Welding shop in Texas helps family in need — at no charge

One Friday, Dr. J. Armando Diaz learned that his 15-year-old niece, Haide Barron, needed his help.

Haide's family was visiting Texas from Mexico. Haide was born with spina bifida and used a leg brace to walk. The part of the brace that attached at her thigh had broken, making Haide immobile.

"Her father said, 'We have to find a welder,'" Diaz told the Victoria Advocate, explaining it was 8 p.m. on a Friday when he began making calls. "But no one answered the phone. I couldn't get anybody."

The next morning, Diaz resumed his search for a welder. His hunt led him to Gene's Machine, a Victoria, Texas welding and machine shop. The man on-call connected Diaz to company vice president Wesley Pratka.

While other welding shops said they didn't have the equipment to work on medical devices or couldn't work on a Saturday, Gene's Machine offered to look at the brace — but couldn't guarantee they could help the family. Pratka invited the family to stop by at noon.

Within an hour of Diaz's family's visit to the shop, the brace was welded together. Haide was walking again.

"It was perfectly welded," Diaz said. "There we were, these big guys, almost in tears because we saw how happy she was."

Gene's Machine refused payment for their services, claiming it was simply the right thing to do.

"It touched our hearts. It was the least we could do," Pratka told the Victoria Advocate. "That poor little girl — she's had a hard road. If we could help make her weekend better, it was worth it."