About Laurin Huber

Laurin was on vacation before her senior year in high school. It was the summer of 1978. I thought this would be an appropriate time to take a mother-and-daughter trip, just the two of us. We went to New York City to see the sights. She had never been there, and it was a long way from her home in McAllen, Texas. The week was filled with dance classes and shows. We had a wonderful time.

The first Broadway show we saw was Eubie with Maurice and Gregory Hines. We loved the feeling that the Hines brothers had for the art of tap dancing!

I am the owner of a large dancing school in McAllen, Texas called Melba’s Dance School. Laurin grew up in my dance classes and was a promising student. She did excellent ballet, tap and jazz, and was the first class-one gymnast in South Texas. She spent several summers studying ballet with Bill Martin-Viscount, performing in Swan Lake, Giselle – all the classics.

Being in New York, for her, was an opportunity to take classes with some of the best dance teachers in the world. Her favorite jazz teacher was Jo Jo Smith, who offered her three jobs by the end of the week. We were very pleased and appreciated the offer, but told him that I had to get back to work and Laurin had to finish school. Jo Jo then offered her a full scholarship whenever she returned to New York.

Laurin graduated from high school and moved to New York. Her technique grew stronger with Jo Jo’s training. His classes looked like what we later saw on the television series, Fame. Frank Hatchett also complimented Laurin on her work. Everyone encouraged her and Jo Jo gave her a staff position.

Laurin called me one day, knowing that I was such a great fan of Gregory Hines, to tell me she had met him. Gregory was a regular visitor to the studio and often watched her dance. The New York people all felt that Laurin had star quality and were carefully monitoring her progress.

It all seemed as if she was well on her way to becoming a big success as a professional dancer – until the spring of 1980. Laurin took some time off from her busy schedule of dance classes and auditions to come back home for a short time. She was homesick. While in McAllen and taking classes at Pan American University, she was involved (as a passenger) in an automobile accident. She suffered a severe head injury and was hospitalized. She went into a coma and remained there for a year.

With the help of Ed Snapp, a neurophysical therapist, Laurin gradually came out of the coma; but her brain stem was damaged. She could not see at first, but after three trips to Houston and 76 hours of hyperbaric oxygen, her sight was restored. Her speech and motor coordination are limited, but she is not completely paralyzed. She can say, “ahhh” and blink yes/no responses. She can slightly move her arms and legs and turn her head. She has intellect and a sense of humor. She loves television, and laughs at the jokes in all the right places with no delay. Her smile can still light up a room!

This kind of tragedy is very difficult. We’d been through it before when Laurin’s father was killed in a car accident in 1971 while completing his Ph.D. at Texas A&M. Once again, we found we couldn’t make it without the support of friends. Both Jo Jo and Gregory called regularly to check on her progress.

Gregory-Hines-master-class

Gregory Hines volunteered to teach a free master tap class at Melba’s Dance School.

In November of 1987, while on tour with his show, Gregory Hines was booked into little ol’ McAllen, Texas. He called Laurin and me, and invited us to the show. We were thrilled and delighted. He offered to teach a free master tap class at my studio.  I made plans for Laurin to sit in on the class. It was the “coup de grace of the year,” as reported by the local newspaper. Laurin had not been to the studio in seven years. The wheelchair managed to make the sharp turn in the stairway, and she loved every minute of the class.

Laurin and Gregory Hines 2

Gregory Hines gave the gift of friendship.

The next evening, a special van brought Laurin to the Civic Center. Laurin was wheeled into the backstage entrance accompanied by her nurse, her grandmother and me. Gregory ran out to greet her, and she was placed on the side of the stage where she could watch the show. It had been seven years since she was backstage at the Civic Center, where she’d performed from the age of two. It had to be a special moment for her. I know it was for everyone else involved.

