December 08, 2023
Features | Herald-News


Family of special needs Joliet West teen desperately needs a new van

It’s bad enough to need spinal fusion surgery just two months before senior year.

It’s even worse when the family’s van breaks down the night before his June 18 surgery.

But that’s what happened to Lawson Sizemore, 17, of Shorewood, a Joliet West High School athlete and editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, Tiger Tales.

Lawson needed the surgery to correct scoliosis, which causes curvature of the spine. He also has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type A, a disorder that affects the peripheral nerves.

“They had to rent a van from MobilityWorks so they could take Lawson to downtown Chicago to Lurie’s children’s hospital,” family friend Betty Coady of Chicago said in an email.

Now Coady is raising money through GoFundMe to help buy a newer, more reliable conversion van to transport Lawson and his wheelchair.

“He’s an amazing kid, he really is,” Coady said. “With everything he’s had to endure on a daily basis, he always has a positive outlook on everything. He can make someone smile just by his appearance,” Coady said.

Lawson's mother, Marlene Sizemore, said that when Lawson was learning to walk, he often fell. Marlene, who has three other sons, knew then that something was wrong, she said in an April 23 Herald-News story.

Because Lawson has a subtype of the disorder, the family didn’t receive a firm diagnosis until he was 3.

Lawson joined Miracle League of Joliet the year it began. Miracle League provides opportunities for children to play baseball, regardless of their disabilities, according to its website.

He’s participated and coached Special Olympics and played wheelchair basketball, Marlene said.

“He just loves to give back,” she said.

He’s also served as assistant coach for varsity basketball, baseball and football at Joliet West. His career choices include broadcast journalism or coaching.

Marlene said Lawson hopes to attend the University of Kentucky. And that goal comes with a huge need for reliable transportation.

That need is especially acute right now. Lawson gained several inches after the spinal fusion. He’s now too tall to easily get into the family’s current van, she said.

“He manages to lay the chair all the way back and then he can get in,” Marlene said.

The surgery also improved Lawson’s breathing. The abnormal curvature of the spine pressed into some of Lawson’s organs, making breathing difficult, Marlene said.

After surgery, Lawson had trouble with his hip, which physical therapy fixed, Marlene said.

“The one muscle in his right arm is still weak, so we’re concerned about that,” Marlene said.

But Lawson did improve enough to make basketball camp earlier this month.

“He’s a real go-getter,” Marlene said.

That’s why Lawson doesn’t mind walking when the van breaks down. He and Marlene have “huffed it” to Troy schools when he participated in school musicals and to his first job in Joliet.

But even when friends come to the rescue, they often can’t accommodate Lawson’s wheelchair.

“[One] of the times the local fire department assisted the family with a flatbed to get him home,” Coady said in an email.

However, the mechanic has warned Marlene that the van is nearly beyond repair. And that worries Marlene.

“Because if I break down – oh, my gosh,” Marlene said. “How do I get him home?”

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