Tuesday, August 2, 2011

One family's battle

Asheville's Susan Reinhardt on one family's battle for help with medical problems they believe stem from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam

Rhonda Lunsford never got the big white wedding she dreamed of, though she loved a man like a husband for 15 years.

Had she married him, she would have lost her government benefits.

At 39, this Swannanoa woman spends most of her time lying in bed, one leg amputated and the other swelling more than 100 pounds.

Her aunt believes with all her heart the problems of Rhonda and her younger brother, whose legs are also riddled with swelling and disease, came from Agent Orange sprayed near their father, Roger Lunsford, in Vietnam.

While a fourth-grader who loved skating, her parents discovered one leg growing bigger than the other. Today, she’s ballooned to 450 pounds and can barely fit in her wheelchair.

Her aunt, Gail Muse, has been her biggest advocate, spending more than 25 years writing every government official or politician she could, blaming the children’s illnesses on the Agent Orange exposure from their dad’s time in Vietnam.

She told me I was her last hope. She wants someone to read this and find a way to treat or cure her family’s medical problems that have stolen their chances for a normal life.

“They have suffered way too much for too many years,” said Muse, of Swannanoa. “My brother (Roger) volunteered for the Army when he was 17, then volunteered to go to Vietnam. There, he was exposed to Agent Orange many times, and his barracks were directly across from where they mixed it and sprayed all around the area to keep weeds down.”

READ MORE: http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20110731/COLUMNISTS16/307310026/Family-believes-Agent-Orange-caused-misery?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Frontpage|s

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