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| June 11, 2015

Shana’s son, A.J., had been plagued with constant respiratory problems since infancy. By the time he was three years old, A.J. had been rushed to the hospital with fevers as high as 106 degrees, two cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), seven bouts of pneumonia, chronic asthma, laryngomalacia (a condition that caused him to stop breathing at any time) and a collapsed lung.

Trips to numerous doctors and specialists revealed little about A.J.’s underlying condition. Hospital bills piled up and transportation expenses took their toll. The financial and emotional strain on Shana and her husband became almost unbearable. One of the hardest parts was seeing their son unable to participate in normal toddler activities—he couldn’t even play outside due to his condition.

In an effort to alleviate some of the family’s financial burden and continue to seek answers to her son’s illness, Shana began reaching out to family, friends and community organizations for help. To her surprise, the community rallied around A.J. With the support of many groups—including the First Hand Foundation—the family was able to travel to a specialized hospital for further testing.

“To see people take it upon themselves to give to others in need is a great gift of which we are thankful,” expressed Shana. “We were blessed with a foundation that paid a lot of A.J.’s expenses to get to the hospital and we were blessed with a caring community that has stepped in and taken our son’s situation as if it were their own.”

A.J. was soon put on several medications to address the thick mucus in his lungs and he was given a Vest Airway Clearance System for a two-month trial period. The vest also worked to loosen mucus, resulting in productive coughs and clear airways…A.J. was finally able to breathe easily. The little boy quickly went from getting sick every week to only getting sick once a month.

“We can’t wait for summertime—this will actually be A.J.’s first time being able to play outside, so we are really excited!” Shana wrote soon after her son received the vest.

Though A.J. showed tremendous improvement with the vest and was able to avoid constant hospitalization, the family’s insurance company denied coverage of the equipment. Shana appealed four times to no avail. So she turned again to First Hand, who granted her request.

“First Hand has given us a new outlook on life,” Shana said. “We are thankful to First Hand supporters for being angels in not only our lives, but in the lives of others.”

Throughout his ordeal, A.J. stayed strong and brave.

“He’s our little soldier,” declared Shana. “I’m so proud of him.”

Now many years later, A.J. is thirteen years old and getting ready to enter eighth grade in the fall. A sports fanatic, he plays AAU basketball (taking breathing treatments before and after games). He still uses the vest provided by First Hand.

“I am at such a loss for words for the things First Hand has done for A.J. and our family,” Shana said. “You all really do not know how much you have impacted our family, kept our hope alive and displayed the real meaning of faith, hope and happiness.”

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