BRIDGEPORT — Isabelle Guzman said she fought tears when city workers arrived Friday to install permanent handicapped parking signs outside her home.
"It's a lot of relief. It's a big thing for us. I didn't realize how much of a big deal it would be. I could feel myself getting a little emotional and had to catch myself," said Guzman, mother of Gabriella, a 5-year-old girl who requires 24-hour care and breathes with help from a ventilator after complications at birth.
The family suffered insult on top of injury when vandals dumped garbage cans on a car belonging to an overnight nurse who cares for Gabriella, apparently payback for the nurse taking a spot reserved using "dibs."
The ugly incident, which drew national attention, exposed a long-standing problem faced by Guzman and her husband, Salvador.
The couple said Gabriella's many nurses and caretakers have had trouble finding spots along narrow Farrell Street, situated near the neighborhood's bustling intersection of 31st and Morgan streets.
The problem is made even worse in the winter months, when street parking becomes scarce in light of the buckets, lawn chairs and other debris residents have used to save spaces in front of their homes.
The Guzmans, who don't drive, also have used the unofficial spot-saving system to claim parking spaces for nurses. With laminated signs signaling the parking was for nurses, the "dibs" were usually honored, the couple said.
But now a parking spot is a virtual guarantee.
After a social media campaign and assistance from 11th Ward Ald. Jim Balcer, the Guzmans have received special handicapped parking placards, which they'll hand over to Gabriella's nurses, allowing them to park in the spot outside their home.
On Friday morning, the plan was finally set in motion when a city crew arrived to set up the parking signs.
"It surprised me to feel myself wanting to cry when the truck pulled up. ... It's all the frustration coming up to this, but it is such a big deal for us," she said.
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