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Gene's Machine offers after-hours help to family in need

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 8, 2012 at 3:08 a.m.
Updated Aug. 9, 2012 at 3:09 a.m.


While many businesses are content to lock up doors and shut down service once 5 p.m. Friday rolls around, others make themselves available, no matter the time.

One Victoria doctor said he was touched by the round-the-clock service a local company offered.

It all began July 27, as Dr. J. Armando Diaz wrapped up his Friday evening shift at the clinic. A call came in from family visiting from Mexico that his niece, Haide Barron, needed his help.

Haide was born with spina bifida, a spinal cord defect that prevents brain signals from reaching the extremities. That day, the brace that attached at her thigh and supported her entire leg, broke.

Without it, the 15-year-old couldn't walk.

"Her father said, 'We have to find a welder,'" Diaz said, explaining it was 8 p.m. on a Friday, when he began making calls. "But no one answered the phone. I couldn't get anybody."

The search resumed the next morning, when the doctor took to Google. It was there that he struck gold.

Or, at least, soldered metal.

The online hunt led to Gene's Machine, a Victoria welding and machine shop that offered to help when others couldn't work on a Saturday or didn't have the equipment.

An answering service put Diaz in touch with the man on call, who connected him with company Vice President Wesley Pratka.

Pratka said he ventured out to the business shortly after the call came in, and found welder Daniel "Woody" Woods already out doing work.

The staff at Gene's Machine had some prior experience with medical devices - a friend of the company goes in from time to time for work on his wheelchair - but Pratka said there was no guarantee they could help Haide. Still, he invited the family out to the shop at noon.

Woods welded the piece together in about an hour.

The result, Diaz said, was better than expected.

"It was perfectly welded," he said, recalling watching his niece smile as she attached the braces and took a tentative few steps. "There we were, these big guys, almost in tears because we saw how happy she was."

Gene's Machine wouldn't accept the money the family offered for the services, and Pratka said fixing the problem was reward enough. Unless such repairs call for expensive pieces or so on, they generally don't charge.

Pratka said the company operates on Christian values and tries to help when it can. It's simply the right thing to do, said the man, who shied away from the publicity.

"It touched our hearts. It was the least we could do," he said. "That poor little girl - she's had a hard road. If we could help make her weekend better, it was worth it."

Diaz said he was grateful to the company, and said people often take small kindnesses for granted.

Sometimes, he said, it's the small gestures that make the most difference.

"That's what makes people successful. To give without getting anything in return," Diaz said. "We can contribute a lot if we give just a little of us."

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