The Kramer family made the trek to Watsonville from Manteca for a summer family vacation. All seemed well, with everyone enjoying themselves away from the business and rapidity of life. However, one day, Abby went to her mother, Michelle, to tell her that she was having trouble breathing. At first, Michelle assumed that it was just something in the air or some other logical explanation. “When your daughter tells you something like that, you don’t immediately assume the worst. The thought of something worse didn’t even cross my mind,” Michelle says. However, on a hike with her father, John, Abby’s trouble breathing persisted, and John decided to bring her back to her mother. Once Michelle saw that her daughter was still having trouble breathing, she decided to bring her to the Emergency Room as a precaution. “The doctors did a few tests and examinations, and they came back and told us that her lung had collapsed and she needed surgery,” Michelle remembers. The family vacation was abruptly ended as Abby needed to be moved to Kaiser Santa Clara quickly for surgery.
The challenge the Kramer family now faced was unlike anything they had ever experienced before. They were hours from home, they had a daughter in the hospital, and life’s demands quickly began to assail them. “It was such a challenge juggling the family. We had to think about where to eat, where to sleep, how to do the laundry, all little things that began to pile up when all we needed to focus on was the health of our child,” Michelle recalls. Eventually, doctors told Michelle and John about JW House, a place where they could stay while Abby spent time recovering in the hospital. When they first saw JW House, they felt relief from many of the struggles they were facing. “The small things were taken care of,” feels John, “because we didn’t have to worry about where to sleep, meals were prepared for us there, and it was just a place where we could relax when we needed to. JW House gave us the things we needed to be able to put all our energy into helping our daughter get better.” As time went on, John and Michelle continued to visit JW House, telling Abby about their experiences there. Michelle reveals, “One night, we came to the hospital room with to-go boxes full of dinner from the House. Abby was so happy because she didn’t like the hospital food, but she didn’t know where we got it from, so we started telling her about JW House.” When reminiscing about their experiences with JW House and its volunteers, Michelle and John remember it as a true “home away from home”. “At JW House, we were never isolated. We always had someone to talk with about what we were going through. The effect of JW House was simple, yet powerful. It is hard to describe just what it means to us,” John said.
A year after their stay at the JW House, John, Michelle, and Abby were back cooking dinner for the guests of the House to pay forward the kindness and support they received in their moment of need.