by Victoria Vanderpool
My yearlong project was to help my grandfather, General Tom Mikolajcik. He used to be a pilot in the Air Force. He helped design and later flew the C-17, a plane that carries cargo. But now he has a disease called ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). It makes your whole body paralyzed. First his arms became paralyzed, now his legs are. Someday he will not be able to move anything but his eyes.
I help him by doing things that we do everyday; I comb his hair, feed him meals, give him water, help him go up and down the elevators, help him go through the newspaper when he reads it. I also do a lot of things that other people may do with their grandfathers like reading books together. I help him by turning the pages.
When I help it is a treat. I mean someday he will not be here and I will wish that I spent more time with him.
How does he move around? Well, he has a mechanical chair that he can drive with his fingers. He also has three elevators to get up and downstairs at his house. How does he bathe? Well, everyone has to bathe and he has a mechanical lift so he can get into the bathtub.
I like helping him. It makes me feel responsible and confident. I help my family community by helping him because usually my grandmother has to help him. Let’s say it is lunchtime and I already ate. I would feed him so my grandmother can eat her lunch and she doesn’t have to feed him.
My grandfather helps our community in a lot of ways. So if I help him, I help our whole community. If we just left him in his chair he would die because he cannot feed himself or even get up. My family will try to make his life as good as we can.
I feel proud to have him as a grandfather. Having ALS may be hard for him but not him alone because many other people suffer from it, even [S.C.] Governor [Mark] Sanford’s father died from ALS.
I think that what I chose to do this year was a good project. This isn’t just a yearlong project ... it is a lifelong project. I love him!!! And that’s what my yearlong project is.
Victoria was a 10-year-old fourth-grader when she wrote this school report. She also did a PowerPoint presentation using photos of her grandfather.