As Medical Costs Mount, Man With Spina Bifida Asks for Help — With a Smile

When Josh Bridgewater was born, doctors told his mother that her son would likely never walk due to complications for a congenital defect, spina bifida, which resulted in part of his spine protruding from his body at birth.

Josh Bridgewater Skateboarding

Forty years later, Josh is an avid skateboarder in Long Beach, Calif. who exudes and inspires with a positive attitude.

“I’m 40, and I’m enjoying life to the fullest,” he told Oshman Law recently.

Many of us would find it difficult to stay positive in Josh’s situation. Though he is able to enjoy skateboarding and surfing, he does so wearing diapers. He has been operated on 26 times, and the next surgical procedure is lurking somewhere in his future.

To top it off, he owes $70,000 in medical bills.

‘Positive Mental Attitude’

Josh’s positive attitude was a long time in the making.

He remembers the names he was called in school as a child. As you can imagine, a student with a urine bag at his side is a prime target for bullies. The taunts made him angry then. Josh would fight.

Josh Bridgewater-PMA All the way
Josh’s Positive Mental Attitude – PMA

It would be a long time before he developed what he calls PMA – positive mental attitude. Now it guides him every day.

He knows there are kids today going through the exact same experience. He was hesitant to offer words of inspiration to them because, he said, when he was young similar words would have had minimal impact.

“All I can tell them is that my experience is that it does get better,” he said. “Own your condition. Be happy with who you are. Don’t worry about what other people think. Ultimately, it’s their problem. They’re insecure. They don’t like things that are different.”

Reaching Out

With the help of friends, Josh has taken to the crowdfunding site GoFundMe in hopes that generous internet users can help alleviate the financial burden Josh and his wife Shawna are facing. You can find his campaign here.

If a Kickstarter campaign to make potato salad can collect more than $52,000 from more than 6,000 donors across the Internet, there’s no reason why a jovial man like Josh can’t rake in cash online. Right?

But, to date, Josh’s campaign has raised just $915.

Thankfully, a recent fundraiser in Long Beach brought in about $3,000. It garnered coverage from a Long Beach newspaper, opening the eyes of more people to Josh’s situation.

Josh has gone door to door and strikes up conversation with anyone who will listen. He said it’s been very difficult for him to put his hand out and ask people for money. He has had the best success, he said, by just being himself when talking to strangers.

“I just humble myself and be forthright with embarrassing parts of my life,” Josh said.

Moving Forward

The Bridgewaters’ financial troubles show no sign of waning. Electricity and telephone bills can’t always get paid, and their apartment sometimes goes dark.

Recently, their apartment building was sold to a new owner, and Josh expects the couple’s rent to rise. He doesn’t know if they’ll be able to afford it.

But, again — PMA.

“Such is life,” he said. “You just go along and do the best you can.”

Ted Oshman


Ted Oshman has been with The Oshman Firm since 1988 serving clients for over 25 years. Learn more about Ted's background and featured practice areas here.

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