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Leeasia J.

This is why we Chive

“This is why we Chive.”

If you’ve ever read a Chive Charities recipient story, you’ve probably seen this phrase written in the comment section before. You might have even written it yourself.

It’s a rallying cry for the community of people who – for more than 10 years – have selflessly contributed to Chive Charities and changed the lives of hundreds of Veterans, first responders, military families, and those with a rare medical diagnosis. It’s a nod to their collective struggles and the hope they find here, and it often comes on the heels of a story so emotionally gripping that it’s difficult to fathom. 

You’ll see it on stories of Veterans who battle the debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress or first responders whose lives were changed when they answered a call for help. You’ll see it on stories of military families with nowhere else to turn.

If ever there were a story to demonstrate what it means to stand in the gap for those in need, it would be this one. 

Leeasia Jamison is why we Chive. 

Up until May 16, 2022, Leeasia was a typical 12-year-old girl. She loved playing outside, skating, riding her bike, and doing nails. She was a girly girl with a bright personality, and she already had a mothering nature, taking care of her dolls and pretending to feed and change them.

She was also tough as nails, and Leeasia overcame more adversity than most other kids her age could imagine. 

Leeasia’s birth mother was unable to care for Leeasia or her older sister and younger brother, so her aunt, Tishawn, became their guardian and full-time caretaker when Leeasia was just two years old.

Leeasia and her little brother were both born with Sickle Cell Disease, an inherited condition in which red blood cells are not shaped as they should be. Red blood cells normally look like round discs. But in sickle cell disease, they’re shaped like sickles, or crescent moons, instead.

That causes problems because the cells are stiff and sticky and block small blood vessels when they get stuck together. This stops blood from moving as it should, which can lead to pain and organ damage. They also break down faster than normal red blood cells, causing anemia.

But with Tishawn’s help and under the constant care of their medical team, Leeasia was managing the symptoms of her sickle cell disease as best she could. They had a system down pat.

Typically, if Leeasia had body pain, they could mitigate it with pain medication, heating pads, and some rest. 

So, when Leeasia complained about leg pain on May 15, 2022, Tishawn followed the same steps they always had. But this time, the pain wasn’t any better by the next day. She drove Leeasia to the emergency room, and they admitted her that afternoon.

“I stayed with her until the medicine kicked in, and when I went back to check on her the next morning, Leeasia didn’t seem like herself,” Tishawn said. “I asked them if she had a seizure because that’s a risk with sickle cell, but they said she hadn’t. She was sitting up and talking but she just didn’t seem herself.”

Later that day, the hospital called Tishawn and delivered devastating news. 

“They told me she had a seizure, and there was bleeding on her brain,” Tishawn told us. “So they took her into surgery, and when they brought her out, they said, ‘Everything went well.’”

That moment of relief would be short-lived, and by the next day, Leeasia was fighting for her life.

Doctors told Tishawn that Leeasia had swelling in her brain and they would need to remove part of her skull and perform another surgery. She had multiple strokes and was given 72 hours to live. 

It was hard to imagine that just a few days earlier, this typical 12-year-old with a fierce love of hip-hop music and dolls was going to school, riding her bike, and playing with her friends. Now, she was clinging to life.

Somehow, through her own strength and determination, Leeasia lived. But the battle was far from over. 

She was admitted to Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital to help with her recovery, including adjusting to her new trach and g-tube. There, they discovered that she had osteonecrosis of the hip – another potential outcome of sickle cell. It had caused the ball (femoral head) to collapse and cave in, and it had deteriorated.

She was there for more than a year before she became sick and was sent to another hospital for critical care. By January 2024, Leeasia had caught COVID, which wreaked havoc on her fragile immune system and lungs. She’s currently on a ventilator and trying to regain her strength with the help of the medical team at Dupont (Nemours) Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, Delaware. 

If you’ve lost track, that means that Leeasia has been in the hospital and away from home since May 16, 2022 – the day her life changed forever.

“Leeasia wants to come home,” Tishawn told us with tears in her eyes. 

“She’s sad now that she’s at Dupont and hardly ever smiles anymore. She lost most of her eyesight after the stroke, and though she can talk very softly without the ventilator, it’s not safe because she’s susceptible to bacteria and germs when her trach is uncuffed. We’re not sure if she will ever see or walk again. Life will never be the same.”

It’s been heartbreaking for everyone and physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting for Tishawn. To provide for her family, she commutes to Brooklyn, New York, from Monday through Thursday, where she teaches at a small school and stays with her son in his apartment.

On Thursday evenings, she drives home to Pennsylvania before commuting with a family friend every Friday through Sunday to visit Leeasia at Dupont. Then she repeats it all over again. That’s what her life has looked like for almost two years.

And still, her focus is on her girl.

“Leeasia is fighting; she’s still with us,” she said. “She loves it when we visit, and her siblings got to drive up to see her in February. She communicates with facial expressions and gestures, and she’ll signal to me that she wants me to sit on the bed with her, and we’ll just jam out to Cardi B and Keyshia Cole.

“I’m being trained on the ventilator, so we’re hoping that she can beat these fevers she’s been getting and that her lungs will heal, so we can finally bring her home.”

If there were a silver lining to be found in this story, it would be through the one positive to come from so much extended time in the hospital – the other families they met. 

One day, Tishawn and her mom met a woman who had a beautiful little girl who was also a patient at the hospital. They got to talking, and she told them about Chive Charities and how the organization had supported their family with an in-home elevator and lift for her daughter, Leila.

They thought maybe we could help support Tishawn and Leeasia, too. And they were right. 

Through the support of donors like you, we were able to fund the cost of a 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan for $43,498. Because Leeasia will face some new challenges when she gets home, we also funded their request for a backyard fence ($3,977) to give her the safety and freedom to spend time outside in privacy. The total impact was $47,475.

This is why we Chive. 

When we read about tragedy or heartbreak or unimaginable events, we never think it can happen to us. We don’t want to believe it can. But that’s why your support means so much.

Families like Tishawn and Leeasia don’t have to be alone when the unthinkable happens. They don’t have to drive a happy and active pre-teen to the hospital one day and wonder how they’ll get them home with a wheelchair and ventilator the next. In a perfect world, they wouldn’t have to. In a perfect world, Chive Charities wouldn’t need to exist. 

This isn’t a perfect world, but because of Chivers like you, it’s becoming a better one. Our mission has always been to make the world 10% happier. We’re not looking for perfection. We’re looking to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

This is why we Chive. For Leila, and Leeasia, and the more than 600 recipients like them. Help us as we continue to stand in the gap and serve the underserved. DONATE HERE.

Leeasia J.'s Updates

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