Crash Sets Back Mother Needing Specialty Van For Her Daughter

By Kelly Werthmann

DENVER (CBS4) – A five-car crash totaled a young mother’s car last month and crushed her hopes of buying a specialty van for her special-needs daughter.

“I guess it’s just really hard when you’re a single mom and can’t provide for your child,” Jessica Johnson told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.

Johnson is a single mother raising her daughter Ava in Denver. Ava was born with a long list of health complications and she spent her first month of life in a hospital.

Ava and Jessica Johnson (credit: CBS)

Ava and Jessica Johnson (credit: CBS)

“At one point she was having 100 seizures a day,” Johnson said.

Due to her epilepsy, half of her brain was removed when she was just three years old. The hemispherectomy, Johnson explained, left Ava with partial paralysis on her right side. Ava is also legally blind.

“Her brain is kind of rerouting, kind of relearning to do things that it used to do,” Johnson said. “So, basically learning to do things a normal kid would do, but with just a little less brain tissue.”

For the past few years, Johnson has been saving money to buy a wheelchair accessible van that would accommodate Ava and her special needs. The specialty vehicle would also help Johnson with getting the heavy wheelchair as well as her daughter in and out.

Ava and Jessica Johnson (credit: CBS)

Ava and Jessica Johnson (credit: CBS)

“The van would have a ramp and one of the bench seats is actually missing and has tracks that you can actually tie down her wheelchair, so I could transport her better,” Johnson explained. “She’s relearning to walk, so when I’m lifting her and moving her, she’s not going to help me with her posture or anything.”

Wheelchair accessible vans are not cheap. Johnson said the basic one she has her eye on costs $50,000.

“I’ve been saving, but it’s hard as a single mom,” she said.

The thought of owning a new van feels next to impossible at times, especially after a five-car crash totaled Johnson’s car in January.

“It was very scary,” she said.

Jessica and Ava Johnson (credit: CBS)

Jessica and Ava Johnson (credit: CBS)

Thankfully, Johnson and her daughter were not hurt, but the collision put a major dent in their budget for a van. As she continues to save, Johnson is hoping the community can help her raise money and raise awareness for other families with special needs children.”

“We’re not the only ones,” Johnson said. “This is an exorbitant expense for any family and then a family that is special needs doesn’t have great financial standing. We basically need the charity of others.”

Johnson set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising the $50,000 to purchase a new van. Whether or not she reaches that goal, she said Ava keeps her smiling and moving forward.

“She’s my best friend,” Johnson said.

Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.

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