One morning, Virginia Ventura woke up unable to move and couldn't feel her legs.
She was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord. She was 6 years old.
Now, 20 years later, Ventura has navigated the disease, but still relies on her family to navigate the world. A GoFundMe account for the specialized vehicle she needs to become more independent has been set up.
With the car, she hopes to get a job and complete an associate's degree program she had to drop out of due to the difficulties her disease presented.
"I was confused, definitely, because I was like 'What's going on?'" Ventura, of Fauquier County, said. "Why can't I feel my legs? Why can't I walk?"
From then on, Ventura has been confined to a wheelchair. In the last couple of years, she's been in and out of hospitals for various bone infections, ulcers and other wounds. She has developed depression and anxiety because of her condition.
"Every single day there's a struggle for me," Ventura said.
Ventura relies on her mother and brother to get around. She graduated high school thanks to homeschooling and taking lessons from teachers during her hospital stays.
She was not able to finish her associate's degree and has struggled having the life she wants because of her dependency on other people.
"I feel like I've been a prisoner in my body," Ventura said. "A car would be almost like my legs. It would allow me to see and do a lot of things that I haven't been able to do for the past 20 years."
The vehicle would mean she could finish the degree and not be so dependent on her family for transportation. She also wants to get a job and continue taking violin lessons she started in Richmond.
Because of her condition, the requirements for the car are quite specific. It has to be a Ford Edge because it allows a retrieval system to be installed. Between those requirements the price of the vehicle is between $50,000 and $60,000.
Ventura also needs to purchase the car on her own in order for hand controls and seating adjustments to be covered by the Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
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