Teen Turns To Talk Show To Help Friend


Be careful what you wish for. Your hugely disappointed reaction when you don't get it may be broadcast on national television.

That's the hard life-lesson learned by 16-year-old Payson High-schooler Rebecca Orozco, who joined her grandmother and two friends as guests on "The Maury Povich Show" last month.

What happened on-camera will be revealed on or near Dec. 20, when Rebecca's segment is broadcast. The real drama, though, unfolded behind the scenes. And it was set in motion by precisely the kind of thoughtfulness and caring that modern American teenagers are too often said to lack.

In August, Rebecca and her grandmother, Mary Richey, were watching "The Maury Povich Show" in their Gisela home when they heard a station-break appeal to viewers with friends who might be in any sort of need. Write to Maury, the announcer said, and maybe the show can help, on camera, right here from New York.

Rebecca dashed off a letter to the show's producers. A letter about her close, lifelong friends, Lisa Burgett and Brandy Derryberry, of Flagstaff.

Lisa, only 35, has cancer, advanced osteoporosis, no kidneys, is on dialysis, and recently underwent two open-heart surgeries. Her prognosis is not good. Brandy, Lisa's 15-year-old daughter, was born with deformed legs which put her feet where knees should be, and who functions mentally "somewhere near a 12-year-old's level," her friend Rebecca says.

Brandy is still attempting to recover from a series of major surgeries which, first, removed her misplaced feet to make way for prosthetic legs. But when gangrene set in twice, taking more of Brandy's legs each time, the prosthetic additions were delayed, and Brandy was confined to a wheelchair.

Additionally, because Lisa cannot work and has no income, she and Brandy are about to lose their home.

If ever there were two people truly in need, Rebecca thought, it is Lisa and Brandy.

The producers of "The Maury Povich Show" agreed as soon as they received Rebecca's letter--which included her suggestion that they give Brandy new clothes which would actually fit her unusual shape. Or maybe a makeover to improve her self-esteem. Or maybe even a house for Brandy and her mother, since they'd soon be homeless.

What Rebecca didn't include in her letter was any mention of her own story. Of the day when she was 12, and her mother was shot and killed by a boyfriend. Of having to be raised by her grandparents in a trailer home far too small for three people. Of the fact that, like Lisa, she herself may one day need a kidney transplant.

No. Rebecca was only thinking of her friends.

On Nov. 1, Rebecca, Mary, Lisa and Brandy were all flown to New York and put up at the Belvedere Hotel. Both Lisa and Brandy were in their wheelchairs.

At first they had been scheduled to appear on a show titled, "Kids Who Triumphed Over Tragedy." Then they were switched to another called "Everyday Heroes." Finally, they ended up on "Holiday Wishes Come True."

The show's producers treated them "pretty well, overall," says, Rebecca, "but they seemed totally unprepared to handle people in wheelchairs, or people ill as Lisa. She was sick before the trip, but she just got progressively worse as it went on." All of those responsibilities, it turned out, fell on Rebecca and Mary--including shifting their friends' bodies, wheelchairs and luggage into and back out of taxi cabs.

It was on the show where things really seemed wrong. First, the producers handed Rebecca what they said was a copy of her letter that they wanted her to read on tape. "But it wasn't my letter.

They had totally rewritten it to make me sound like I was a little kid. But I didn't want to argue. I thought, 'Oh, well. They're going to help Brandy.'"

After Rebecca's first reading, she says the producers asked if she could do it again, but with "more emotion." When she failed to produce the desired amount of emotion, Rebecca says, "they pushed these little buttons to alter my voice and make it sound more emotional."

Soon, it was showtime. Maury introduced Rebecca and Brandy, played the audio copy of Rebecca's letter, spoke to them briefly, and then announced exactly how "The Maury Povich Show" was going to make Rebecca Orozco's Holiday Dream Come True:

A trip to Disneyland, plus free sweatshirts and stuffed animals, for everyone.

A trip to Disneyland for Lisa, who was obviously too ill to travel anywhere but to the home she is about to lose. A trip to Disneyland for Brandy, who may soon be homeless and an orphan. And trips to Disneyland for Rebecca and Mary -- provided they'd survive the experience of getting their friends back out of New York City with little help from "The Maury Povich Show."

The four were driven to a taxi stand in midtown Manhattan and dropped off with four tickets to the Broadway show "Annie Get Your Gun."

In retrospect, Rebecca says, "It really would have been nice if they could have done something that would have actually helped Lisa and Brandy. They can't go to Disneyland. When we got home, we called the producer back and told him that. But he said there was nothing else they could do.

"But as difficult as it was, and as sick as Lisa was, Lisa and Brandy did have a good time," Rebecca says. "And when else are they going to get the chance to go to New York for free? So it was a good thing, I guess.

"But what are they going to do when they lose their house? What is Brandy going to do when she loses her mother?

"I just don't know. There's no way she could move in with us. I sure wish Maury Povich could have helped."

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