BURKETTSVILLE - Kathy Wilker of Versailles is paying it forward.
A former patient of the Center of Neurological Development here, Wilker now comes to the facility to spend time with Roger Harbison, who is undergoing his own therapy.
Wilker’s woes began when she was pregnant with her son.
“It was a stressful pregnancy,” she said. “I was not married and scared like crazy.”
As a result of the stress she endured, she suffered a massive cranial hemorrhage at the time of childbirth, causing neurological issues.
Instead of dying like many people do who undergo the same malady, Wilker’s life was spared.
Her family was informed that Kathy would be in a vegetative state and would be bed-ridden and never be able to walk or talk again.
“I proved them wrong,” she said.
She gave birth to a healthy baby boy on April 18, 1986, through a surgical procedure, even though her own body was affected by the ruptured aneurysm.
Her parents, Jerry and Joanne Wilker, have helped raise her son, whom she named Dustin.
“He is a teacher now,” Kathy said. “He’s married and they just had a baby.”
Kathy said she was dismissed from the hospital at the end of June that year.
“There is so much of life I don’t remember,” said said. “I’m always one to help people. Ninety-nine percent of the things I learned by myself. I couldn’t walk, talk, read or write, and I’m still learning. It’s a lifetime of learning.
Then, she found solace at the center in Burkettsville.
“Here you walk in and see all these different people and you’re accepted,” Wilker said.
It was a different story when she sought employment, according to her. Her one big issue with life is that people are not accepting of her condition.
“I went back out into the cruel world,” she said. “I’m really hurt, that no one wants to hire me. You see it everyday. It’s so sad. We want jobs and to be proud of ourselves. The only people who have accepted me is here [at the center].”
She prides herself in that she wants to help others.
“My parents have saved lives their whole lives,” said the 47-year-old, who was a 1985 Versailles High School graduate and a college student at the University of Dayton when her life changed forever.
Wilker received therapy for three years at the Center for Neurological Development, starting in 1998.
Subsequently, center officials asked her to help with another patient, Roger Harbison of Ansonia, in his therapy. And, she obliged.
Harbison, she said, had a stroke four years ago. She picks him up at his home in Ansonia and they travel to Burkettsville.
“His spirit is so much better,” said Wilker. “He was evaluated last week and they are amazed at what he does. Roger likes coming here.”
The two work together three days a week for several hours those days.
“Riding bicycle is his favorite,” she said.
“Kathy does a very good job,” said Joan Kiser, director of the neurological center. When she hooked up with Roger and his wife, Louise, it was a godsend. One day Roger was in the building and his wife was here indicating they needed help at home. Kathy has helped them over two years. She’s also helped other people.”
Harbison himself was no stranger at the center.
“Roger used to help patient Don Blume here,” Kiser said. “So we already knew Roger when he was evaluated.”
[Editor’s Note: More on the center will appear in the Sunday edition of the Daily Advocate. ]