I have often said that activism has many faces. One of those visages is altruism, or as we call it here, love in action. Today, I was blessed — quite by accident — to see a mindblowing example of it.
The TV was on in the background while I was working on deadline for Music Monthly Magazine, and a story caught my ear and would not, could not let go. It was the “Dr. Phil” show: The guests were a Texas couple who face an enormous, almost-impossible challenge each and every day of their lives.
Briefly, the story is of a woman, Liz Dunn, who already having a small daughter, discovered she was pregnant with triplets. Her brand-new girls, Zoe, Emma and Sophie, were born premature — at only 25 weeks. When they were infants, the Dunns discovered that the girls were both deaf and blind; they are believed to be the only deaf-blind triplets in the world.
The Dunn marriage eventually collapsed and Liz has since remarried. This story is dedicated to all four of their children and letting the world know about this 24/7/365 day a year challenge.
More on the family’s predicament, from the Not By Sight Web site run by stepdad George:
Emma, Sophie, and Zoe Dunn were born premature, at 25 weeks. All three became blind from complications related to Retinopathy of Prematurity. Sophie is legally blind, while Emma and Zoe are totally blind. The girls lost their hearing due to antibiotics that were administered in the NICU. They completely lost their hearing when they were about 20 months old. It was a very difficult time for the family. They didn’t know what was wrong with their babies. But in spite of everything, the girls made significant progress their first year. They were about to start walking… they were saying “cup” and” mama”… then all of a sudden, they curled up on the floor in the fetal position. Every time they rode in the car they would throw up. These three happy babies became angry and began to bang their heads on the floor.
They also became distrustful during this time. They became clingy and wouldn’t play anymore. They would become startled when you picked them up and they always seemed to be on edge. It has taken more than three years for them to recover and begin walking again. Most of the angry behavior is gone too. But the deafness was a huge setback. They lost at least two years of what they had learned.
The odds are stacked against them. There is no way for their parents to give them everything they need. The social services do not exist in this country to provide them with the necessary intervenors. The extreme financial burden rests solely on the shoulders of their parents.
The Dunn sisters do not have what HELEN KELLER received through Annie Sullivan, and they need three. But with notbysightfund.org, three Annie Sullivans can come into their lives and teach them to engage this world. Helen Keller’s story shows us these girls can do anything they want, if they are only taught to unlock their minds. Notbysightfund.org’s mission is to raise the necessary means to do just that.
What that story doesn’t tell you is that the seemingly insurmountable challenges — and they can be nightmarish — have taken quite a toll on their daily lives, their marriage, and Sarah, their oldest child. But thanks to the activism/altruism of Dr. Phil McGraw, there has been some relief. His foundation has helped provide an intervenor to help the triplet most in need of assistance in learning to communicate (which has allowed a little more normal family time for the Hookers). Unfortunately, that help goes only so far, the intervenor is only there as long as she can be afforded, and the need continues.
I ask you to take a moment and check out Not By Sight. Please become a member and do what you can to help this enormously challenged and deserving family. There are NO government programs to help them… we members of their human family are all they have. We must do our part for this family that is challenged like none other in the world.
After the Dr. Phil show ended, I jumped onto the Net, found George’s site and gave him a call. What a super guy — his love and dedication could be heard over the cell phone. He told me about a documentary, Through Their Eyes, that was made about the family’s plight by another person who heard about the family’s story and was compelled to do something — if you get the chance, see it. George also updated me on the girls’ progress, noting that the intervenor sent by Dr. Phil has made a huge positive difference. But, as he noted, that help is only temporary. Intervenors do not come cheap. And, again, the government doesn’t help.
So I am asking you. Please visit Not By Sight and become a member. Learn about the Hooker-Dunn family. And then, make a contribution to the girls’ education. We are all family, and they are part of it, so we have a responsibility to do what we can for people really under it. Your help could help the family find three miracle workers to bring the triplets, now 7 years old, out of darkness and into the world at large by teaching them to communicate fully with us. Just imagine what amazing things three Helen Kellers potentially could do for this world.
I’ll warn you in advance: You’ll fall in love with this family. I did, hopelessly. Please, go with it and do something activist: Do what you can to help. After all, they’re family. Ours.