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The Faces of '96

On to Joystick:

Sylvia Prado

December 27, 1996|MIMI KO CRUZ

An inmate author does his best to save children from a life of crime.

An actress struggles to regain her life and livelihood after losing both legs in a crash.

The wife of a socially prominent attorney leaves her husband and children to marry a convicted murderer.

A wife-attorney defends her White House advisor-husband after he is photographed in the arms of another woman.

You met these remarkable people on the pages of Life & Style in 1996. Our writers and photographers took you into their worlds for a moment, to ponder their dilemmas and learn about what makes them tick.

And then, because the news is the news, they vanished from our view.

But their stories did not end once you had read about them. Here, we catch up with several of 1996's most memorable people.

*

Sylvia Prado, the Santa Ana Valley High School senior who was trapped for years in a body that kept her from communicating, is learning to use a joystick.

Co-workers of Sylvia's father had pitched in buy her a specialized laptop computer that allows her to write messages.

The joystick will eventually be connected to her computer, wheelchair, television and the lights in her room so she can begin to gain independence.

Since teacher Jeannie McCabe discovered that Sylvia was alert and bright despite the severe injuries she suffered in a car accident several years ago, she has made great progress.

When at age 13 she was struck by a car as she crossed a street near her home, Sylvia suffered major head injuries and was labeled severely disabled, mentally and physically. Through the years, she could not eat, sit up or do anything for herself. She also could not let anyone know what she was feeling or thinking.

Her computer equipped with a chin switch helps her do just that.

When Santa Ana police officers read about Sylvia and her dream to work in law enforcement, they went to her school to give her encouragement and present her with stickers, pencils and a badge bearing a police insignia.

Sylvia's parents and sister give her constant care at home. The family cannot afford specialized therapy but hope someone will help provide therapy for Sylvia, now 19, after she graduates in the spring.

Meanwhile, Sylvia's teacher is trying to replace $2,000 belonging to her special-education students that was designated for a field trip. The money, which was in McCabe's car, was lost when the car was stolen recently.

McCabe remains upbeat about Sylvia's future. She is "still progressing," McCabe says. "We're working on the new joystick, and Sylvia will never give up her dream."

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