During his performance, at every opportunity, Gregory went offstage and talked to Laurin, encouraging her enjoyment. At the end of the show, he came forward to speak directly to the audience. He told them about the workshop he had conducted at my studio the previous evening. Then he said, “There is a legacy of dance that Melba has left and continues to bring to the community. I hope it is appreciated. There is nothing like it anywhere – even in the big cities. There is so much love of dance and feeling over there, and if you know Melba, then you know Laurin.” He never told the audience that she was backstage. That was our secret. Then he walked off the stage into the crowd and kissed Laurin’s grandmother and then he kissed me.

It was friends like this who lifted our spirits during some of the lowest and most difficult times. When you go through something this earth-shattering, you find out just how much a blessing it is to have friends who truly care. Some of Laurin’s friends from high school or dance classes still come to visit with her. She may not have smiled all week, but the moment she hears one of those familiar voices, she instantly lights up, breaking into a huge grin! Her friends are SO important to her. Their moral support and prayers means so much.

Laurin with GJ and Lupe

GJ and Lupe, two of Laurin’s best high school buddies, still visit her and offer encouragement.

 

Laurin and Friends

Laurin enjoys the company of her many friends.

Now, Laurin needs a different kind of support.

It’s been 34 years since the tragic accident. Medical experts say the average life expectancy of someone in Laurin’s condition is about four years. She’s obviously far outlived that, due mainly to the wonderful care she has received. However, all that care does not come cheaply. Her annual expenses total nearly $90,000.

Click the following link to see Laurin’s 2013 expenses, approved by the judge who oversees the expenditure of her settlement funds: http://www.welovelaurin.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/2014-02-25-Order-Approving-2013-Annual-Accounting.pdf. So far, we’ve covered all this through the careful management of the insurance settlement money she received, plus plenty of my own money. But Laurin’s money is about to run out.

Laurin-lift-w

One of Laurin’s nurses uses the power lift to move Laurin from her bed to her recliner. She also uses the lift to get her into the therapeutic whirlpool bath, seen here in the background.

The main expense, by far, is the wages paid to Laurin’s trained caregivers/nurses. This 24/7 care has become increasingly important, as Laurin’s needs have required more specialized care in recent years. She now has a tracheostomy tube (due to some breathing problems), which requires specific care and maintenance. She receives all her nutrition through a feeding tube directly into her stomach. This process is administered skillfully by her nurses. She is on oxygen most of the time. The caregivers monitor her catheter, keep her and her bed clean and turn her periodically to avoid bedsores. Laurin has a daily schedule, which includes therapy sessions in a whirlpool bath. Her room is equipped with a powered lift, which the nurses use to move Laurin from the bed to the bath or her wheelchair.  The caregivers must also monitor Laurin for signs of illness, since she cannot speak to complain when she feels pain or discomfort.

It costs plenty to run Melba’s Dance School (repairs, maintenance and improvements on an old building, insurance, taxes, salaries), and I don’t even take a salary myself. Plus, at 86 years old, I have many expenses of my own. On top of that, I also oversee care of my 105-year-old mother. The three of us all live in the same house, which must be maintained. Between my own money and Laurin’s insurance money, we have spent more than 3 million dollars on Laurin’s care over the last 34 years. I worry about what will happen to Laurin after my death.

After much thought, prayer and many discussions with family and close friends, I have decided to establish the We Love Laurin Special Needs Trust. This will enable Laurin to receive financial gifts from friends who wish to help, but without jeopardizing her eligibility for government aid programs such as Medicaid.

Laurin needs her friends to rally around her again. She needs financial help to keep receiving the care that she depends on to live. I humbly ask you to prayerfully consider whether you could assist Laurin by making a financial gift to her Trust. Whether a one-time gift or a monthly commitment, it would be huge blessing.

If you feel led to help, please make checks payable to the We Love Laurin Special Needs Trust and mail them to 605 N. McColl Circle, McAllen, TX 78501. If you prefer to give online directly to the trust through PayPal, please click on the “Donate” button at the top of this page (or the “Donate” button below).

If you have any fundraising ideas you would like to discuss or belong to an organization that could help, please call me at 956-686-7712 or 956-821-2772. You can also reach me by email by filling out the form below.

With Love,

Melba Huber

P.S. Please click here to read my comments about Laurin’s financial need and the future of Melba’s Dance.

 

 

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