ABC7 Special: The Determination of Ondelee

November 13, 2010 10:00:00 PM PST
For the last 14 months, ABC7 Chicago has followed the challenges of a young man whose life was forever changed last fall by gun violence.

Ondelee Perteet was a 6' 2" swimmer on the Orr Academy swimming team last fall when he was shot while dismissing an unwanted guest from a relative's party. The bullet lodged in the back of Ondelee's neck rendering him a quadriplegic.

Sunday, ABC7 shows the progress and determination that lives within the young man.

Ondelee's mother makes him work his leg. He expects no less of her or himself. He had almost no movement of his arms and legs after he was shot 14 months ago.

Alejandra Jurasek, one of Ondeloee's therapists, remembers nine months ago when it took two people to transfer him from his wheelchair to a bed. Now, he does it himself.

"There you go. Almost, oh, try again. Good. Very nice," Jurasek said to him.

None of the progress happens without some pain. But, ABC7 has learned from checking in on his progress over the past months, Ondelee is a determined young man. With leg braces, a walker, and Jurasek's steady hand and command, Ondelee walks now.

The young man's limited strength is on his left side. There is far less on his right. His steps require concentration.

"You got to focus on the walker. Then, you've got to focus on moving your legs and having them in a certain spot. There are a lot of things I've got to concentrate on at one time," Ondelee said.

They are baby steps, as Ondelee calls them, but they represent remarkable progress. Part of that is due to natural healing; part of it is due to his determination.

"Ondelee has a secret weapon, and her name is Treena," said Dr. Lisa Thornton.

Deetreena, also known as Treena, is Ondelee's mother, always present, always pushing.

"There is something about a mother being at that bedside, and saying, 'We're not stopping here. We're not done yet. You're not done yet, and I'm not done with you,' and Treena has done that every step of the way," said Thornton.

"No pain, no progress," said Ondelee.

When asked how many times his mother says that to him:

"A thousand times a day," he said.

He also said he was not tired of hearing her say that.

"Actually no, because, you know, she's right. No pain, no gain," said Ondelee.

Because of the seriousness of his injury, Dr. Thornton says Ondelee will most likely need a wheelchair the rest of his life. However, the gains he's making now are powerful-- physically, emotionally, psychologically.

"I know we have a long way to go. It's gonna be hard. We're up for the fight," Deetreena Perteet said. "I have faith he'll walk again. He might need a wheelchair sometimes. But hey, we'll take that."

"My next goal is to try to make more steps, after more steps, after more steps," Ondelee said.

On the day ABC7 visited, Ondelee's journey was roughly 100 steps. They were "baby steps," but each one of them was a giant step.

There may well be a ceiling on what Ondelee is able to recover physically, but in standing up, taking those steps, setting higher goals, Ondelee wants some say in what that ceiling is.

He and his mom wouldn't have it any other way.


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