Hello. My name is Jillian Mercado. I was born (and raised) in New York City on April 30th 1987. Three years later my family found out that I wasn’t an ordinary child; didn’t cry or crawl much like the other babies did. My parents took me to a near by hospital only to find out I had Cerebral Palsy, which later led to finding out that I really have something called Spastic Muscular Dystrophy. From that day on I had almost seven surgeries adding up to 14 scars on my body, countless doctor visits, and great physical therapy that has helped me become who I am today.
At the age of 12, I got my first electric wheelchair. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was more excited about the color than anything else. It was a small purple chair, with a smaller American flag bumper sticker on my right side. I felt like Wonder Woman in that thing. “No one can stop me now” I used to say. This was about the same time that I knew in my heart I wasn’t the same as everyone else.
My parents have always been an extraordinary backbone for me. They have never made me feel different or special in any way. From the first grade to the fourth year in college, I was always the only one in a wheelchair - something my parents did to make me stronger. This has made me work twice as hard as everyone else but has showed me the true meaning of the word determination.
Now with all that said, lets flash forward to about four months ago when my brand new electric wheelchair was stolen.
That day I decided to visit my close friend who’s apartment was on 18th street. Trusting the gated community too much, I experienced what it truly meant to have your freedom pulled from right under you. As you may not know, most apartments downtown aren’t wheelchair friendly, since they were built pre-ADA (American Disability Act). But if you know me, you know that a little step won’t hold me back from a good party or visiting a friend. I parked my wheelchair right outside his gated entrance for a quick minute to then find out that someone broke into it and drove it away.
There are no possible words that can describe the emotions that went through my head when I realized this had happened. As if someone, without permission, came up to you as you slept and removed both of your legs. My chair is my soul. It is what makes me whole.
Many people do not realize everything I go through in a day. From random looks from people; unbelievable questions; locations with steps; elevators not working, to having to wait for about an hour or more to hopefully getting a taxi (if the ramp works or if the driver knows how to use it). Although this may sound like a lot for something to happen everyday to a human being, I have made it a mission to not affect me but to make sure I am the one to change it.
I need your help. Those words are hard to write because in being so independent, it’s even harder to admit.
It’s been almost 4 months since it happened and I have dealt with a detective, the police and my health insurance, all which I have had no luck with. The detective and the police have since closed my case, knowing that they haven’t found my chair or clues to where it might have gone. My friend’s neighbor had a security camera, but the video wasn’t able to catch the entrance either. Which then left me with my health insurance to rely on; but were unable to help because my old chair of 9 or so years was fixed this year (you get a new one every seven), and the fact that they got me the new one this year, was a miracle in and of itself.
I am in a corner with no way out and this is my only hope. With your help, I can be whole again.
The Indiegogo account is made to help me raise funds to get my electric wheelchair back. The chair that was stolen from me was a Quantum 600 you can see how it looks like here: http://www.pridemobility.com/quantum/index.asp
I would like to thank everyone for their support and love, and each of you who have already given me your heart by reading my story. Also to Indiegogo for being a platform to bring this to life.
If there is anything I can give to you, it is that no matter what may happen, you are special and no one can take that away from you.
Finally, thank you to my family and friends. I would not be who I am today without you. Thank You.
A special THANKS to Derek Mega for helping me with this video and those who gave me these great perks to give out!