As they got older, their friendship turned to admiration and respect, and then eventually, love. They attended school dances together and enjoyed lazy summers filled with swimming pools and neighborhood park adventures. And after both of them inexplicably lost a parent, they grew closer still, comforting each other as they faced the unthinkable.
Jimmy became a talented baseball player in high school, and Annette would cheer from the sidelines as she watched him play. He was good, perhaps even better than most, but it always seemed like his effort didn’t match the outcome. “I tried to work the hardest,” Jimmy recalled, “But I was always the slowest.” Unbeknownst to him, it was the first sign of something more serious.
Not too long after high school, this inseparable duo got married and began trying for a family.
It would be a long, nine-year journey filled with heartbreak, including the loss of their twin boys and three more babies.
Miraculously, their sixth baby would be their now 22-year-old daughter, Hannah. She would save them in more ways than one, but we’ll get to that soon enough.
The couple had just lost their twin sons when Jimmy nearly died himself. He came down with pneumonia with endocarditis (an infection of the heart’s inner lining) and pericarditis (inflammation of the sac around the heart) and was hospitalized for a month.
He was sent home with an IV pumping antibiotics into his heart for another month after a bacterial infection became lodged in a lesion on his heart valve.
It was so serious the hospital called in grief counselors for Annette, and Jimmy nearly died. Later, they learned that the bacteria came from a public swimming pool.
That life-threatening event was the first in a long line of baffling injuries and procedures that Jimmy would endure. In recent years, he had nine surgeries in 24 months, including knee replacements, hand and ulnar nerve surgeries on both arms (which were unsuccessful), and a hip replacement that gave him cobalt poisoning, causing the hip to be removed and replaced for the second time, which he is still toxic from to this day.
“The best way that I can describe it,” Jimmy explained, “is that everything was heightened. It was troubling not being able to recover, and I couldn’t understand why everything was so much harder for me than other people in similar circumstances.”
Finally, Jimmy underwent genetic testing that was sent to Baylor Genetics in Houston, and the questions that had plagued Jimmy for much of his life were finally answered.
All those years of playing sports and feeling like he was slower than everyone else. All of the surgeries with difficult recoveries. All of the “simple” procedures that became so much more complicated. There was a reason for all of it.
Jimmy was diagnosed with a rare form of muscle and nerve disease, a subset of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Neuropathy Type 1A, HNPP17 Type 1A, a condition that causes his nerves and muscles to deteriorate.
“There are levels of severity to it, and his is crippling,” said Annette. “There’s no cure and no treatment – only experimental drugs that make him so sick he says he feels like he is dying while on them. My husband has about a 2-3-hour window that he can function with the pain, and the rest of his day is spent trying to get out of it.”
During one period, Jimmy required medication every two hours, so Hannah made a detailed chart of his meds and organized everything. She and her mom got walkie-talkies, so they could communicate while taking shifts. When it was time to switch, they would high-five each other as they passed in the hallway.
They’re a team, a family in every sense of the word. The love they have for each other is so palpable you would swear you could feel it radiating through the screen.
Jimmy winked as his wife and daughter talked about the number of times they’ve watched their favorite movie, You’ve Got Mail (“It’s not my favorite,” he joked), and groaned when Annette shared how he once hid in the closet for two hours after the Dallas Cowboys lost in the SuperBowl (“I was just a kid! It was a big deal”).
They’ve shouldered a lot together, and they’ve accomplished a lot together. All three of them even went to college to finish their bachelor's degrees.
We want to help keep them that way – together.
As Jimmy has tried to adjust to his chronic pain and exhaustion, relief has come in one simple form: cold water.
For a while, Hannah and Annette would place him in the recliner and surround him with three bags of ice. One under both knees and two on each side.
“Doctors have told us that we have to stop doing that so often because it’s breaking the skin, tissue, muscle and nerves down more rapidly,” Annette told us. “Even though it helps mitigate his pain and discomfort now, we aren’t able to keep doing it. They said the best thing for him is aquatic therapy.”
And this is where Chive Charities enters the story.
Jimmy needed daily, year-round access to a pool, and as they live in the Midwest, that was no easy task. For years, the family researched pools, knowing the cost would likely be way beyond what they could afford. But as Hannah and Annette watched their favorite guy struggle with pain, they knew they had to keep pushing and praying for a solution.
One day, Annette was looking at resources through Global Genes, a nonprofit organization for rare disease patients and their families, and a partner of Chive Charities.
They had found a pool that was once only available in Australia but was now offered in the US, and it fit all of Jimmy’s needs. It needed to be compact - check. It needed to be accessible - check. It needed to have UV sanitation to prevent bacterial infections - check. And it needed to have heating or an insulated cover to allow him to use it year-round - check.
Let us introduce you to the Plungie, a 12x7 studio pool that was up to the task:
There was just one problem. It was more than they could afford on their own. So, they kept trying, kept looking, and via Global Genes, they discovered Chive Charities. Through our application process, we discovered a tight-knit family who could take on any challenge as long as they were in it together.
Our community is no stranger to being there for each other - in fact, our organization is built on it. So when we asked our donor family to support Jimmy, Annette, and Hannah, you answered by fully funding the cost of his therapeutic pool for a total impact of $62,000.
When we shared the news that help was on the way, they were stunned.
“Thank you for being angels from above helping people in need,” Annette said. “Thank you for showing my family that God does exist, and He does hear and answer prayers. Some people might write things off as coincidences, but you can bet we are not writing off our paths crossing as a coincidence. You are being used as miracle-makers.”
It’s no coincidence that we met this family, and it’s no coincidence that donors like you supported them. As for the miracles, we’ll let Jimmy take it from here. If anyone can defy the odds, it’s him with Annette and Hannah by his side.
We can all do more – together. Be part of our movement to make the world 10% happier through life-changing grants just like this one. Become a monthly subscriber for as little as $10/month and watch what we can do…what you can do. DONATE HERE.