Silent prayers answered: Community provides accessibility ramp for family in need

Published 4:28 am Wednesday, November 30, 2022

LAPLACE — Michelle Prudhomme’s silent prayer was answered as the community rallied together to bless her family with a Thanksgiving miracle. In the span of 24 hours, funds were raised and construction was completed on a custom ramp allowing her husband, Perry, to safely enter and exit the house in his wheelchair.

Perry currently relies on a wheelchair due to a recent injury to his right leg that was caused by a fall. Mobility has been a challenge since he was initially diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 4. At the age of 20 in 1996, doctors realized Perry actually had Hereditary Spastic Paraparesis, or HSP, an inherited neurological disorder characterized by the gradual development of stiffness and variable degrees of weakness in the hip and leg muscles.  Spasms in the legs, poor balance and fatigue are also associated with HSP.  Perry experiences these challenges every day while raising two young children, and it is uncertain how his mobility will be impacted in the future.

Perry typically uses the assistance of a cane and walks with a limp, dragging his toes with one foot in front of the other. With the recent leg injury causing him to rely on a wheelchair on a daily basis, a task as seemingly simple as stepping up onto the slab to enter the house resulted in great discomfort in his joints and presented a major safety hazard. The first cold fronts of the season brought greater struggles, making his muscles tighten even more to the point where his wife Michelle was lifting his foot to try to get him up the step.

Fearing Perry would lose his balance and injure himself further, Michelle said a silent prayer, asking for God to send someone to build a ramp for the house.

Meanwhile, the Prudhomme family was weighing heavily on Leslie Faucheux’s heart. She remembered how Michelle had mentioned to a group of River Parish church ladies that her husband had fallen a few times recently and that their family could use some extra prayers.

When Leslie called Michelle to ask what she could do, Michelle expressed that it was difficult for her to ask for help and that she didn’t want to feel incapable. Leslie assured her that every mom needs help, even those who don’t have half the responsibility she bears as a caregiver for her husband.

Once Michelle shared that Perry needed a ramp, Leslie immediately contacted Lindsey Vicknair, another community member familiar with the Prudhomme family through ties to St. Charles Catholic and St. Joan of Arc.

Faucheux and Vicknair organized a virtual 50/50 raffle on Tuesday at $10 a chance for 100 chances. By Wednesday morning, $1,000 was collected, and $500 was given back to the four $125 winners. That same morning, Leslie’s brother Jay Bailey used his expertise in construction to build a ramp that perfectly suited the Prudhomme family’s needs.

According to Michelle, Jay and his assistant, Sean, went above and beyond in designing the ramp, from deciding how far it should extend to taking the safety of the children into account.

“He can go up the ramp in the wheelchair, and when he’s feeling good enough to where he can walk on his own, it’s a lot less tension in his muscles. Anyone from the outside can say, this is a ramp and it looks beautiful, but to actually walk in Perry’s shoes, it means so much more than that,” Michelle said. “I truly feel like this started with prayer. It started with a few people, and it blossomed into this wonderful gesture because of the kindness, the love and support of this group of people.”

Seeing the long list of names of those who contributed to the 50/50 raffle warmed Michelle’s heart and reminded her that the community always has their back.

“We’re not the kind of people that like to draw attention to ourselves,” she said. I’m a wife, a mom, a caregiver, and I always felt like I can do it, but I’m learning it is okay to ask for help every now and then. I can’t thank these wonderful people enough.”

Leslie said it was important for her to lend a helping hand to a family that has done the same for many others.

“Perry was a few years older than us, but he was always part of our high school events at St. Charles Catholic as a manager for the football team and announcer for the baseball games. Michelle used to teach at St. Timothy’s Preschool. They have done so much for everybody else’s kids, and they needed assistance to make life easier,” Leslie said. “All I can say is that we have the best community. I can’t even just say LaPlace, because it truly is all of the River Parishes.”

Perry is thankful to all who came together to assist him in his time of need.

“Being a part of the ACTS, which stands for Adoration Community Theology Service, ministry retreat team from SJA/AOL has been a reminder and blessing to me of how many different types of communities — family, friends, church, school, sports — I have served and that have helped me throughout my life,” he said. “This was a wonderful act of service from Jay and his assistant Sean building the ramp together. Jay’s sister, Leslie Faucheux and her friend, Lindsey Vicknair who organized the raffle donation to raise money for the materials needed to build the ramp, is an example of what being part of a community is all about.”