Letters to the Editor

An appeal for a young family

I am trying to imagine how it would feel to be told, in your early 30s, that “you might end up in a wheelchair by your 50s.”

Jason Peck attended Friday Harbor High School, and was an active firefighter and trainer at the Friday Harbor fire station for two years. His wife, Renee Whaley, graduated here in 1987 and worked as a grocery checker at King's for seven years. The couple was married by Bill LaPorte at the fire station, and were living and working the island when their first child, Avery, (now 6) was born in 2002.

You might remember “Avery's Slot Car Racing,” upstairs from the bowling alley. The struggle to make ends meet became too much, so they moved to Mount Vernon, near relatives, in 2005. Their daughter, Alana, is now 2½ years old.

In Mount Vernon, Jason had become manager of a carpet cleaning business and was doing very well. But a progressive and painful ailment forced him to go on disability. As we all know, disability runs out very quickly.

Relatives and church have helped out as much as they can. Renee has taken training and is now working a part-time job, up to the limit allowed.

Jason's problems with his spine developed several years ago, gradually increasing and culminating in a diagnosis of degenerative arthritis of the neck and lower spine, along with vertigo and mastoid problems. It has taken many months to arrive at a clear diagnosis, and he will need two surgeries, plus recovery time from each one. He is in constant pain, taking strong painkillers, and is using a walker to avoid falls.

In the meantime, the complexities of the healthcare system on county, state and federal levels have resulted in months of delays. Formal business correspondence is complex, and getting and sending medical records and completing forms is hard for all of us. Jason is unable to work, and his case is now on appeal. He can eventually be trained for a job, but first must be free of pain.

The goal is for this family to get Temporary Disability Assistance. Relatives are doing everything possible to move their appeal forward. In the meantime, just making rent payments and keeping the family afloat are causing many sleepless nights.

We have all been through the annual deluge of pleas for charity, from the local to the international level, and many of these touch our hearts. But it seems to me that charity begins at home. This young family, hard-working and honest-living, just needs a hand for a short time until the safety network of their community is pulled into place. They will be contributing to their community and growing good, responsible children for many years to come.

Renee's step-dad, Charles Lindenberg, has established the Jason and Renee Peck Family Fund at Islanders Bank in Friday Harbor. Please consider a modest donation. We will all be very grateful for your help, in any amount at all.

Nancy Lindenberg
Friday Harbor

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