August 9th started like any other day for Tamaqua resident Jamie Folweiler.
Little did he know it was to be the start of a very difficult journey.
After a kidney and bladder infection had put him out of commission for a number of weeks, he was admitted to Gnaden Huetten Hospital because the infections had entered his blood stream.
Since Folweiler is wheelchair bound, skin break down is a daily battle. Doctors discovered that he had MRSA a bacterium responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in a wound and spent seven days in the ICU before being transferred to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.
It was there that he was placed in the Kindred Unit, a special unit dedicated to long-term medical care. He underwent his first operation on Aug. 18, which was followed by others on Aug. 20, Aug. 29, and Sept. 8.
Folweiler is home now, but accepts the possibility of facing more operations in the future. Having been in and out of hospitals over the years, he is used to seeing doctors and hospitals.
Fighting is nothing new to Folweiler, who is well known as a physical disability and animal-rights advocate. He was born with Spinda Bifida, a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth.
Despite being told by doctors that he would never walk, he eventually proved them wrong and learned to walk with the aid of crutches and braces until the age of 15. Even though he walked for a period of time, it was a painful ordeal.
He was prone to easily breaking bones in his legs; and this condition landed him in a wheelchair for life. But the physical setbacks failed to deter him. He simply referred to his wheelchair as an accessory he got to "wear" daily.
After graduating from high school in 1992, he continued his education to earn a business degree. Not letting his physical disability slow him down, Folweiler became an advocate for causes close to his heart, including fighting for the physically challenged and protecting animals.
"When I see a need, that becomes my mission," he said.
During Tamaqua's downtown streetscapre project, Folweiler promoted accessibility awareness throughout the town, making sure that consideration was given to the plight of the disabled. Using guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he helped to orchestrate a local business accessibility survey which helped them accommodate their disabled customers.
Folweiler also met with the local school board to point out the seating and wheelchair accessibility deficiencies after a $600,000 all-weather track was installed at the football stadium.
He also worked with community volunteers to foster improvements at local street fairs, such as implementation of a 36-inch path of travel.
Flyers have been placed throughout the area telling how Folweiler has given so much of his time and effort in the service of others but now faces his own physical challenges.
"Jamie has fought for so many rights for humans and animals, that now it his mission to fight for his life," it states.
Jamie was born in 1973, the son of Ed and Donna Hill Folweiler. He credits his friends, parents and two older siblings, Edward, Jr. and Donna, for providing the inspiration to battle forward.
Friends and family are holding a hundred-mile motorcycle ride and jamboree this Sunday for Folweiler at the West Penn Rod and Gun Club, 1047 Clamtown Road. The event will consist of a 100-mile motorcycle ride at 10:30 a.m., with registration starting at 8 a.m.
The jamboree will also include a spaghetti dinner, refreshments, Crazy White Boyz Stunt Show, tattooing, a basket raffle, lottery tickets, candle sale, music and many other events.
Organizers stressed that the event will last all day and night.