Tails of Success: Life with a Helping Hands Monkey Helper

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Mary Kay and Amy celebrated their 10 year anniversary together in 2014.
28 years ago, a car accident changed Mary Kay’s life forever. About 18 years after her accident, she was watching a CBS news report and saw a piece on Helping Hands.

“I thought it quite comical that I could get a monkey to help me out, but I really didn’t give it any serious thought at that time because I believed it was too far-fetched of a notion – not something that could happen in my mundane life. So I immediately put the thought aside.

monkeyA few weeks after I saw the news segment, I was doing a computer search on hand splints and up popped the Helping Hands website. I laughed to myself and went on with my search. Several weeks later I was researching something else and AGAIN the Helping Hands website came up. That’s when I knew I needed to look into this monkey idea. After reading all about how a service monkey could help someone like ME, I started taking a closer look at my life and how a little helper could benefit me in my daily activities. Then I decided to apply and that is when Amy came into my life.

Amy adds a new dimension to my lifestyle in that she gives me a reason to be. As much as I depend on her she depends on me as well. I make all the decisions for her well-being and if I didn’t do a good job it would show in her health and her disposition towards me. I am Amy’s caretaker, her protector and savior when something scary is near and I relish this role.

mary-kayHaving a service monkey makes my life a bit easier by all the tasks she does so willingly and without disdain. Anybody who has had to have someone help them with menial tasks knows that people get very exasperated at constantly performing these chores repeatedly. But a monkey LOVES to do them and a monkey does not care how many times she has to pick up a pencil in the span of one minute. In fact, the more the better in Amy’s case! We love to hang out in our greenhouse basking in the warmth of the sun planting, reading, or listening to music.

Our relationship over the last 10 years has just become very normal. I can’t say when it changed from sheer awe to her just being one of the family although I will say that there are times during every day that I look at Amy in wonderment and still can’t believe I have her.

If someone were contemplating applying for a service monkey I would say if you are an animal lover, if you are alone for a portion of the day, if you have a need for more independence in your routine, if you are a patient person then you should make room in your life for a monkey helper.

A helper monkey can do so many things for their recipient such as open doors, drawers, containers, refrigerators, and much more – all of those obstacles that are major roadblocks for people living with disabilities that no one else gives a second thought about. I have loved the past 10 years with Amy and we look forward to the next 10 together.”

Bradley and Jerri, together since 2012

Bradley was a very active boy – never comfortable sitting still, he was one who climbed before he walked, and soon after he started walking, he ran. Then, at age 18, Bradley hit his head in a diving accident, shattering his C6 vertebra. Just graduated from high school, facing endless possibilities, Bradley’s life came to a crashing halt. He was now paralyzed.

Bradley-and-JerriGradually, 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. Though friends called him to go out, Bradley found it easier to stay home. When he needed something, it was just simpler to ask his mom.

Then, Bradley found out about Helping Hands and he decided to apply for a monkey helper. He completed the extensive process and was thrilled when, in April 2012, he was matched with Jerri, a bright, inquisitive, female monkey helper. Now, the two are inseparable: Jerri rides on Bradley’s lap, retrieves his phone or the TV remote when it falls out of reach, and carefully “grooms” him, searching for non-existent bugs.

Bradley-and-Jerri-2“Since Jerri’s with me all day, I’m not lonely or sad,” he explains. “I had gotten used to everyone taking care of me. Now that Jerri’s here, she takes care of me and relies on me to take care of her.”
“Since he’s had Jerri, he smiles all the time,” says Tilda, Bradley’s mom. “He’s totally different since she came.”
Now, Bradley is looking ahead: his future plans include college. “I’d like to go back to school and get a degree that would help me get a good job,” he says. Navigating this new territory now no longer seems so daunting, he says, explaining, “Jerri will be right there with me.”

ABOUT HELPING HANDS: MONKEY HELPERS

monkey-helpersSince 1979, Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers has been helping adults with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments throughout the U.S. live more independent and engaged lives. We do this by providing them, free of charge, with a unique service animal: a highly trained service monkey to help with their daily in-home tasks. We carefully match monkeys and recipients, and actively support their partnership through mentoring and ongoing supervision of the monkey’s behavioral, nutritional, and veterinary needs. These animals bring more than just a willing set of nimble hands to their recipients. They also bring companionship, joy, and the renewed sense of purpose that comes from taking responsibility for the health and well-being of another creature.

Thanks to the support of our donors, we provide these services free of charge to our recipients across the nation – services that include:

  • We raise, train and match the monkeys with carefully chosen recipients
  • We provide extensive coaching and customized in-home training at the start of each placement
  • We oversee each monkey’s lifelong behavioral, nutritional and medical needs
  • We provide ongoing active support and mentoring for every partnership

Visit www.monkeyhelpers.org for more information about our program. We are actively seeking new applicants across the country and encourage you to contact us if you have questions about your eligibility.

Video links:

Bradley and Jerri
Imagine a Monkey: http://monkeyhelpers.org/imagine-monkey

Mary Kay and Amy
Beyond the Tasks: http://monkeyhelpers.org/meet-our-monkeys/monkeys-in-minute/episode-9-2012-beyond-tasks

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