By Vincent Lopez
Recently, Connie Watanabe, a volunteer at Project Read in Menlo Park, called looking for a manual wheelchair for her consumer Antonio Tongia. She explained that he is very active and independent and needs a foldable chair that will fit his active lifestyle. Luckily, we just cleaned up a Quickie foldable manual wheelchair with carbon wheels that is light and sturdy. I called Antonio and emailed Connie the good news. Since it was getting close to the weekend, I gave Antonio my cell number to call me if he can make it out. Antonio showed up at the office Monday morning waiting outside the front door. I unloaded the chair from my truck to show him and it fit his needs well. He was using an older hospital type chair and this one was a hot rod compared to the chair he was using.
While performing the intake I found out Antonio was from Tonga and had Polio as a child. He explained that it hit a few children in each village as it passed through. Unfortunately, Tonga did not have the vaccine for Polio although New Zealand did at the time. Antonio toured the US when he was 21 with his Church band from Tonga. Antonio moved to Hawaii and gained US citizenship. Antonio moved to the “Mainland” and had a hard time for a while in the US. He was sleeping in his car and fishing on the bay. It was a rough time for Antonio, but his good attitude and faith created opportunities for him. Now Antonio has housing and works at the YMCA in East Palo Alto. From my conversation with Antonio and Connie, Antonio is the type of person who inspires others and has a great attitude on life always staying positive and enjoying life no matter what happens. I am glad I had the opportunity to meet Antonio and help him get a chair upgrade to fit his lifestyle.