News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 21, 2013

Kindergartner diagnosed with MD treated to a day with the fire department

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — “He’ll just never forget this day,” Stacey Manley said, a little bit tearfully, as she watched her smiling 6-year-old son Carter sitting happily in the captain’s seat of Fire Engine 2.

Carter, who has been diagnosed with duchenne muscular dystrophy, is a very happy kid, his mother told the Tribune-Star on Monday as she watched him and his kindergarten classmates interacting with Terre Haute firefighters at Deming Elementary School.

The youngsters were allowed to hold fire hoses and spray water on the playground.

They squealed in delight when Sparky the fire dog visited with them. And they all raced around the perimeter of the playground to wave at Carter as he rode in the fire truck on a trip around the block.

The visit with the firefighters, arranged by special education teacher Amy Walker, was part of the student’s community helpers curriculum where they learn about service people in the community.

“Jeff Stevens from Fire Station 2 coordinated the effort to bring two trucks and Sparky the fire dog, and allow the students the opportunity to see the trucks and spray the fire hose,” Walker said, pleased at the great fun all of the children were having.

Even Carter, who now uses a wheelchair, was able to blast water into the sky. And his classmates cheered when he was presented with a real fireman’s helmet with his name and a paper badge on the front.

“It’s heavy,” Carter said after the helmet was placed on his head.

His mother, Stacey, and her fiancé Tim Wrightsman, said the staff of Deming Elementary — especially principal Susan Mardis and teacher Amy Walker — have been wonderful to work with as Carter begins his school journey.

“I’m very impressed with what they’ve done here,” Wrightsman said. “They have done everything they can, plus, to accommodate him.”

Mardis said she is impressed that Carter does not miss any school due to his illness.

“Every morning, he arrives with a smile,” she said.

Happy is Carter’s normal disposition, his mother said.

“The school has been amazing,” she said. “The teachers, the kids. And he’s just loved fire trucks ever since he’s been a little bitty boy.”

Though Carter’s illness is terminal — the average life expectancy for patients with duchenne muscular dystrophy is around 25 — he participates in a regular class, receiving some assistance because of his mobility issues.

He has also become friendly with the police officer stationed in the school, his mother said, and he’s very talkative.

After his morning fun with the firefighters, Carter will have a lot to talk about for a long time.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.