Author Gabriela Hernandez recently published her first book called Timothy’s Magic Wheelchair: The Martian Overload. The 17-year-old currently attends School for Advanced Studies in Miami, FL. Even though she doesn’t take any writing classes there, she has always had a passion for writing and it has been a big part of her personality, ever since she was in 4th grade, the year she started getting into reading.
Gabrielas’ cousin Ale, 14-years-old, has Duchenne muscular dystrophy; he is shy, but very sweet. He is also very brave. Like many 14-year-olds, he loves video games and spending time with family. However, Duchenne’s progression and impact on his muscles has made it more challenging for him to do everyday activities that other teenagers take part in. Watching him overcome obstacles, Gabriela says, “Now the wheelchair is just like another leg to him.”
Gabriela says Ale has taught her a lot. She recalled one time when they went to Disney and Ale didn’t want the other kids to see him in a wheelchair. He didn’t mind that the other kids knew he couldn’t walk or that he was being carried. He just felt a sense of humiliation being in the wheelchair. Then when they went to Orlando the next time, Gabriela recalls, “He said no I’ll stay in my chair the whole time, I don’t need anybody to carry me. I kind of just stood back, because it was a big obstacle for him to overcome, as it would be for anyone. It definitely amazed me, and that kind of birthed the idea for the book.”
When thinking of ways she could make a greater impact on the Duchenne community and beyond, Gabriella knew she needed an option that was safe during the pandemic. A characteristic of the disorder is having a very weak immune system and viruses are more likely to be more harmful. That is when she hatched the idea of Timothy.
“So I knew for me to organize a walk-a-thon, or anything with them present, it was going to be life-threateningly dangerous. And one day I just had that thought of Timothy in a wheelchair. I don’t even know where it sprung from but I knew that he looked like my cousin, and he was suffering the same way my cousin was,” said Gabriela.
Gabriela pointed out that Timothy doesn’t have Duchenne, but is paralyzed. He can do a lot of actions that children with Duchenne can’t do, such as raise his arm. When writing her book, she was nervous that those with DMD or other neuromuscular diseases may feel underrepresented.
“No matter what articles or documentaries you watch, it’s not the same as living with it or being in the same household as someone who has,” she mentioned. This is why she was thrilled to find out so many people resonated with Timothy.
“That has left me wordless,” she commented on the outreach the book has had. “I didn’t know that these kids saw so much of themselves in Timothy. To me, he is a figment of my imagination and to them, he is very very real. They very much believe the wheelchair has a magic button. So I’m very happy they have faith in Timothy, if not me.”
Gabriela said that she is thinking about turning the book into a series. It is in the works, both in her brain and writing, but she wants to make sure it is as accurate as possible. She also really wants to incorporate other children, with not only necessary physical disorders but also cognitive challenges, such as those with Down Syndrome or Autism.
After publishing her book, Gabriela decided she wanted to donate all the proceeds from Timothy’s Magic Wheelchair to Jett Foundation. She mentioned that at first, she didn’t know much about the work Jett Foundation did, until her aunt who is also a Jett Foundation Community Ambassador told her about it.
As a family, they have come together to raise funds for Ale’s disease and Duchenne. It isn’t easy for families to raise money for everything that is needed from wheelchairs and accessibility devices to funding for research and the medical bills that accumulate.
Gabriela said she was impressed and extremely happy to have learned about Jett Foundation. “I was more than glad to reach out to Jett Foundation and provide funds to this incredible organization. This way, I can indirectly help more children than if I donated to one child or family specifically. I feel like I am playing a bigger part than just staying along the sidelines,” she said.
You can buy Gabriela’s book here: Timothy’s Magic Wheelchair: The Martian Overload.