Custom wheelchair would be ‘life-changing’ for Kings sophomore

Emma Helphenstine, 15, a sophomore at Kings High School, hugs her support dog Penelope.

The Enquirer and United Way of Greater Cincinnati have joined forces for the 34th year to help families in need with the Wish List program. This is the seventh of eight stories that will run this month.

Lisa Helphenstine retrieves her daughter’s medications and places them on a table in their South Lebanon home. Several dozen bottles, boxes and dispensers contain the pills that Emma, 15, takes daily. Fifteen in the morning; one in the afternoon; 10 more at night.

Among them is a new medication that must be injected. Lisa says she’ll watch a video to learn how to do it.

“Can you practice on the dog?” Emma jokes, referring to her pug Penelope, a registered support dog that was a Christmas gift three years ago.

Emma Helphenstine, 15, and her mother, Lisa, talk about a new injection, just one of the 30 drugs that she must take every morning.

The many medications reflect Emma’s struggles with a variety of health issues.  

She was born without the valve that controls blood flow from the heart to the lungs, and as a result, she received a heart transplant when she was one month old.   

At age 10, she developed a serious complication from anti-rejection medicine. “Once she got (that),” her mother says, “everything else started to happen, all the bad things.”

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