Girl with spina bifida inspires family to make wheelchairs

In June 2015, Jeffrey and Sonya Shorr’s third child, Bella, came into the world via an emergency cesarean section. As mom Soyna, now 40, was recovering, the doctors gave the family some unexpected news: Bella had spina bifida. She needed immediate surgery and there was a good chance she’d never walk.

“We were kind of selfish in our thoughts,” Jeffrey Shorr, 38, of Buffalo, New York, told TODAY. “We thought, ‘What did we do in our life to be punished?’”

Family builds custom wheelchair for daughter and other toddlers in need

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Family builds custom wheelchair for daughter and other toddlers in need

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Spina bifida is a congenital condition that prevents the neural tube around the spine and spinal cord from completely closing. That means children with this condition are born with part of their spine exposed. Within the first 48 hours, doctors perform surgery to close the opening, also called a lesion.

Bella, like others with it, also received a shunt in her brain, which drains excessive fluid in her head to her stomach for the body to re-absorb. Children born with spina bifida experience nerve problems from the lesion downward. The higher up the lesion, the less functioning they have from that point. Bella’s lesion is on her lower back, right above the buttocks. At first, it seemed like Bella’s life would be very challenging.

Courtesy of the Shorr family

Thanks to a Bumbo-seat wheelchair, Bella Shorr can chase her brother and sister around outside.

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“The doctors painted a pretty grim picture,” her father said.

After recovering from their initial shock, the Shorrs realized life with Bella was the same as with their other children.

“She is just like any other child, the smile, the interactions,” he said. “We thought spina bifida was a punishment at first,…

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