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"You have turned my life around"
 

I am 87 years old, with a problem of the prostate gland. Before I met Dr. Baum, I went to the bathroom every 30-60 minutes. After Dr. Baum's treatment on my prostate, I go only 5 times per day and only 1 time at night! You turned my life around. I am so very grateful!

-Sidney Daigle


I want to thank you for your due diligence. You saved my life. I highly recommend you!

-Dwight Bastian


Thank you Dr. Baum! Because of you I'm back in the "rodeo"!

-Gerald Wallace

 


by Lauren Baum
(A senior at Newman High School in New Orleans, Louisiana
and the daughter of Dr. Neil Baum)

Can you imagine not being able to move? Not being able to walk, not being able to drive? Never knowing how it feels to catch a football or swing a tennis racquet? You couldn't even feed yourself. But what if you couldn't talk or express yourself either? You couldn't say hello and you couldn't say thank you. You couldn't even whisper to the person sitting next to you that you hope I keep my speech short. Now picture not being able to do any of these simple, everyday activities that each and every one of us takes for granted, and sitting right where you are today, as a high school student, attending regular classes, and then graduating with honors.

Maybe some of you have better imaginations than I do, but the idea of surviving a normal teenage life with these challenges was far beyond my comprehension. While this set of circumstances may still be implausible to many of you as well, this was the life that was given to my new friend, Shelley. Shelley is a nineteen year old young lady who was born with cerebral palsy, a non-progressive disorder caused by brain damage at birth resulting in speech and movement difficulty. While this disease has taken over her body, it has not taken over her mind or her heart.

When my dad brought home a newspaper article describing the miraculous courage and special strength that enabled her to graduate from ordinary high school using her head to type on the computer in order to communicate with her teachers and classmates, my friend, Laura McCammon, my sister, Alisa, and I knew immediately that there was something we must do to honor her achievements.

Our first idea was to use our own money to pay for a vacation for her and her parents. Because of the financial strain the disability has placed on such a hard working family, Shelley has had few opportunities to experience the world around her. She had never been on an airplane before, never stayed in a hotel, she had never even visited an aquarium or a zoo. So we were sure that giving her a vacation to New Orleans would undoubtedly be rewarding to her, as well as to ourselves.

However, we realized that, as with most experiences, it is the energy and effort put into the journey which in turn makes the destination more meaningful. Thus began our summer project of working toward the goal of a vacation for Shelley and her parents donated by the New Orleans community.

When I called Shelley's mom and expressed that my sister, my friend, and I wanted to bring her daughter to New Orleans for a weekend, she was excited and amazed by our suggestion. I think I was more amazed that she didn't hang up on me when she heard my proposal of three teenagers working to bring her handicapped daughter to New Orleans, the city that care supposedly forgot. But Shelley's mom didn't think we were crazy at all. She cried happy tears, touched by our good intentions and promised not to tell Shelley, knowing that while teenagers may have their hearts in the right place they might not have the motivation to follow through.

In early June, we began what seemed like an impossible task. For weeks, I felt like I was running in circles as we spent hours each day writing letters and sending information to various airlines and hotels in New Orleans. It was never easy to call such prestigious organizations and request donations, but by communicating Shelley's exceptional story, it was difficult for us to be turned down. By the time Shelley arrived in New Orleans, her entire vacation had been donated by the community, from hotel and airfare, to meals and entertainment. Shelley even left town with free film developments, souvenirs from each gift shop she visited, and two of the most valuable beanie babies.

At times, though, I must admit, I wanted to turn back and enjoy my summer vacation without having this added obligation hanging over my head. Nevertheless, as I look back on my weekend with Shelley, I realize that every minute spent with her was well worth the many hours invested in preparing for her visit.

I can't say that I wasn't nervous or anxious about meeting Shelley and learning to interact with a speechless girl for what I thought would be three endless days. The week before she came was filled with sleepless nights; my imagination was at it's height with all of the possibilities of disaster floating in and out of my mind. But I laugh to myself now as I recall my dad squeezing my trembling hand in the airport runway, reassuring me that everything would work out as planned. It seems unreal to remember my awe as I first watched Shelley communicate to her parents without the use of spoken words because by the end of the weekend, Shelley and I were able to communicate easily as well.

Even though Shelley can't use words she is filled with so much personality and charm. Her bright smile was contagious. She flirted with the waiters and was always the first to volunteer as my dad's assistant at his countless magic shows. She even laughed at his not-so-funny viagra jokes after hearing them ten times in one day. By the end of the first day, Shelley was pushing her dad aside so she could sit beside me at the dinner table. Together we decided what she would eat and I was able to feed her with no problem. Those moments created a silent, inexplicable bond and I came to know Shelley was secure in our friendship.

The special weekend flew by in what seemed like minutes. Although we had met Shelley and her parents just days before, we unanimously agreed that we were as close as family, bonded, as if we had known each other forever. The weekend taught me a lifetime of invaluable lessons. In only three days, I developed a friendship with a girl who can't speak. In only three days, I realized how many everyday activities I take for granted. But most of all, in only three days, I learned that the disability I perceived to hinder my friend Shelley was actually a difference that made her shine.

Now I'm not here to say that all of you need to have your dads go out and scan the country, searching for newspaper articles describing people that need your help, but I am here to tell you that opportunities to give to others are always surrounding each and every one of us. Maybe we can't just go out and change the world, but if you can make a difference in one person's life, if you can make that one person feel a little bit better about who they are, then you have changed the world in their eyes, and I promise you, the world will look better from your eyes too.

I can honestly tell you that because of Shelley, I am not the same person today that I was in June. You may think that this seems trite or insincere, but I can best sum up my experience with Shelley by quoting an e-mail I received from her just hours after I put her on her plane back to North Carolina, "You may think I am special, but I think God knew how special your family is and he knew I needed you. Thank you for looking beyond my handicap and looking into my heart." When I read this, I knew right away that I made a friendship that will last me a lifetime.