Holiday hardship

Christian Heller Jr., right, laughs as he visits with his niece Rebecca, 8, at the Hellers’ home Friday in Clovis. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Mike Linn: CNJ staff writer

Christian Heller Jr. wheels his way to the living room, a tight grin on his face and a desire to have what most people take for granted.

Paralyzed from the ribs down after a car accident this summer, Heller Jr. said every day he thinks of what life would be like to walk again.

The chances are slim, he said, but he knows feeling sorry for himself won’t help.

“I tell myself I’ve got to make it,” he said.

Two-and-a-half weeks out of a four-month hospital stay that is costing upwards of $2 million, Heller Jr. and his family say this year’s Christmas’ budget is extremely tight. Hearing residents talk about their Christmas wish lists bothers the family.

“It’s disturbing, hearing people say ‘I want a new DVD player, I want a new Xbox,’” Heller Jr.’s father Christian Heller Sr. said. “What do I want? I have him right here,” he added, pointing to his son.

The Hellers aren’t the only ones who are bothered by the commercialism of Christmas. In fact, high expectations during the holidays can be a downer for many, said Clovis counselor Charlotte Farkas.

“There’s a lot of commercialism out there and people expect that their holidays are going to be wonderful — commercials showing everybody laughing and hugging — and sometimes that’s not the way it is so it makes it by comparison seem so much worse,” Farkas said.

Besides high expectations, Farkas said increased alcohol use during the holidays and family conflicts can contribute to difficult times for some people.

To combat those feelings, Farkas recommends staying active and getting involved in community activities such as volunteer work.

While volunteer work would be difficult for Heller Jr. — it takes him almost two hours to get dressed and showered in the morning — he did say cutting up with his family keeps his spirits high.

Participating in physical therapy three days a week for an hour and getting intravenous treatments daily keep Heller Jr. busy. Before his return to Clovis from a Lubbock hospital, Heller Jr. was bed-ridden since July 17 when his 1994 Buick station wagon was hit from behind near the corner of 21st and Prince streets.

A Curry County grand jury has indicted Tim Walton, 44, on charges of great bodily injury by vehicle and driving while intoxicated in connection with the accident.

Since the incident, Heller Sr. said his local cab company has seen a drop in business. Couple that with $20,000 in co-payments for Heller Jr.’s medical expenses and the Heller family said there will be fewer presents under the tree this year.

It’s stressful, they say, but there’s always something under the tree for everybody who comes over for Christmas.

“Our family is the giving kind,” said Heller Jr.’s niece, 8-year-old Rebecca, “the giving kind with no money.”