Joel Merton Durham Jr. 1991-2010

One of the last times I saw Joel he was at the kitchen table of his home in Deering living large with a homemade chocolate chip cookie in each hand.

Put Joel on a pony or take Joel for a ride on a snow machine and you had one happy little man.

Joel passed away Sunday, March 21, due to complications from a drop seizure and pneumonia. He was just 19 years old.

One of the most gratifying things The Coalition of NH Taxpayers has ever done was to assist Joel’s parents in keeping him, for his required education, at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center where he had been looked after well since he was about eleven.

Joel’s parents moved to a new school district, not any farther away from CMRC, whose special education team wanted to move him to what appeared to be a new, untested, in-house program. That is how CNHT became involved with the Durhams.

Joel did not have the power of speech, he weighed about seventy five lbs, and his mobility was limited. His medical condition required on site physicians, safety equipment, fluctuating amounts of medication at specific times, and expert care. The school acted as though this would all be taken care of just as soon as they could get him out of CMRC and into their system. We were concerned at the lack of understanding of the seriousness of Joel’s condition and tried to reason with the local school board - to no avail.

The first trial visit to the school by Joel resulted in a very bad seizure requiring an ambulance trip and two hour emergency room stay in Concord Hospital. Two CNHT Directors were on site and observed what happened. Still the school would not drop the idea of removing Joel from the rehab center.

This is where Joel’s parents, Cindi and Joel Sr., stepped up to the plate.

Joel had another episode after the visit to the school which kept him in Dartmouth Hospital for almost a week. Joel Sr. and Cindi acquired letters to submit to the school board from two well known Dartmouth associated neurologists with expertise in patients like their son. The doctors were adamant Joel not be moved. Joel's parents mapped out plans for no matter what legal actions might have to be taken to keep their son at CMRC.

The Durham’s gave power of attorney over Joel’s extensive medical condition to CNHT and we presented those medical records to each and every member of the school board as well as the local State Representative. The school board tried NOT to take the records. The school lawyer said he had never been presented with such a situation and left the decision to accept the records to the board.

Seeing there would be no way to avoid advance knowledge of Joel’s medical condition should anything happen to him – the school dropped the idea of moving Joel. We won.

I saw, as well as the rest of us at CNHT, what rock solid parents are made of during that six month ordeal. Joel didn’t have a life like you or I but had a good life and a very special family.

Good bye “Little Guy.”