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John J.

Put me in, Coach

The first time John Johnson realized something might be going on with him, he was a young athlete and football player.

Though he was constantly training and practicing in the brutal summer heat, everyone else was doing the one thing he couldn’t – sweat.

“I played sports all my life,” John explained, “But I never sweat. People would point it out to me, and I found it odd, but didn’t think much about it.”

He was focused on other things, like dominating on the field as a wide receiver and studying hard to prepare for college.

But not sweating wasn’t his only worrisome symptom. John also had several missing teeth and a few that were malformed, which made it extremely difficult to chew and digest food. He lacked jaw development and found it challenging to form certain words, resulting in slight speech impairment. 

“Growing up, I had low self-esteem,” he explained. “Other kids would make fun of my malformed teeth, and it impacted my confidence. I would shy away from things that I believed could and would end badly, which made me think twice about venturing out to explore new things.”

Eventually, he found the answer to a question he never thought to ask.

John was diagnosed with a rare congenital medical condition called ectodermal dysplasia, which causes profound systemic and oral complications. Primarily, teeth do not form, or there are multiple missing teeth or the teeth are malformed. In addition to tooth abnormalities, there is also a lack of jaw development, just like John had experienced. 

Before a developing fetus is large enough to be seen, a layer of cells covers the outside of the body. This layer of cells is called the ectoderm. Typically, the hair, nails, teeth, and sweat glands derive from this layer of the developing embryo. Any of these derived cells and tissues can be affected in the ectodermal dysplasias. In some types, problems may also occur with parts of the eye, ear, or other organs and body features that develop from the ectoderm.

Depending on the specific type and severity of the condition, symptoms may include abnormal teeth, sparse or absent hair, dry skin, decreased sweating, abnormal nails, hearing loss, and other issues. The effects of ectodermal dysplasia may also cause secondary issues like eye problems, respiratory system issues, gastrointestinal issues, and more.

“It was shocking to get the results,” John told us. “And then my mom and I jumped into action.”

John described his mom as his rock, explaining that she would do anything for him.

“She’s big into art,” he said. “She paints a lot. And she’s very hard-working and so kind. This list might go on and on,” he laughed. 

Currently, John’s mom works for the City of Richmond Police Department. If her son needs something and there’s a resource that can help provide it, she’s all over it.

It’s a medical necessity for John to receive a dental prosthesis to allow for reasonable function. Ectodermal dysplasia is a congenital condition that falls under medical insurance, not dental insurance. You won’t be surprised at all to read that his insurance company denied authorization to cover his critical dental services through their medical insurance plan. 

If insurance covered every medical need it should, Chive Charities wouldn’t need to exist.

“Proper dental care is absolutely needed in order for me to function with a healthy lifestyle,” John explained. “For me, dental treatment is not cosmetic – and the enormous medical expense has been a hardship on my family.”

That’s a big deal to John because his family means everything to him. When we asked him what he likes to do for fun, he briefly mentioned playing video games, football, and exercising, before quickly adding that spending time with his friends and family takes priority. 

John is in the prime of his life. He just graduated from college at Old Dominion this month, earning a degree in business management, and already has a job lined up close to his family in Richmond.

He’s passionate about coaching and mentorship and has stayed close to the game of football by coaching young kids and even a varsity football team back home. 

He deserves to have the dental care he needs to adapt to a congenital condition that’s beyond his control. 

“The two hardest parts of this have been finding the right set of doctors who can handle my complex case,” he told us. “And the second has been fighting insurance.

“I just want to be like everyone else.”

One day, his mom was perusing around online, looking for resources or support that might be able to help her son. She found Chive Charities. 

We exist to stand in the gaps and support those who might otherwise fall through the cracks. This isn’t about a simple dental procedure. It’s about giving someone the chance to get what they need without financially burdening their family in the process. It’s about acknowledging that when something can be done, we should do it.

That’s why we called on our donor family to do what medical insurance would not and help cover the cost of John’s critically important dental care. You answered in a big way, fully funding his medically necessary procedure for a total impact of $40,793.

“I just want to thank everyone who made this possible for me,” John said. “I’m looking forward to the finished project and the stress being lifted from my shoulders. I appreciate all of you – you have no idea how much this will help.”

John’s journey hasn’t been linear. He’s faced some devastating lows and some big triumphs despite them. He attributes much of that to his family and friends who have been right beside him, cheering him along. Now, he can add the Chive Charities donor community to his list of fans, too. Someone out there needs some help? Put us in, Coach.

Today, we’re giving a standing ovation to every donor who makes this work possible. For $10/month and up, you have what it takes to change a life. You’ve done it more than 600 times, and counting. But who’s keeping score…Become part of it and DONATE HERE.

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