WESTMONT – Georgette Guy has a knack for defying.
The 43-year-old Westmont woman was born a hydrocephalic – that is, a person with severe disabilities due a build-up of fluid in the brain and skull – and was told she wouldn't live past the age of 12.
"Now, she is 43 years old, and has endured so much in her life," said Dawn Guy, Georgette's caretaker and sister. "People say that because her quality of life is so bad that she can't learn anything, but she has learned so much, and she has taught me so much more."
Georgette was dignosed with the ailment shortly after birth, and has been in an "infancy stage" since. She cannot walk or speak, nor can she do anything physically, Dawn Guy said.
But she can hear, show emotion and understand her surroundings, Guy said.
Dawn Guy has been Georgette's primary caretaker since her mother and older sister passed away. She's been forced her to put her life on hold, including a career in criminal justice and homeland security, to care for her sister 24 hours a day.
Life has been a challenge for the two, and in an effort to make it a bit more easier, the sisters have entered into a national contest with a grand prize of a brand new, handicapped-accessible van that would allow Dawn Guy to more easily take her sister to places she enjoys, such as the beach and the park.
As part of National Mobility Awareness Month in May, non-profit National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association is holding the annual Local Heroes program.
People from communties across the country can submit their stories on the National Mobility Awareness Month website about how their families and those who require special needs have overcome their disabilities to have a positive impact on the lives of those around them.
Anyone can vote once a day through May 11 and winners will be announced at the end of May. The top 10 vote-getters go before a panel of judges who decide the winner, according to NMEDA. Last year, more than 1,700 entries were received nationwide.
For the Guy sisters, the van would help Dawn bring Georgette out more often, but it would also help them as they prepare to move. Their Westmont apartment is too small for Georgette's needs, Dawn Guy said.
"She loves when I take her out, but because my car is not equipped for her needs, it is very difficult to do so," Guy said. "Having a van equipped for her needs would be a big benefit for the family, as we could go out with her much more."
When asked how Dawn copes with such a responsibility, she said it is her faith in God that keeps her strong.
"There is a higher power that I, as well as my family, can trust," Guy said. "Georgette has such a spiritual peace about her, even though she has endured many medical trials, that anyone can see she is totally connected to that higher power."
To learn more about the Local Heroes program, and vote for Dawn Guy to win the handicapped-accessible van, visit www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/georgette-guy-westmont-illinois-il/.