On Track

Larrie Ervin





Mario is our grandson. He was ! born in Nicaragua, as was his sister. His parents, Dan and Leslie Ahnen also have a son Joshua. When Dan was only 7 years old, living in Wisconsin, he was told to watch out for his sister Rose, 8, going to and from school. One day Dan and Rose became separated. She was missing for a week. Then her body was found. She had been abused and murdered by a stranger. This has been a deep hurt for all, especially Dan. Years pass and he marries our daughter Leslie. They have a fine healthy son, Josh, for Dan to share his love of sports with.  It was a sad day when they were told they couldn?t have any more children.  There would be no little girl to replace Rose. A phone call from an orphanage in Managua Nicaragua saying they had a little girl if they wanted her. She had been left on a bus, weighing only 3 pounds, near death. This would be the ?little angel? if they could just keep her alive and get her ! back to the US. Today Kaitlyn Rose Ahnen is going into her teen years a very happy, bright, bubbly young lady. A few years later Leslie heard about a boy at that same orphanage. He had Spinal Bifida, a birth defect that causes no feeling below the hips and no bowel control. His birth parents gave him away, he would be too much to handle. Left in the orphanage till he would be let out on the street at 10 years old he would have a short unhappy life. Leslie and I went to Nicaragua and brought him home. Through the years he has spent many months in hospitals, several surgeries, 4 broken legs (from falling), his little body is a mass of scars. He has one nonfunctioning ear that is deformed. This is Mario?s only concern because the kids at school tease him about it. One of his surgeries was to cut off his appendix and sew it between his bladder and his belly button. He now can urinate by sticking a catheter tube into his belly button and drain his bladder through the tube like a garden ! hose. A year ago the bladder, which had been enlarged by grafting a piece of his bowel onto it, ruptured and he was rushed to Charlotte for a quick emergency operation. That was a very close call. As time went on it became evident that there was a serious learning disability. I can tell this story on paper because at 10 Mario still can?t read and wouldn?t want me telling you all this.

        We take him to the dirt track races because my wife Sue and I love racing and Mario doesn?t get out very much. We took him to Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, South Carolina for the first time this year. They had just added a handicapped area that made it easier to bring Mario. I pointed out one of the local drivers named Rooster Ghant. Mario liked the name and gave him a wave. Later that night Rooster or ?Wooster? as ! Mario calls him stopped to talk to us. We had never met him before this. They took an instant liking to each other. Rooster said he?d bring a shirt for Mario the next week. Mario told every one at school about his friend ?Wooster? and about the shirt he would get. We were a little afraid to bring Mario that next week. These drivers have so much work to do and things to worry about. And if Rooster forgot to bring one Mario would be devastated. Well, before practice started that night Rooster saw us, called us over and had an autographed shirt for Mario. He said if he won the race he would come up and see us after the race. He won the race. Mario was looking high and low for Wooster. I tried to tell him Rooster was very busy and we might see him next week. Mario knew better. Soon the track announcer said, ?Were is Mario? I hear Rooster Ghant has a trophy to give you.? Rooster stops by and gives Mario his trophy for the night. Everyone is coming by to congratulate Mario! He doesn?t ! like school because kids pick on him. But at the track people love him! We were so proud of him and Rooster. Mario is sure that Wooster won because he yelled so loud. I know that if Rooster had lost, Mario would think he hadn?t hollered enough and it would have been his fault. While going through the pits after the race, looking for Rooster, we stopped to look at the car that won the big Late Model race of the night. That driver Dennis ?Rambo? Franklin saw Mario in his wheelchair with Roosters trophy. Rambo, who has never met us, goes into his large hauler and comes out with the big winners trophy and gives it to Mario. Now Mario has ?Wambo?s? trophy too.

          Mario has been told that he?s special. That explains the different classroom he goes to, why he can?t go out at night, and ! do the fun things that other kids do. Mario is special. Just let those eyes smile at you and you?ll know you are loved by someone special. I know Rooster might have won without Mario. But I know he did win because of Mario. I know Rambo isn?t quite sure why he gave Mario his big trophy. Maybe he saw Mario?s eyes smiling at him and knew that they needed each other. Because these hero drivers are special ? too.

                                                                                Larrie and Sue Ervin     July 2003

Many drivers have added trophies and autographed shirts to Mario?s collection. We are deeply moved by the generosity of the racing community.

Doctors had tried t! o clear up an infection in Mario?s right foot for years. Finally during the first week of January 2004 it was decided to amputate the foot.   He has healed since then, but a deteriorating leg resulted and in September it was necessary to remove the remaining leg at the knee. A few weeks later he needed surgery to remove stones in his bladder that had caused severe problems. Also his belly button, which is were he caths himself to urinate, had to be tightened up to prevent leakage. Also a tube was attached to his bowels to facilitate daily flushing of the bowel.

Mario has had 5 broken legs and spent months in a full body cast?twice!  He?s spent months at the Shrine hospital and several stays in hospitals in Wisconsin and North and South Carolina.

Now it?s the end of 2005 and Mario has just had a serious 8 hour operation to remove kidney stones and bladder stones. As we enter 2006 Doctors have told us he needs an operation to raise his urinary tract to the top of his bladder due to weakening muscles. It seems that this will be an ongoing situation.

Mario is a great kid and the luckiest little guy we?ll ever meet.




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