Thursday, May 1, 1997

Winters’ Boy Continues Education On CDC-Donated Computer - May 1997

By Debra Ramos, Winters Express Editor

Reprinted by permission

C.J. Russell’s left arm might still be weak, but his smile muscles were working just fine last week when he sat down for the first time behind his new computer.

Thanks to the efforts of the State of California Department of Corrections and the Winters School District, C. J. will be able to do his homestudy schooling at home while he recovers from a rare condition known as Moyamoya Disease.

C. J. underwent surgery for the disease in December, which involved drilling four dime-sized holes in his skull along with medication treatment. It is hoped that the procedure will encourage the growth of new blood vessels in C. J.’s brain to replace the abnormal cluster of blood vessels that are gradually collapsing and causing C. J. to suffer strokes.

Doctors will determine next month whether the procedure worked. If it didn’t, C. J. may face more extensive brain surgery.

Judy Thompson, budgets and special programs coordinator for the Department of Corrections, was the person who brought C. J. and the computer together.

Thompson, a Winters resident, read about C. J.’s plight in the Express in December, and then read a report about the Department of Correction’s recent donation of 40 refurbished computers to the Winters School District.

The computers were refurbished by prisoners at the California State Prison in Solano County as part of a Detweiler Foundation program which locates computers, has them refurbished by prisoners and then distributes the computers to school districts.

In the Express article about the computers, Thompson noted that the donated computers were put in storage because the Winters school buildings do not have the electrical capacity to run the computers.

Thompson arranged for the school district to take one of the computers out of storage to give to C. J., who is continuing his education in home school.

Although C. J.’s hair has grown back, he still has holes in his skull and cannot risk the chance of injuring his brain by attending school.

In addition, because the blood vessels in his brain are very fragile, he cannot exert himself or become upset because he could suffer another stroke. At 7 years of age, he has already had several strokes.

C. J.’s parents have been faced with the task of trying to keep a very active 7-year-old still and quiet for months, and having the computer will help with this effort as well as assist him with his schoolwork.

C. J. was waiting on his front porch with a big grin on the morning of March 6 as Thompson and her coworker, Jim Bruce, pulled into the driveway with the refurbished computer as well as an added surprise.

Bruce, who supervises vocational instruction, education and the inmate programs unit for the Department of Corrections, had secured a laptop computer for C. J. and loaded it with educational programs and games. C. J. can use the laptop while in the car or resting in bed.

It didn’t take long for Thompson and Bruce to orient C. J. to his new technology. His home-school teacher visited C. J. the next day to show him how to use the computers to continue with his homework.

C. J.’s mother, Julia, says the doctors remain skeptical about whether C. J. will ever be able to return to school, but she and her husband, Ray, are still hoping that will happen someday.

In the meantime, Julia says C. J. would really appreciate some playmates. C. J., who does not have any brothers or sisters and lives out in the country, is getting a bit lonesome. He can play quietly, doing activities such as video games, watching movies, drawing or reading, and his condition is not contagious.

Anyone who has a child about C. J.’s age who might like to be his playmate for an afternoon or two can call Julia, 795-0704, to talk about it.

While C. J. is waiting for someone to play with, he is content sitting behind his new computer. Before Thompson and Bruce left his house, C. J. motioned them over to look at what he had typed on his computer screen.

It said, "thankyouverymuch."