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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Family reeling from losses in house fire

Monday, January 13, 2014

For one local woman whose family lost everything they own in a fire, the only thing keeping her going is caring for her daughter, she said.

“She’s my rock,” said Peggy Zimmerman of her daughter Lisa Wohlford. “I know I’ve got to be hers, but she’s mine.” 

Zimmerman and her husband Steve are slowly picking up the pieces of their lives after a fire on Jan. 6 ravaged their home in the 2000 block of Wingfield Orchard Road in Fieldale.

If it wasn’t for her handicapped daughter, Zimmerman said they may not have made it out alive.

“She cried loudly, and I came in from the next room and saw the flames,” she said. “They were just beginning to come up from the back of the stove. I ran to the kitchen to get the fire extinguisher, and it didn’t work. I didn’t know what to do next.”

Zimmerman’s daughter suffers from dystonia, which according to is a movement disorder that causes a person’s muscles to contract uncontrollably.

“I picked her up and carried her outside,” she said. “Lisa knew something was wrong.”

Wohlford is 44 years old and completely dependent upon Zimmerman for around-the-clock care. She’s suffered from generalized dystonia since she was 7 or 8 years old, according to Zimmerman.

“At 12 years old, she began to get very shaky and jerky,” she said. “Lisa’s had multiple broken bones and fractures. She could walk, run and do just about anything until she was 12. After her surgery, she could still walk, but she suffered a hip fracture when she was 19. She hasn’t walked since then.”

Since the fire, the family has stayed in a room at the Dutch Inn/Quality Inn provided by the American Red Cross and Grace Network. As of Sunday, they are scheduled to leave Wednesday morning. Zimmerman said they have lined up a place to rent, but finding the money for rent, utilities and other household expenses will be very difficult.

She added that trying to get vital information like social security cards, birth certificates and identification has been a challenge.

“It’s been almost impossible to do anything without identifying papers,” she said. “We are not prepared to move anywhere, yet. I’m at a loss here.”

The Red Cross supplied them with clothing and groceries in addition to the hotel stay, but one of the biggest needs for the family is medical equipment for Wohlford.

“She has to have a custom wheelchair – she doesn’t have any way to sit up on her own,” Zimmerman said. “We lost all her medical equipment in the fire. Walgreens and Kroger Pharmacy have helped us tremendously by refilling all of our prescriptions for free the day after the fire. I couldn’t thank them enough.”

Zimmerman said she is very thankful her family suffered no injuries, but their home was a total loss.

“I went back (Saturday) to look at the house, and it’s just terrible to see,” she said. “It’s unimaginable. I couldn’t bear to look.”

Dealing with the loss of their home is another tragedy in the lives of the Zimmerman/Wohlford family. Her husband suffered heart failure last year, Zimmerman said, which caused him to be out of work for a while. Once he returned to work, he severed a finger, which caused another long-term absence.

“We had gotten really far behind with our bills, and I’m not able to work because I provide full-time care for my daughter,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve had a lot on our plates, but we’re getting through it. At first, it was hard to concentrate, but I went on automatic pilot, I guess. My family is really helping me through this.”

Zimmerman wants to thank everyone who helped and continues to assist her family during this time. She said the Fieldale Fire Department, Fieldale Rescue Squad, Red Cross, Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry and all the pharmacists who stayed after hours to refill her daughter’s medication made all the difference.

“There are so many things so many people have done that I can’t name all of them,” she said. “We are thankful for everything.”

For anyone who would like to help the Zimmerman/Wohlford family, they can be reached at 647-3721, ext. 131 until Wednesday morning. They can also call 734-7784 and leave a message.


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