In 2005, Ned Sullivan was your typical college student—a senior at the University of Arizona studying communications and planning for a future career in sports marketing. His life changed in an instant when a serious car crash left him a quadriplegic. While Ned was recovering, his sisters learned about Helping Hands at a school presentation and introduced him to the program. In 2006, he was matched with his service monkey, Kasey.*
Ned and Kasey celebrated their 10-year anniversary together in December.
"I got Kasey a little over a year after my accident,” said Ned. “So it is almost like all I know is life with Kasey."
In the beginning after his accident, Ned was discouraged. He was used to being an independent young man living on his own. Now, he had very little movement in his arms and none in his legs. Kasey would do many tasks for Ned, including fetching a dropped object, turning a light switch on and off, and even helping with the remote when they were watching a Red Sox game. Over time, Ned’s abilities have improved.
“When I come home after a tough physical therapy session, Kasey is waiting for me and is so excited to see me. This encourages me to keep on working so hard. And it is paying off! In the 10 years we have been together, Kasey has seen me go from just sitting in the chair and not moving my arms much, to having movement in my arms and hands, and some in my legs.”
Kasey has adapted to Ned’s changing abilities by always finding new ways to help and challenge him. Ned attributes their close relationship to the fact that they have been growing and changing together—forging a new path as a team.
But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. “One time over the holidays—this was in the first year of her living with us,” recalled Ned, “mom had her on her shoulder going into the kitchen. Kasey jumped off her shoulder, right into the pumpkin pie. The pumpkin pie was topped with whipped cream, so we have a picture of her simply covered in whipped cream and pie. She took a bath in that pumpkin pie.” It is stories like this that bring a smile to Ned’s face. No matter how many times Kasey fetches the dropped remote or phone, it is the companionship and the bond that they share that is so important to Ned. “I am uplifted by how smart she is in her ability to constantly keep me on my toes,” Ned explains.
She watches everything and learns everything and remembers everything. I recognize her intelligence and am thankful for her. It takes two to tango and we have been dance partners for a really long time, now.
*You may be familiar with the book “Kasey to the Rescue,” written by Ned’s mother, Ellen Rogers, documenting his journey. A French edition was just published in April, 2017.
See Ned and Kasey today in this 2 minute film celebrating a decade together.