Morgan Smoker is similar to many 22-year-olds.
A resident of Gordonville enjoys hanging out by the family pool, listening to country music, taking photos, working at her job and going to church.
She loves to travel, cheer for the Philadelphia Eagles and walk to the park with her dog, a Yorkie nicknamed Roxy. And she really enjoys making sarcastic comments online.
She does all this with her electric wheelchair and with the Accent 1400 communication device, a machine that helps her compose messages and download pre-programmed responses. Smoker’s messages are displayed on the screen and verbalized using a computer voice. The device can also send emails and text messages. To control the Accent 1400, Smoker moves the cursor on the screen via a point sensor on the forehead.
Smoker was born with glutaric aciduria type 1 – a hereditary disease that prevents the body from processing certain proteins.
“Some people don’t think I’m capable of certain things, but I’m much more,” Smoker wrote in an email. “A lot of people think I don’t understand what they’re saying just because I’m in a wheelchair. I am 100% mentally capable. When they look at me, I just smile at them. “
Glutaric aciduria type 1, according to a 2019 interview with Adam Hips, executive director of the clinic for special children in Strasbourg, where Smoker is being treated, can occur 100 times more often in the Amish community than in the rest of the United States. population. Because of the reduction in genetic variability known as the founder effect, some genetic diseases are more common in groups such as the Amish or Mennonite communities. Glutaric acid affects about one in every 250 people in the Amish community.
Neither Smoker nor her mother Lanita were raised by the Amish. Her father left the Amish community at the age of 30 when he and Lanita married, which was about a year and a half before Morgan was born. Her grandparents left the community when her grandmother Priscilla Ban was 16. But Smoker still has a family in the Amish community, including 67 cousins. She lives with her mother Lanita, father Ben and siblings Austin, 21, Shanaya, 17, and Tori, 15, in Gordonville.
Determined and driven
When Smoker was only a few months old, she had a fever and had to be taken to hospital. The disease combined with glutaric aciduria has led to some brain damage and loss of motor skills.
A smoker cannot walk, talk or control his hands. Initially, doctors thought she should only be fed through a tube, but her parents worked hard to make sure she could chew and swallow food.
“She is very determined,” said Lanita Smoker, Morgan’s mother. “She thinks she can do anything.”
Nancy Beals, a family friend and mother of Smoker’s boyfriend Greg Finger, makes it one step further. 23-year-old Finger lives in Stevens.
“The only thing this kid can’t do is walk,” Bills says. “I would like every disabled person to know that the fact that he is in a wheelchair does not mean that he cannot succeed. They need to know that they can really go to the limit regardless of their physical abilities. Morgan has shown me a lot that just because you don’t have legs doesn’t mean you can’t get around. I would like others to see her attitude in life. “
Shooting her shots
Smoker graduated from Pequea Valley High School in 2018 and then spent two years attending the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center to study photography.
“When I started, I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew I liked doing it,” Smoker wrote in an email. “I did photography at full capacity, bypassing my development and started photographing everything. Such as trees, flowers and sunsets. I started asking my friends and family if I could take pictures of them, and I kept getting better and better myself. ”
The Smoker’s Accent 1400 also helps her take pictures; the car is connected to a Canon Smoker camera, and Smoker moves his head to control the sensor on his forehead, moving the pointer on his car. To take a photo, she clicks the space bar.
Smoker began filming professionally shortly after visiting the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center. She is involved in freelance photography, such as weddings and portraits through her website morgansmokersphotography.mypixieset.com and works in Get the Picture at Dutch Wonderland.
“I like working all the time. I think you could call me a workaholic, ”Smoker wrote in a text message.
Smoker first began working with her parents, who own and operate two of Aunt Anna’s franchises located in the Dutch wonderland, where she transported pretzels between places.
Then Tara Olson, who works with Get the Picture – a supplier in Dutch Wonderland – hired Smoker.
“She was wonderful from day one,” Olson says. “She was our best photographer. She has made more sales than any of our photographers in the last couple of years. She always wants to work as many hours as she can. ”
Inspirer – and prankster
If she doesn’t take pictures in the Dutch Wonderland, Smoker likes to visit a worship center in New Holland.
She says her faith plays a big part in her life and success.
“Our God works in a mysterious way, and I love him for it,” Smoker wrote in an email. “Faith can move mountains. It helped me be grateful for everything and everything. God has given me this life to influence the future of others, not to grieve that I am in a wheelchair. ”
A smoker’s ability to inspire others and her positive outlook are some of the qualities that her friends and family say they admire.
“I love her for her strength and inspiration for others,” says her boyfriend Greg Finger. Smoker and Finger, who is suffering from spina bifida, are acquaintances from kindergarten and attended the 2018 prom together.
“She has the biggest heart of all I know,” Bills, Finger’s mother, says of Stevens. “She’s looking for the good in everything.”
“She inspires literally everyone she faces,” says a friend of Adrian Bills of Stevens. “She has the best sense of humor. I don’t think you’ll have a newspaper big enough to accommodate all the people who love this girl. ”
In fact, Smoker’s heart, strength, and ability to inspire others may be secondary to another personality trait: she’s a prankster.
“It’s fun to hang out with her, she’s always joking and joking with me,” says Angie Lafontian, one of the nurses who works with Smoker. “She is good at bringing other people to her jokes and pranks. She always keeps me on my feet. She is also very kind and sympathetic, if not mischievous. I’ve seen her do her best to make people feel wanted in the different environments she’s been in.
Her grandmother Priscilla Ban agrees.
“She’s cheeky, of course,” says Ban of Lancaster. “She is a very positive, happy and energetic person. She gives everyone a hard time – especially her Grammy.
And Nancy Beals recalls that when she first met Smoker, she threw her electric wheelchair over her leg.
“She thought it was the funniest thing,” says Nancy Beals.
“She loves life,” says Lanita. “She is very social. She loves being around people. And she is very independent and persistent. “
Her strength, independence and perseverance were demonstrated during a recent change in her photography in Dutch Wonderland. During work on the Easter weekend, Smoker’s wheelchair overturned for the first time, and she had to be taken to the emergency department. She underwent some tests and was released with pure health. A few hours later she returned to work.
“Nothing can stop me,” she says.