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Community enables ailing teen to have a room of his own


James Dobson

The Dobson family has about 38,000 reasons to be grateful for the love and concern of others this holiday season. That’s how many dollars the community raised, as of last week, to cover the cost of a specialized bed for 13-year-old James Dobson.

Since he was 5, James has suffered with a brain tumor and the side effects from treatment, including 63 rounds of radiation.

When he neared his 13th birthday in September, all he asked for was a room of his own—and the sense of independence that all teenagers seek.

But because James is on a ventilator and has sensitive and brittle skin in addition to respiratory problems, his parents, Cathy and Danny, had slept in the room with him so they could turn him regularly throughout the night.

Thanks to the Hill–Rom percussion and vibration bed, which the Dobsons received the day before Thanksgiving, James can sleep in his bed, in his own room.

The bed rotates him regularly through the night and delivers the respiratory treatments he needs.

“This bed has been amazing. It’s met his needs and beyond,” his mother said. “He’s been sleeping better and through the night.”

When she talked about the fundraising efforts that made the bed possible, Cathy Dobson started to cry.

Donations from churches and schools, individuals and businesses totaled about $38,000, as of last week.

The remanufactured bed cost $37,000, and the Dobsons had to pay $27,000 of it. Insurance covered the rest. Donated funds that weren’t applied to the bed will be used for other medical supplies James needs, his mother said.

“I never in a million years thought we would have raised that money in a short period of time,” she said. “It’s overwhelming. The community has just embraced James with their hearts. We’re a Christian family, and we just believe God touched people’s hearts because he knew James needed this bed.”

Soon after an Oct. 30 story about James ran in The Free Lance–Star, people offered donations of medical beds that were similar, but not as specialized, as the kind the teenager needed. School groups and churches held events to raise money for him, and Cathy Dobson learned that individuals made large donations, anonymously, to his bank account.

A dealer at the Manheim Fredericksburg auto action donated a car to the effort. It sold for 30 percent more than market value, “which basically means the winning bidder will lose several-thousand dollars on the resale, but I know he doesn’t care,” said Vince Edivan, manager of the auction. “He was bidding for James.”

Other residents who’d never met James and his family offered to help with insurance paperwork or as advocates to get him the services he needed.

As the holidays approached and people were still recovering from the downturn in the economy, residents reached out to the young man whose simple request tugged at their heartstrings.

The story “about James Dobson touched me to the point of tears,” emailed Della Robb, an area Realtor. “Where can I donate to help this lovely boy get the bed he needs?”

The bed also seems to have rejuvenated James. He’d been feeling down in early November and had physical problems, as well. He had some air in his abdomen, which can be dangerous, and he’d needed to go to Children’s National Medical Center in Washington about five times in 10 days.

Tremors in his hand also had gotten worse, and he repeatedly needed suction to keep his airway clear.

“I don’t know if he was coming to grips with everything or just feeling down and out,” his mother said. “Then the bed arrived and my [older] son came home for Thanksgiving, and James has been up ever since.”

In fact, James and his mother have gotten doctor’s permission to attend a ceremony on Friday for his older brother. Matthew Dobson will graduate from the police academy in Roanoke County and become a deputy, and James will participate in the ceremony.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425