A Beautiful Story … Adopt-A-Jean Changes Lives

Here is a beautiful story written by Janis Gioia about one of our Adopt-A-Jean® recipients. It really tells how our jeans can make a difference in one family’s life.

On the road again

Just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again    ~ Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash

Heart of Gold

     John and Gail Polcar, of Mentor, Ohio are not Willie Nelson fans, even though the lyrics in that song are a sort of metaphor to their life now. They met during their senior year at Mentor High School, but officially began dating after John graduated and hitchhiked across the country.  Their taste in music is, as Gail puts it, “the hippie generation” more like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Beach Boys and The Beatles.

      In their younger days, John and Gail were poets and writers and dreamers.  They enjoyed playing the guitar together. They wrote poetry and short stories, often with one of their favorite songs, Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” playing in the background.

      John didn’t have to search very far:  he found his heart of gold in Gail.   For the past 8 ½ years, Gail, 64, has lovingly cared for John, 65, who had a major stroke in 2007. A huge sports fan, John had been watching the Cleveland Browns on a Sunday afternoon when he suddenly fell to the floor of their living room.

      Gail remembers, “I knew immediately that something was really wrong.  I called 9-1-1.   The paramedics came quickly, and that saved his life.  He was in the hospital for 11 days and then in a rehabilitation center for weeks.”

      “The stroke, which almost took his life, left him severely disabled.  For the first 2 months he had a feeding tube, he needed insulin, a catheter, he wasn’t speaking and he was bed bound for close to half a year, but able to spend some time each day in a wheelchair.  Home health care nurses helped for several weeks, but then Gail was on her own.

      John still struggles with paralysis on his right side, reduced stamina, diabetes, and expressive aphasia.  He can walk slowly, with a cane, and prefers to manage his bathroom tasks on his own.

Confident and Independent.

    Now, in their 44th year of marriage, Gail helps John with all his daily tasks, like dressing, bathing, monitoring medication, cooking and shopping,  Gail does it all, without any outside help and no complaints.

     Well, there might have been one complaint…and not related to John.  It was his clothes. She was tired of him wearing jersey knits, every single day.

     Gail explains, “Poor John had been wearing the same several pairs of pajama bottoms and sweat pants for eight years.  Clean of course!”  She laughs, “It’s just been impossible to find pants that someone with a disability can easily put on and manage on their own.”

     Then Gail found Downs Designs Dreams, a nonprofit in Mentor, Ohio, that offer two brands of clothing:  Downs Designs® Jeans for individuals with the unique shape of a person with Down syndrome and NBZ® Jeans for those individuals of standard size that struggle to manipulate buttons and zipper due to a physical disability or injury.  “I couldn’t believe it…jeans with no buttons or zippers that would give John style, comfort, and independence.  I was so happy for him, and it was a blessing for me.”

     “These jeans make it easier for John to take care of his needs.  And I am so happy that they look just like regular jeans and are stylish, too!”

     Gail explains, “John was never one to be overly worried about how he looks, but I know he is excited with these jeans.”

     “I can tell that John’s self-esteem has increased since we found Downs Designs Dreams.  We have always had a very positive attitude and been active.  We enjoy spending time with our children and grandchildren, going out with our friends.  It’s nice that these wonderful jeans make John look good and help him maintain his positive outlook.”

     “John loves to go to sit at the mall, and now, with these new jeans, he feels comfortable and fits in with everyone else.”

     That is exactly what Karen Bowersox, the creator and Executive Director of DDD had in mind.   Karen says, “I don’t want any kids or adults with disabilities to feel out of place, uncomfortable or feel like they don’t fit in.  Downs Designs Dreams is providing quality, stylish clothing to enrich the lives of people with disabilities and help them live a more satisfying and happier life.”

   Gail continues, “In August, we’re going to Cleveland to see Paul McCartney in concert.  John will be wearing his NBZ® Jeans for sure.  It will be so much easier, with these jeans, for him to enjoy the concert because he will be fashionable and able to be independent.”

I Get Around

      John and Gail love God, their family and taking long drives. They just got a new car, a Toyota Rav 4, in lighting blue.  John chose the color.

      These are their happiest moments: being together, getting ice cream (chocolate for John and mint chocolate for Gail) and enjoying nature.  An outing’s highlight is spotting bald eagles, a fox, or horses along the way.  Every time they see an animal, they give each other a high five.  They squeeze a lot of joy out of every moment, large or small.

      “A perfect day for us is just driving around, eating ice cream and being together.  We focus on what we can do, not what we can’t do.  Now, with these wonderful jeans, John has the freedom to do so much more.”

      Gail continues with a smile, “When John gets in the car, he doesn’t want to come home.  We put two hundred miles on our new car in two days!   John wants to keep going!”

      Willie Nelson might be a homebody compared to John.  There’s probably no one else who can match John’s enthusiasm for getting on the road again.  He has lots places to go and people to see.  This fall Gail and John are driving to Florida and Louisiana, to visit family.  And when the rubber hits the road, John’s NBZ® Jeans will keep him comfortable and stylish, mile after mile.

~ By Janis Gioia

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