The Truth... What is it?

Another Special Life in Christ

These testimony lives are not stories of "role models". Jesus is the role model!
These are lives wonderfully touched & changed by Jesus!


Leah Fitzgerald:

(modified from article posted on Sat, May. 25, 2002 The State newspaper, South Carolina by Chuck Crumbo)

Triumph of the human spirit
(or Jesus Miracle?)

Teen creates beauty out of the darkness

Leah Fitzgerald draws roses. She sculpts unicorns from clay. She makes prints of dolphins jumping through ocean waves.

Art has always been one of Leah's loves. As a small child she would sit at the kitchen table and draw horses, dogs and butterflies from art books.

So when people praise her work, a broad smile widens across Leah's face, and her green eyes brighten with joy.

"It makes people happy," Leah said of her art. "That makes me feel nice."

Leah has one wish, though. She wants to see her art, too.

Leah is blinded by a rare nerve disorder called Batten's disease. It causes seizures. It saps her strength. Eventually, it will lead to dementia and death. There's no known cure.

But spare your pity for Leah Fitzgerald.

She doesn't need it.

"I can't see," Leah said, speaking in bursts of three- to-five word sentences. "I'm glad I do art. I'm happy. I have faith."

Friday night, Leah walked across the stage of the Carolina Coliseum as one of 354 members of Ridge View High School's Class of 2002.

Friends and family were there to cheer her on. Classmates and teachers were there too to assist Leah through another rite of passage. But Leah's success at Ridge View isn't measured by SAT scores, club memberships or athletic prowess.

Instead, it's about how she has made the best of every day and how she has touched others.

"I want people to know that she's sweet, and they should accept her for who she is," said a schoolmate and friend, 17-year-old Jodie Gibbons. "She would never do anything to hurt you."


Blonde and thin, Leah Fitzgerald is very much a teen-ager.

She has had her crushes on movie stars. When talk turns to boys, she looks away with a shy smile. Her fingernails are alternately painted in sparkly purple and silver, Ridge View's colors.

She talks on the phone with friends, tunes in to "I Love Lucy" reruns on the television, and sometimes balks when it's time for bed.

Food, of course, is a favorite topic. She likes chicken and fries.

And she likes flowers.

"I like to draw roses. They are my sister's favorite," Leah said, referring to her only sibling, 20-year-old Amanda.

Like Leah, Amanda suffers from Batten's disease. Her condition is much worse. As frail as she is, Leah helps her mother, Donna Fitzgerald, a retired Army nurse and single parent, care for Amanda.

The seizures that often afflict her sister are just a routine part of Leah's world.

A deep faith in God and a desire to make every day count keep Fitzgerald and her daughters together as they cope with Batten's disease.

"We just try to keep life as happy as possible and as normal as possible," Fitzgerald said.


In 1994, when Leah was 9, Donna Fitzgerald learned both of her daughters were losing their sight to Batten's.

The disease is rare in the United States; only 300 to 350 new cases are reported each year. It shows its early symptoms around ages 5 to 10, usually vision problems or seizures.

Although the family had traveled a good bit during her Army career, Donna Fitzgerald was determined her girls would see much of its wonders before their world darkened.

So in 1995, they went to Europe, visiting top galleries in France, England and Italy including the renowned Musee du Louvre in Paris.

A couple of years ago, teachers and administrators at Ridge View noticed Leah becoming more withdrawn as her disease progressed. She's in the Career Prep program for students with learning disabilities.

Because she needed more individual attention, they added Randall Clamp, who's studying to be an art teacher at USC, to the Special Services Department.

Clamp, a soft-spoken man with long blond hair and beard, met with Leah and talked about their mutual love of art.

He'd read art books to her, describe the pictures and discuss the lives of the masters.

Leonardo da Vinci was her favorite, she said.

Then Clamp asked her to draw a picture.

At the time, Leah still had some peripheral vision and could see thick, black lines on white paper.

Her first piece was a rose.

Clamp requested another drawing. This time it was a seal, full of expression and dimension. Then she drew a dog, a Christmas angel, and many more until she simply declared she was through.

"I was amazed," Clamp said. "Leah was a gifted artist."

As her vision worsened, her pieces evolved into abstract works of art, chaotic and full of misplaced detail.

Leah then tried more tactile forms of art, including ceramics and printmaking with Styrofoam sheets.

While she knows Braille and sign language, using her hands to make art was a breakthrough.

"Mr. Clamp taught me I have 10 eyes," Leah said, raising her hands and spreading her fingers apart.


Leah's art is nothing less than a triumph of her zest for life, her mother said.

"Leah knows she's not going to live out a full life," Fitzgerald said. "Art is her way of making a mark in the world, leaving something behind."

But there's more to Leah.

Leah has been as much a teacher as a student, said Jimmy Crosby, who has been one of her teachers since middle school.

"She teaches you more about the human spirit and the approach we take to everyday life," Crosby said. "I look at my own life. I see how precious and fragile it is."

Ridge View principal Sharon Buddin said Leah also is a positive influence on students who have worked with her as tutors and peers.

"Her strength is that other kids realize their strengths," Buddin said. "They are so willing to learn a tremendous amount about patience and dealing with people with a wide range of disabilities.

Schoolmate Whit Meetze, 17, sometimes holds Leah's hand as she makes her way through the hallways, teeming with hundreds of teens rushing to their lockers and classrooms.

"She's just a part of the school," Meetze said. "No one stares. She respects people, and she has taught us how to accept others."

When Clamp thinks of Leah and what she has accomplished, he pauses for a moment and reflects. She'll always be someone he remembers, he said.

"It breaks your heart, but you can't change that," he said. "The opportunity to work with Leah has truly been a blessing."

While her classmates are heading off to college, the military or a job, the future for Leah will be more of Career Prep at Ridge View. Federal law requires schools to teach students with learning disabilities until they're 21.

Still, she dreams of someday leaving Ridge View and having a job working with children.

There is another dream she harbors. It's one she firmly believes will happen.

"I will see again," Leah said.

And when will that be?

"When I go to heaven."

See other faith & health information [here]. 

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(posted 25 May 2002)


You have just read a very brief example of the powerful, supernatural transformation of a person's life which is possible through the acceptance of Jesus as your savior. Are you tired of life as it now is for you? He will accept you just as you are right this second! Consider accepting Jesus now [check it out]!