My name is Jodie. I am fifteen. For 18 years, my mom has had a lung disease called Interstitial Pulmonary Pneumonitis; an auto-immune disease that attacks the lungs as if they were a germ. For the first year of her getting sick, all of her doctors told her “It’s just the flu” and things like that. No one believed her. During that first year, my mom lost 50% of her lung capacity. Finally she went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where they took a chunk of her lung and did a biopsy on it. The doctors there were the ones to diagnose her. I have had to tell this story many times, to friends and to family, yet nobody really understands.
I have known that my mom is sick from as long as I can remember. But she wasn’t that unhealthy until I was about seven or eight years old, and my brother Josh was ten. Since then, my brother and I have been getting ourselves up in the morning and to school. My dad has been our family’s main source of income for a long time, since my mom’s abilities are greatly limited. Although, she did work full time for years at a hospital as a secretary. She was greatly loved at work and of course, at home. My mom is a wonderful person; always putting others before herself. Always.
As the years went by, her disease progressed. Since I was 12, I have had to cook dinner, balance my schoolwork and take care of all my mom’s needs. With the help of my brother. My dad was at work 12-14 hours every day, an hour away from home. He would do as much as he could to help out when he got back, but it was hard.
Last year in September 2011, we had the biggest scare of our lives. My mom almost died. She went back to Mayo Clinic to get another biopsy of her lungs because lately, she hadn’t been able to do anything. She drove the eight hours by herself just fine. That was Sunday. On Wednesday evening, my dad got a call from my mom, huffing and puffing, saying that she needed him there. I started to worry and my dad suggested that my brother and I come along. When we got to my mom’s hospital room, I went numb. She looked awful with all the wires and IV tubes hooked up to her, pale and shaking. She also had a bi-pap oxygen mask on her face. It was the middle of the night but I could not sleep. My dad and my brother and I wandered around aimlessly the rest of the night. Then, at 8am, it was time for the doctor’s rounds, and they came into my mom’s room. All of us were in the room. The doctor started spewing information and health statistics out and I tried to understand them. Finally, he said stuff I could understand: “If things get worse, you (my mom) will have to get put on a ventilator, which will essentially breathe for you. You will be unconscious the whole time that it’s on. But after two weeks, most people develop an infection. At that point, your husband will have to decide whether or not to turn the machine off, and you will go peacefully in your sleep.”
Right there. Clear as day. My world: shattered.
I could not breathe, could not blink, could not cry. Instead, I put my hood on my head and tried not to faint. For the next 20 hours, I didn’t sleep, eat, or smile. I just cried. But I hadn’t even seen the worst of it yet. Friday morning at three am, it happened. My mom was panicking and shouting. By then, my other two brothers were at the hospital too. My mom’s oxygen percentile dropped to 55. It was supposed to be at 100. The doctors kicked us out of the room and said she would have to be put on the ventilator. Her door was merely a curtain, so it did not close completely. She was shouting, “I LOVE YOU!” over and over again, like she was saying goodbye. I stood, wrapped in my dad’s arms shouting it back. I also said she was going to come out of it, trying to assure her, but I didn’t know myself whether or not that was true.
After it was all over and my mom was sedated with a tube shoved down her throat. I ran out of the Intensive Care Unit and to the bathroom, feeling like I needed to throw up. I heaved for a while, then sank down on the bathroom floor and cried. My life was over. Everyday for the next two weeks, doctor after doctor told us she wasn’t going to make it. But my mother, the strongest person I know, pulled through and got off the ventilator. It was the happiest day of my life. She then got an emergency tracheotomy, but she was awake. That came off in a couple of days and thank the lord, we went home! Since then it has been tough, trying to get my mom better and all. And just when I thought things were turning around for me, the worst thing happened.
In June 2012, my dad was diagnosed with oral cancer. I didn’t really process this until weeks later when he started chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I mean, my dad was a marine; he’s tough. But chemo is tougher. Since the beginning of August, he has been deteriorating. He’s lost 40 pounds and he wasn’t even overweight when he started. His skin is discolored, especially his neck, where the radiation was centered at. All the time, he is nauseous, sore, and exhausted. We are just waiting for him to recover.
I thought my life was bad before, but now I have to take care of BOTH my parents, and no one is taking care of me. But that’s alright. I’m tough too, just like my mom and dad.
I am telling you all of this to ask for help. Since my mom got out of her coma, we have been struggling financially between hospital bills and regular bills (mortgage, car, etc.). My mom has quit work to stay home and get better, if possible. And as expected, my dad has not been able to work for a few months now, and is going to need some more time off while he recovers. That means we have no income.
I know that if we get more money and get the bills sorted out, life for me and my family will be 100 times better. My mom won’t have to worry anymore and that’s critical if she wants to get better. Stress just encourages her disease to progress. Who knows when my dad will go back to work, and we need the money soon. All I’m asking for is help. I need my parents to get better. They can’t die now. I still need them; I’m still a kid. Some part of me is very mature. But the other part is still a little kid, who needs the protection and the care giving of two loving parents. I can’t have that without help from you. Please consider it.