CLAIREMONT, Calif. - Disabled Marine Corps veteran Sarah Bettencourt wakes up every morning to a nightmare: she has a rare brain disorder that’s progressively paralyzing her body. But she says a local organization is giving her hope.
“As a veteran, it’s very hard to ask for help,” said Bettencourt in tears. “And it’s very hard to be a burden to people. Especially when they have to take care of basic functions.”
She says she always knew she wanted to serve.
“Even when I was a little kid, I used to see those recruiting commercials on the TV. Somehow I knew I wanted to be in uniform serving our country in some way, shape or form,” said Bettencourt.
She did get to wear the uniform, serving in the Marine Corps and marrying her high school sweetheart.
But then, in 2008, it began with a tingling in her left hand. Within three years Bettencourt would lose the ability to walk on her own. She says doctors still don’t know exactly what’s wrong. She’s inexplicably developing lesions in her brain that paralyze different parts of her body. But she says, it hasn’t touched her spirit.
“I look at it as every day is like Christmas. Meaning every day I wake up and my gifts are the parts of my body that are working,” said Bettencourt.
Her story is bringing college students and volunteers together in Clairemont as part of Embrace’s Healing our Heroes’ Homes program. They’re racing to re-build most of her house in just five days. It includes everything from an expanded driveway and wheelchair ramp at the front of the house, to a new garden at the side of the house. The aim is to make getting around easier for Bettencourt.
“They’re just a perfect couple for us to come together as a community and serve, since they’ve done so much to serve our country," said Sean Sheppard, Founder of the Embrace program.
This is the sixth such house Embrace has completed and it’s completely free for the Bettencourts. The project is funded by San Diego Gas & Electric, Home Depot, Jack in the Box Foundation and Military Home Loans.
“Really to see her have her independence back is the best blessing I could have,” said Sarah’s husband, Matt Bettencourt. He is active duty in the Navy and said, “People come up and say, ‘You’re a good man for standing by her.’ I don’t think of it that way. I just love her. So I would stay by her no matter what.”
Sarah Bettencourt just celebrated her 30th birthday with her husband. She says she can’t think of a better present than moving into this house with him.
“Words just can’t express what they’re doing for me. It’s better than winning the lottery. They’re giving me my life back,” said Bettencourt.
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