Monkey Helpers - Bradley & Jerri
We’ve all known someone like Bradley. He was a very active boy—he climbed before he walked, and soon after he started walking, he ran. “Even as a toddler, Bradley would say, ‘Let me do it,’” recalled his mom, Tilda. “He was so very independent—never still, and on the go.”
Then, at age 18, Bradley hit his head in a diving accident near his home in Alabama, shattering his C6 vertebra. Just graduated from high school, facing endless possibilities, Bradley’s life came to a crashing halt. He was paralyzed.
The news was devastating for Bradley and his family. “He was really depressed and angry. At the hospital, he said he didn’t want to live,” Tilda remembered. “Once home, he wasn’t the same person.”
Gradually, Bradley began the long, slow process of adapting to his new “normal.” He learned how to bathe, get dressed, and maneuver around the house. But it wasn’t easy. Bradley was frustrated that everything took so much effort—and much longer. “Some days he wouldn’t get out of bed until I would get home from work,” said Tilda.
“Back before I got hurt,” said Bradley, “I was always running around, going to people’s houses, this and that. Then when I got hurt, I didn’t want to ask people to go somewhere or tell them to come and get me because I felt like it was a hindrance to them and I didn’t want to bother them. They ended up going to college and we just kind of lost touch after a while.”
Then, one day, Bradley stumbled upon Helping Hands while surfing the web. He completed the extensive application process and was thrilled when, in April 2012, he was matched with Jerri, a bright, inquisitive, female monkey helper. The two became inseparable: Jerri would ride on Bradley’s lap, retrieve his phone or the TV remote when it fell out of reach, and carefully “groomed” him, searching for nonexistent bugs.
“There were times I would ask Mama, ‘Can you come do this for me?’” said Bradley. “Getting Jerri let me do more stuff myself, on my own. Since Jerri was with me all day, I wasn’t lonely or sad. I had gotten used to everyone taking care of me. It was different with Jerri here. She took care of me and relied on me to take care of her. It gave me a sense of responsibility, doing all the stuff that she needs.”
Best of all, according to Tilda, the “old Bradley” came back. “I hadn’t seen him smile a really happy smile in five years. Not till he got Jerri. And since he had her, he smiled all the time,” she said.
Bradley made plans to go to college, since navigating new territory no longer seemed so daunting, he said, explaining, “Jerri would be right there with me.”
Bradley realized his dream of going to college. While taking classes, he met someone and started making plans for his future. He realized that he was becoming less dependent on Jerri, and not spending enough time with her. As hard as it was for him, he asked Helping Hands to take Jerri back to Boston, so that she could help someone else the way that she had helped him. She gave him independence in ways he never anticipated, and he wanted her to do the same for someone else.
You can Bradley and Jerri in action together in the short film: Imagine a Monkey: