Thankful hearts for Akron: A small town filled with big hearts

Posted November 27, 2019 at 10:04 pm

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By Julie Ann Madden

One Akron family is overwhelmed by the support they and their 15-year-old son have received from the Westerner community and are so grateful that there aren’t enough words to express their thanks.

Jacob Myers, son of Josh and Brandi Myers, was a typical teenager, active in Akron-Westfield sports of football, basketball, baseball and track. He’s also on the Honor Roll and sang in the choir until this year.

Last spring, Jacob began having “horrible headaches,” said Brandi, explaining a CT scan showed he had Chiari Malformation in his skull and spinal cord.

Once they knew the diagnosis, the other things Jacob had been experiencing — loss of balance, problems with fine motor skills and vision issues — made sense.

Chiari Malformation is caused by how his bones grew and developed, explained Brandi. Onset of symptoms is usually in adolescence or adulthood — some people never have any symptoms.

In Jacob’s case, the opening into his skull was too small and his brain had herniated down into his spinal cord. This was causing the cerebral fluid to be constricted in its ability to flow to and from the brain — resulting in headaches.

In addition, his C-1 vertebrae was missing its posterior arch and a bone at the base of his skull had curved into a hook shape and had grown too long, pushing into the brain’s cerebellum.

The only solution for Jacob’s Chiari Malformation was decompression surgery in his neck and brain stem areas.

His parents selected a pediatric neurosurgeon at the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City.

Once Akron-Westfield students learned of Jacob’s upcoming surgery, they went into action.

First, his parents were notified of a student posting a prayer request for Jacob on a social media site.

Before they even had time to absorb that, another student texted that he wanted to do something and then another student contacted them.

From these student-led prayers and fundraisers, Jacob’s fellow freshmen classmates worked with Principal Derek Briggs to host a class assembly where they surprised Jacob with a football signed by each classmate and a Westerner helmet.

His junior varsity football teammates presented him with money they’d collected. Other students did, too.

His Spanish class members created Get Well cards for him.

When Jacob decided he wanted to shave his head before he went to Iowa City for the surgery, it became an after-game party on Oct. 14 where his dad, brother Devon, and friend Lane Kenny shaved their heads along with Jacob while several others watched.

“The whole vibe that night was so supportive and awesome,” said Brandi.

Jacob spent Oct. 16 undergoing all kinds of tests as his family agreed to have him participate in a University of Iowa research study — he is the 35th participant in the study which is now in its 30th-month.

On Oct. 17, the day of Jacob’s surgery, A-W students wore red — Jacob’s favorite color. They took photos of themselves and texted them to his mother so Jacob would know of their support.

It wasn’t just the students though — the Myers received “thousands of prayers” and help from community members.

On Saturday, Oct. 19, Jacob joined other hospitalized children in participating in the Hawkeye’s Homecoming game activities on the hospital’s 12th floor. One activity was to participate in the ESPN’s Wave, see the University’s band perform on the street below, and then watch the game on four large screen TVs. Then he was released to come home.

What a great way to celebrate his 15th birthday that day!

“It was quite the week,” said Brandi. “It was really something.”

“It was stressful,” said Jacob.

“A long stressful week but all the support from the kids really helped,” said Josh, also thanking community members who have also made it easier for the family.

“It’s really hard, difficult to put into words how this made all of us feel,” said Brandi.

“It makes me proud to live in a small town like this,” said Josh. “The community support. Whenever something goes on, everybody’s quick to help one another so it makes me proud to live in Akron.”

“I know how generous and compassionate the people here are when something happens to someone,” said Brandi. “We’ve been on both ends of that — the giving and the receiving.”

In 2005, they lost Jacob’s twin sister, Paige, at three months of age.

“People help but you don’t expect it,” said Brandi. “We were not expecting any of this.”

“With everything that’s gone on this year, the community’s support has brought both of us to tears,” said Brandi, who had two unexpected surgeries this summer, too.

Josh nodded.

“(With the students’ actions), it makes you really hopeful, too,” said Brandi. “Seeing these young kids who put all of these things together on their own — come up with the ideas to do these things…”

“They are the future,” said Josh.

“You hear so much negative about this generation of kids, all the negative things they’ll do to each other. The bullying. Lashing out to each other and making fun of each other on social media,” said Brandi.

“A lot of things have gone to the wayside with the younger generations with church, praying to God,” said Brandi. “A lot of kids these days feel very entitled with things and technology’s made a lot of kids not spend time together.”

“This (community support) doesn’t happen everywhere,” said Brandi. “Not every community is like Akron. Not every school would have their entire class come together for a classmate like this and all want to help and be there for him and doing everything.”

“That’s what amazes me the most about this is these kids did all this because they cared,” said Brandi. “It wasn’t for any other reason but they cared about their friend and classmate and wanted to do whatever they could to help him and us get through it — good old-fashioned values in this younger generation.”

“Thanks for all the support,” said Jacob. “I’m glad I have people in the town — friends who care about me and are willing to help me and my family through the hard times.”

It’ll take six to nine months for Jacob to reach full recovery — time to not only heal physically but to deal with the fact he’ll never be able to play football again.

“That’s a tough one,” said Brandi, explaining he may be able to be the team’s kicker. At this point, he’ll probably also miss playing all sports this school year.”

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