At the age of nine months, Joshua Waleryszak was diagnosed as mentally retarded. Several years later, he was stricken by a seizure disorder not uncommon in children with developmental disabilities. He suffered several life-threatening illnesses, but because he could not speak, he could not tell anyone if he was hurt. When he was 12, Joshua lost his battle to live. More than 350 people attended his memorial service, many of them Seattle firefighters wearing dress uniforms to honor their colleague, Joshua's mother, and Joshua. As part of his legacy, Joshua donated both kidneys and his liver.
Joshua Thomas Waleryszak was born in 1981 to his loving parents Judy and Thomas. His first months were unremarkable except for earlier-than-usual developments, such as rolling over at two weeks. By the time he was nine months old, he preferred drinking out of a glass over bottle feeding.
At that same time, Joshua was not making an effort to sit up and had not achieved other developmental targets appropriate for his age. A complex series of tests revealed his disability: Joshua had a "developmental delay of unknown etiology." In other words, he was mentally retarded for no apparent reason.
Regardless of his disabilities, Joshua attracted people. Strangers would come up to his parents and tell them what a pleasure it was to see him. He lit up the room and people gravitated toward him.
In early 1987, Joshua was stricken with a seizure disorder that is not uncommon in children with developmental disabilities. Between the seizures and the drug therapy used to try and control them, most of Joshua's progress was erased. Many times Joshua was faced with life-threatening illnesses and many hospitalizations. Because he could not speak, he could not tell anyone if he hurt and, if so, where and how much he hurt.
Joshua lost his battle to live on August 23, 1993. He was 12 years old. At his memorial service, the Seattle Fire Department (Judy's employer) ordered that a medic van, a fire engine and a ladder truck be parked in front of the church where his memorial service was held. This is an honor that is usually only granted to fallen firefighters and some retired firefighters who have died. More than 350 people attended his memorial service, many of them Seattle firefighters in dress uniforms.
This, however, was not the end of Joshua's legacy. In his last farewell to life, Joshua donated both of his kidneys and his liver. These organs were transplanted into two men and an art student. The final act of Joshua's legacy lives on.