Lucca Bianchi on his bike, above, and cruising around town in a mask, below. PHOTOS PROVIDED
Lucca Bianchi came into this world fighting, his mother Jeanette Laird Bianchi said.
Lucca, who is almost four, had a pediatric stroke at birth, which resulted in him having: cerebral palsy, epilepsy and microcephaly. He is also hemiplegic, and uses only his right side for function, and on the autism spectrum.
Jeanette was told that he probably wouldn’t be able to walk, but she fought against that and set him up with aquatic therapy to help build Lucca’s core muscles. When he did learn to walk, she said that his therapy was instrumental in making it happen.
He is now in physical and occupational therapy, however, due to COVID-19 any in-person therapy assistance has been shut down, which has put a strain on parents like Jeanette, who have children with special needs.
“I’m not licensed to do this,” she said, explaining that the therapists can only provide virtual therapy instructions. “I don’t want to stretch him when I don’t know the property anatomy. I don’t feel comfortable doing it.”
While she understands the measures being taken to flatten the curve, the fact that there isn’t an option of a house call for physical and occupational therapy puts her in the role of nurse, teacher and mother. Her biggest concern is keeping Lucca’s muscles relaxed, because if they tighten he will have to go in for surgery to correct it. Already she said he’s exhibiting behavioral problems because of the pain.
This is where the bike came in.
To provide an alternate type of therapy, Jeanette attempted to work with disability services to get Lucca an adaptive bike, which has a loop handle for his right hand to turn the bike, a backrest seat, pedals with straps and rear steering for Jeannette to help him maneuver. Unfortunately, the bike was out of their budget, which led Jeanette to start a fundraiser on Go Fund Me.
“I’m sitting here trying to pull money together and felt hopeless,” she said, until her mother suggested starting a fundraiser. She was worried about the stigma attached because she had already done a fundraiser for Lucca when he was born to help pay for medical bills, and being in the middle of a pandemic, she didn’t think anyone would have the money to donate.
In the first few days she received $500. In a week, she was able to raise the full $2,000 for the bike and the extra donations she got went toward buying Lucca and his sister, Catarina, a therapy swing; Catarina, who’s six, is on the autism spectrum and has a sensory processing disorder.
“I almost became overwhelmed,” she said as people reached out to her outside of Go Fund Me to send her a check or PayPal her. “To take $10 from your family and give it to my son who you’ve never met, that’s phenomenal if you think about that.”
She said that she’s received multiple messages from donors asking about the bike’s shipping status who are excited for Lucca to receive it. She said it was a bonding experience because everyone was so emotionally depleted that helping Lucca has been an uplifter.
“There’s a little bit of sunshine in all this,” she explained. “He’s going to be a kid, he’s going to get to go outside and he’s going to get physical and occupational therapy without even knowing it.”