"Extreme Makeover" to feature Georgia family, community this Sunday

Anaiah Rucker doesn't remember the instant that changed her family's life. She remembers the ambulance ride. The nearly two months at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. The first time she stood on a prosthetic limb.

But the moment she darted in front of a moving truck on a dark and rainy February morning to push her sister Camry to safety is, mercifully, missing from her memory.

"I dream about the accident," said Anaiah, 10. "Every time I dream about it I wake up and I just can't sleep."

Happier memories have surrounded the Madison fifth grader and her family in the months since her accident, too. Bus drivers held a barbecue fundraiser. Teachers held a benefit 5K race. High school students collected change and younger schoolchildren sold bottle cap necklaces to raise money. Anaiah has also gotten to meet celebrities including Orlando Magic player Dwight Howard, whose foundation made a $50,000 donation, and the band Drivin' N Cryin', who performed a concert that raised $14,000.

As her story attracted national media attention, producers from the reality show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" contacted the family and filmed the construction of a new wheelchair-accessible home for Anaiah and her family in July. The episode airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on Channel 2.

"It's very overwhelming," said Anaiah's mom, Andrea Taylor.

Even before the accident, life was a struggle. Taylor and her daughters were living in a crumbling, century-old home with roof damage and holes in the floor.

"It was basically falling apart," Taylor said. Donations from the community put the family up in temporary housing for a while, and after "Extreme Makeover" got in touch, local residents jumped at the chance to get involved. More than 1,500 people contributed thousands of volunteer hours, and 90 percent of the materials used to build the 2,500 square foot home, on land donated by an area lawyer and businessman, were contributions.

The three-bedroom, three-bath home with soaring ceilings and wide doorways -- even a playhouse with a wheelchair lift -- caused such a stir that Taylor had to put a sign on the door politely asking for no visitors.

"The first day we moved in, people were coming, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. People I'd never met," she mused. "One person walked in through the garage."

The home's stylish decor includes large framed photos of Anaiah and Camry. They're the first things Taylor sees when she walks in the door.

"It was amazing," Taylor said of the community support she and the girls have received. "I thought it was something my family would have to go through alone."

On the morning of the accident, she was sitting on the porch as the girls waited for the school bus. Camry, 6, saw the bus coming and started across the street. Perhaps because of her raincoat hood, she didn't see the oncoming truck. Anaiah did.

"I saw Camry go up in the air," Taylor said "I looked down and saw Anaiah's shoes and socks laying in the road. She was lying there, not moving, not breathing."

Anaiah's right leg was broken and her left leg had to be amputated above the knee. She lost a kidney. After her long stay at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Anaiah came home determined to start school with her class this fall.

"She has been our inspiration," said Kim Barrett, Anaiah's math teacher. In the hallways, Anaiah is a star. As she rolled herself down the hallway one day this week, every student she passed greeted her with smiles and waves. Her friends all plan to watch her on television. She's a little nervous about that.

"I really don't like being in the spotlight too much," she said. An A and B student whose favorite subject is math, she exudes both a child's honesty and wisdom beyond her years.

"It gets very rough at times," she said. "It's difficult to learn new things, like how to walk again, or how to use a leg that I hardly know how to use. It changed my personality.

"Sometimes I cry and beg that it will go away, but it hasn't. I accept the way I am and I'm okay with it. I want people to know me as a person. I'm hurt, but it doesn't mean I'm not the same person anymore."

She and her mother both plan to enter the health care profession. Taylor is taking classes at Athens Technical College, and wants to become a nurse. Berry College has promised Anaiah a four-year scholarship.

"I want to be a doctor and help people and make them well again," Anaiah said.


"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" airs 8 p.m. Sunday on Channel 2.