Raleigh, N.C. — This Thanksgiving has a special meaning for a Raleigh church, and much of it comes from the inspiration the members have received from a Honduran man who has a rare, debilitating genetic disorder.
Ledyn Rodes, 20, was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that causes shortened, fragile bones and severely deformed joints.
Thirteen years ago, Rodes' struggles captured the hearts of members of Athens Drive Baptist Church while they did mission work in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. Since that day, church members have been on a mission to bring Rodes and his family to the United States for medical care – and to help Ledyn pursue the education he so desperately wanted.
"One of the key things that he said when we were getting ready to leave his house was, 'See if you can get me some help,'" church member Vena Hendricks said of Rodes.
Rodes had only a broken wheelchair in Honduras and often had to crawl up and down stairs inside his school. He does most everything by using his hands and body to crawl.
With hopes of bringing Rodes to America for a special orthopaedic surgery, church members began raising money. They held dozens of fundraisers – many of them barbecues – to help raise money, but it wasn't enough to pay for the medical costs.
WakeMed Hospital stepped in, offering to do the surgery free of charge, but Rodes' condition made it impossible, according to WakeMed Physical and Rehab Medicine Dr. Patrick O'Brien.
"His bones were just so brittle," he said. "I was worried that if we were able to prescribe braces, he could have a broken bone."
Despite the disappointing news, church members say they have still received countless blessings from Rodes and his mother.
"When we got that news, it was a very sad day," Hendricks said. "However, we feel that God had brought him here for a reason."
Church members bought Rodes a brand new wheelchair designed for him, and paid for physical therapy sessions, where he learned exercise tips to strengthen his upper body. Rodes said, through his interpreter, that he is very grateful.
"Ledyn is like a little minister himself," Hendricks said. "He has his own story, but he touches others."
Rodes, who said he still plans to pursue an education despite the obstacles, will return to Honduras with his mother next week.