Gulfport Man Finds Freedom With New Wheelchair

Otis Smith is enjoying his newfound freedom.

The 25 year old Gulfport man has a brand new wheelchair thanks to some state funding and the tireless efforts of his persistent mother.

Mildred Deal was at her wits end when she called WLOX-TV in early August.

Her son desperately needed a new wheelchair but she couldn't afford it and Medicaid would not pay for one.

When we first met Ms.Deal,  she often carried a screwdriver in her pocket. She needed it to fix her son's wheelchair whenever it would break down. And that happened quite often.

The initial story apparently generated enough interest and attention for the right people to help this young man.

Otis Smith couldn't help but smile as he was fitted Tuesday afternoon in his brand new wheelchair.

"He's happy. 'Cause if he wasn't happy sitting there, he wouldn't have that big smile. He has a big smile. He's not pushing. So, he's happy," said his mother.

As the experts at South Mississippi Regional Center help fit Otis in his new chair, his mother couldn't help but smile too. After many phone calls, funding denials and various dead ends, she finds it hard to believe this was happening.

"This, what we have now, we really needed it. And I want to thank everybody that helped us to get it. There was so many people that I can't even call them all. I just want to thank everybody," said Mildred Deal.

The wheelchair is top of the line and custom made.

Jason Lang is with "National Seating & Mobility".

"He's got a custom molded seat and back that has been custom designed for his body. As you can see, he doesn't quite fit in a normal chair like we would. But with the technology we're able to do that."

The chair retails for more than five thousand dollars. But the freedom it buys is worth every penny for Otis.

"Increase his independence. His ability to get out and do things that we take for granted every day. Him being able to get out to McDonald's and get a Big Mac. I know he's going to be excited about that," said Carolyn Crawford with the South Mississippi Regional Center.

State funding paid for the new wheelchair, but individual donations to the family after the story aired also helped out. Those donations paid for a new shower seat, a wheelchair ramp and a down payment on a new van.

Otis is ready to go, and won't have to worry about his chair breaking down.

His mom is as excited as her son.

"Much more freedom. It will give him a chance to get out and go places that he hasn't been in over a year. So now he can do that."