Oct 27, 2009

Governor gives caregiver award to student

by Cat Hewett

The six winners, including Davis-Leonard, of the 2009 Governor’s Caregiver Award will be honored at a ceremony Nov. 17, at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond.

“I was really surprised,” Davis-Leonard said when she learned about her nomination. “I started crying I was so surprised.”

The VCSW received 55 nominations from around Virginia, from which Davis-Leonard and the five other winners were chosen. The winners will receive certificates signed by Governor Tim Kaine and each of their stories will be read aloud.

“The award symbolically honors the thousands of selfless individuals who voluntarily care for family and friends,” VCSW staff member Karin Clark wrote in Davis-Leonard’s award letter.

On her 17th birthday — Nov. 23, 2007 — Davis-Leonard became one of the two primary caregivers for her grandmother Shirley Wood. Wood suffered multiple strokes and took drugs that left her in a coma. Wood moved in with her daughter and granddaughter in Jan. 2008, and has lived with them ever since.

“My mother tells me while she was so ill the only thing she remembers is Ruth by her bedside in neuro intensive care calling her name,” Davis-Leonard’s mother Natalie Leonard wrote in the letter nominating her daughter.

“My family has been through a lot in the past few years, and I guess my mom just thought that I deserved it with everything that happened and me getting through,” Davis-Leonard said.

“This past year and a half has been the best and worst time of my life,” Davis-Leonard wrote in a paper for a class in April. “My family has been through so much pain and suffering but it helped us to grow together as a family and especially in our faith in God.”

Davis-Leonard went on to describe her despair at seeing her grandmother so ill and the pressure of being a primary caregiver.

“Many days I am exhausted, and I do not think I can go on, but I find out again and again that God gives me the ultimate strength to keep going,” Davis-Leonard said.

Davis-Leonard was in charge of driving her grandmother to an adult care center every morning, picking her up and putting her to bed every night. Davis-Leonard was responsible for giving insulin shots and eye drops, dispensing medicine, giving her grandmother showers and tending to all her daily needs.

“Ruth is truly a humble, caring human being,” Leonard wrote. “With the help of Ruth I was able to make sure my mother received good care and saw her recuperate from her stroke in leaps and bounds. Without her I could not have met the needs of both of my parents and the ongoing care of my mother.”

Contact Cat Hewett at cahewett@liberty.edu.

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