Eric Blackwood knows a thing or two about imagination not the kind that inspires great literature or art but allows him to soar in a wheelchair and reach for a cure that doesnt yet exist.
Eric, who turns 16 this August, is a teenager in every respect. He thinks about girls, loves the Avengers, routinely debates his mother and wants to be a mental health counselor.
He just cant talk, walk or control his bodily movements all the activities non-disabled people generally perform without a moments thought or gratitude and is completely dependent on others.
A bright, funny teen, Eric was unable to communicate his most basic needs until he began using ECO, an advanced computer system. Now he discusses complex ideas, makes jokes, and sets hesitant strangers at ease.
Without this device we would still be guessing what he wanted, says Elizabeth Blackwood, who sits next to her son in the IJNs handicap-accessible conference room downstairs. ECO has changed his life dramatically.
Eric manipulates the computers cursor by hitting his jawbone against a large blue switch attached to his wheelchair. Its a laborious process that requires patience between the speaker and recipient.
When Erics friends Facebook him, they forget hes disabled, Elizabeth explains. It feels more like a conversation: you type something, get a snack, come back, read a comment. That time out mimics Eric pace.
He does all of his homework on ECO but it takes a long time, so we modify the assignments. Writing a five-page paper would take all year!
Mother and son share one of those Oh yeah I totally get it looks, completing each others thoughts with their respective abilities.
Eric, his father Lee, 10-year-old brother David and Elizabeth recently returned from Panama Citys Stem Institute, where Eric endured a grueling procedure involving umbilical stem cells.
Some of his symptoms have already shown signs of improvement.
We had heard about this treatment, which is not approved by the FDA, Elizabeth says, and Eric did additional research over the Internet. We considered going to Germany, but some of Erics friends at Pine Creek High in Colorado Springs suggested Panama.
The prohibitive cost $19,500 is not covered by insurance. So the next question was, how do we do this? Then they told me they take Visa and MasterCard, she laughs. Oh, and cash or wire. It also cost $3,000 to fly all four of us to Panama.
Eric, who resides in Black Forest, made an appeal to the community on his blog. Donations poured in from family, friends, strangers and the Jewish community particularly Chabad of Lone Tree, where he attended Hebrew School.