she plans to write a book about her experience.
Melanie Bright said while her daughter is optimistic more often than not, there are times when her condition overwhelms her.
On the anniversary of the day she was stricken, she asked her mother what it would be like if she remains in her present state.
"I told her 'Don't think about it. You have to think positive and we'll get through this,' " Melanie Bright said.
The TMA association will stage its Walk-Run-N-Roll awareness campaign at 9 a.m. Saturday on Buffalo Road in South Park on a course around the Fairgrounds track and down Corrigan Drive. Participants may register at the site or online: http://myelitis.org/get-involved/walk-run-n-roll-campaign.
Donations may be sent to: The Dove Bright Care Fund; S&T Bank; 800 Philadelphia St., Indiana, PA 15701.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org. First Published April 11, 2013 8:15 AM