As a child, Al was more than familiar with the things that make hospitals frightening - blood tests, CT scans, IV’s, and scariest of all, brain surgery. At the age of 6, Al was diagnosed with a cystic astrocytoma, a tumor embedded deep in his brain, between his thalamus and hypothalamus, which was too risky for the doctors to consider surgical removal. At his parents’ urging, Al’s doctors agreed to try radiation therapy although it hadn’t been proven to work on this kind of tumor. To this day, Al’s parents and surgeons consider his case a miracle since, over the course of a year of treatments, the tumor was completely annihilated by the radiation and, after several annual checkups as Al grew to adulthood, he remained completely tumor-free. Al went on to graduate with honors from high school, college, and graduate school, to get married and have four beautiful and brilliant kids, and land a promising job in the IT field.
On January 5, 2011, however, when Al was just 37 years old (and the oldest of his four kids was only 11), he and his family were completely blindsided by a neurological catastrophe, a devastating stroke that left Al with permanent left-sided hemiparesis. Six weeks of intensive inpatient rehabilitation left Al needing a brace on his left leg to walk, a cane for balance, and a gait belt for his wife to use in assisting him as he moved unsteadily throughout their home. His left arm was mostly paralyzed as well, with no use of his hand. After months of continuing outpatient therapy, Al regained some independence in walking and even driving, but will require the use of a leg brace and cane for the rest of his life, and his arm will likely not regain much mobility. He was no longer able to work full-time at his previous job as an IT administrator since the stroke left him with chronic neuro-fatigue.
Al’s wife Jen was working full-time and she continued for over a year following the stroke, until it became too much with caring for their four kids and a disabled husband. She moved to a part-time position April 2012, but the position was eventually eliminated in June 2014. Even though it would cause their finances to be tighter, it was a welcome change since Jen had been experiencing chronic fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and low-grade fevers due to fibromyalgia and widespread osteoarthritis.
In addition, in November 2013, Al had made his way back into the workplace, finding a part-time IT job at local community college, and subsequently to another part-time position at Peckham, a local company that provides employment opportunities for the disabled. Even though he worked in a call center at first, which was taxing on his weary brain, Al enjoyed the opportunity to provide for his family in this way, and the Yarringtons seemed to find a “new normal” for life after a stroke.
But in December 2015, Al suffered a second stroke in his brain stem. While this one was much less damaging, it was alarming for the Yarringtons as well as the doctors because this stroke occurred in a completely different area of the brain than the first one. In addition, the doctors discovered a tiny aneurysm that posed no immediate threat, but would have to be treated by endovascular coiling if it grew at all. For Al, it felt like a ticking time bomb.
After the second stroke, Al was terminated from his job with the understanding that, once he was cleared to return to work by his doctors, he could reapply to the same department and get re-hired, which he did in the spring of 2016. Not long after that, Al was able to move up to another assignment in the same company that he had been hoping to be placed in for some time, a contract with the US Dept. of Defense in which he would create help desk work tickets for DOD employees.
In June 2017, Al began to experience unprecedented confusion, disorientation, and memory loss, similar to dementia. Another hospital stay, a CT scan, an MRI, an EEG, and multiple blood tests proved fruitless in uncovering the cause of this marked change, with the exception of a third tiny area of stroke that the neurologist and his team deemed too small to be of consequence. After a subsequent EEG showed some abnormal brain waves in his left temporal lobe, his neurologist prescribed a new medication to help stabilize his mental state, but there are no clear answers as of yet. Once again, he has been terminated from his job, with the understanding that he is welcome to reapply if and when his mental state returns to normal.
While Al struggles through the minefield of cerebrovascular illness, he tries his best to be the husband and father his family needs. Al’s wife Jen does what she can to work from home but she is also limited in her abilities due to her chronic health issues. But it’s a challenge when, on top of unexpected health changes, he faces enormous deductibles and copays for ongoing therapy, Botox injections in his arm and leg (which are to help weaken the opposing muscles so that he can strengthen the limited movement he might have in those places), electro stim therapy, and medical equipment, not to mention the exorbitant copays and deductibles of hospitalizations, MRI’s and CT scans. He uses a leg brace called a double-metal upright brace, which consists of two heavy metal rods that are built into his shoe and are secured at the top of his calf to prevent his foot from rolling or dropping when he walks. While the insurance only allows the one pair of shoes to be replaced every two years, his brace typically breaks a few times each year.
On top of the health concerns and costs that plague the family, the Yarringtons have had more than their fair share of “normal” life disasters, including filing for bankruptcy, a catastrophic flood that left over half their house damaged and forced them out of their home for three weeks, two sewer backups destroyed parts of their basement, and unbelievably numerous issues with their vehicles and appliances.
The Yarrington family is a family of faith, but it’s a faith that is routinely tested by the constant onslaught of challenging circumstances that life brings them.
This is why I am asking you to help create a fund (even if you can give only a little) that will provide enough to pay for Al’s medical bills, on-going rehabilitation, equipment, and unforeseen expenses not covered in any other way. I wouldn’t ask if I did not feel that this family (who struggles to maintain, much less get ahead) deserves the help of strangers just like you.
Please help. Please give to create a fund for this most deserving family. Charles Dickens once wrote: No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. I think one of my favorite sayings is by Winston Churchill who said: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
If you have been moved by this story of a much deserving man, please send this on to your family and friends and post it on your social network.