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Judy Lynn Hansen and Diane Siemons

Diane & Judy
Diane Siemons and Judy Lynn Hansen exchange hugs. The closing of Agnews would force an end to their companionship.

"Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world."
--William James

Diane slowly wheels Judy down the wheelchair ramp toward the covered patio. The weather is glorious, and the two of them aim to enjoy it a bit. Theirs is a wonderful friendship based on love, companionship and total acceptance. Neither cares that the other has physical and mental problems.

Diane is a slender 36-year-old. Doctors don't really understand why, but they have determined that she operates at the level of a 4-year-old. She has a curved spine and is prone to grand mal seizures. None of this dampens her infectious smile and talkative, lively manner.

Judy has more severe disabilities. She was born with the birth defect meningeocyle, which is similar to spina bifida. Part of her brain was exposed at birth. Surgery was needed to cover the open areas, and afterward it was clear that she had suffered brain damage. Despite all of her troubles, Judy is smiling and vibrant. The 31-year-old has resided at Agnews since 1989.

After three years on a waiting list, it took a court order to obtain a spot for Judy at Agnews, and Judy's mom is reluctant to give it up. Five months ago the administration wanted Judy to try a community home, but her mother was concerned about disrupting the friendship Judy has with Diane.

Once outside, Diane cajoles Judy to smile for a picture. They laugh and tickle each other like kids in line for their school portraits. To outsiders, Judy's speech is hard to understand, yet Diane knows exactly what Judy wants or needs. During a brief separation for a picture with her mom, Diane watches Judy out of the corner of her eye to make sure she is fine.

"They understand each other. ... They miss each other when one goes home for the weekend. ... They need to stay together, or it would break the other's heart," Mrs. Hansen says.

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From the April 24-30, 1997 issue of Metro

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