Community comes together to guide Columbia woman through National Zoo

October 04, 1991|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,Sun Staff Correspondent

WASHINGTON — The name of the Rev. Arthur Lillicropp, director of pastoral counseling services at Howard County General Hospital, was misspelled in yesterday's editions of The Sun.

WASHINGTON -- It was near the hippopotamus pool that Terrie Sue McCulley let anyone know that her visit to the National Zoo was registering. She squeezed the Rev. Arthur Lilliprop's hand and snickered. Just a little.

"She's doing that, Lu," Rev. Lilliprop, director of pastoral counseling services at Howard County General Hospital, called to Ms. McCulley's mother. "She's squeezing my hand and going . . ." He pulled down the corners of his mouth and snickered. Just a little.


Ms. McCulley, stricken with severe encephalitis when she was bitten by a mosquito 23 years ago, has been bedridden for the last decade, vulnerable to repeated seizures and occasional strokes as the paralysis in her left side has worsened.

Yesterday, strapped carefully onto a gurney with two paramedics at her side, she received a guided tour of the zoo. "Terrie's time is getting limited," explained her mother, Louise McCulley, who lives in a town house in Columbia with her daughter, a younger son and his wife, their two children, five cats and a dog.

"I've seen the longing in her eyes when she sees ads for the zoo on television. She wants to see the animals in person. It was a bone I got a hold of and I wouldn't let go," Mrs. McCulley said.

After months of scraping for help without much success, she asked Kay Hartleb, the Howard County register of wills and a family friend, for suggestions. Mrs. Hartleb talked to Sheriff Michael A. Chiuchiolo, who contacted friends at Maryland Ambulance Service. The trip was arranged within days.

"When the sheriff called us, he didn't mention any names, but we've transported Terrie many times and we began to recognize the story," said Paul Harans, director of the service. "We were only too happy to do it."

The ambulance arrived about 10 a.m. yesterday as neighbors and relatives gathered in the parking lot outside the family's town house on Indian Camp Road. In a corner of the living room, Ms. McCulley lay on her bed beneath a bouquet of helium-filled ballons dressed in a watermelon-colored suit and white blouse and wearing pearl barrettes in her hair.

Paramedics Jeffrey Bedford and Craig Holley eased Ms. McCulley onto the gurney as her brother, Donald McCulley, loaded the trunk of his car with coolers full of fried chicken, macaroni salad, potato chips and sodas. Soon, the ambulance eased out of the cul de sac, followed by a caravan of cars.

At the zoo, guide Marilyn Burgerman hung close by Ms. McCulley's side, pointing out the animals and birds as the paramedics pushed the gurney along the narrow, winding paths. Past the kangaroos and the snowy owl they went, up the hill by the Bactrian Camels and into the Panda House, then down another hill to see the hippos and rhinoceros.

"Hey, sissy, hey, sissy, you see that?" Mr. McCulley asked his sister, snapping one picture after another.

Although Ms. McCulley, who had been given medication to protect her from seizures during the trip, only nodded and blinked her eyes, Melanie Newman, a former hospital roommate who became a close friend, insisted she would have plenty to say later.

"Terrie Sue plays possum when there's a lot of excitement going on around her," Ms. Newman said. "But, believe me, we'll hear all about it later."

After lunch, Mr. McCulley pulled a cake decorated with an elephant from its hiding place and led the singing of "Happy Birthday." Ms. McCulley, who was eight when the mosquito bit her, will turn 31 Oct. 20.

"In all these years, Terrie's never asked for anything," her mother said. "She's never had a bike, never had skates. I had to have this for her."

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