Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Willing to teach.(Final)

Byline: Jackie Jadrnak Journal Staff Writer

Five people with disabilities honored for courage and inspiration

Dara McLaughlin has taught the people around her many things. One of the primary lessons, according to friend Alex Jacobs, is this: "We are all temporarily able-bodied, just waiting for an accident, sickness or situation that will put us in a wheelchair or hospital bed."

McLaughlin joined four other people last month in being recognized as figures of courage and inspiration through the Friends grants, founded by Corrales resident Andrew Nagen. The program, now in its eighth year, gives recipients $2,000, a plaque and a certificate from the governor.

They all know what it's like to have illness or disability change their lives. MaryEllen Carr of Santa Fe was 37 when Hodgkin's disease hit. Marcie Davis, also of Santa Fe, was an active 6-year-old when spinal myelitis paralyzed her from the waist down.

Adrianna Lujan of Pecos had just celebrated her 16th birthday when an auto accident damaged her spine and left her in a wheelchair. George Mendoza of Las Cruces started losing his eyesight from a hereditary disease when he was 15.

And Rio Rancho resident McLaughlin successfully survived lymphoma but lost her ability to walk when radiation treatments at age 30 destroyed part of her spine.

They were not honored, though, for the disabilities that changed their lives, but for how they are living their lives.

Helping others

Marcie Davis, 37, thinks she's had it pretty easy in her life. No matter that a disease attacked her spinal cord, put her in a wheelchair at age 6, and has continued to require surgeries and cause painful spasms as she ages.

"I've had some challenges in my life, but nothing more than anyone else has had," she said. …

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