Eleven-year-old Jake M., Greeneville, Tenn., is a typical boy. A bit shy when you first meet him, he’s also opinionated. He loves racing on the Wii and watching NASCAR. His smile lights up a room.
“He gets up smiling and he goes to bed smiling,” mother Audra says. “He never complains.”
His spirit isn’t the least bit dampened by being in a wheelchair.
The beginning of the road
When Jake was born, parents Jason and Audra were overjoyed. He was the first child and first grandchild, and everything seemed normal. He walked at 13 months. He was healthy and happy.
But when he started kindergarten, they realized something was wrong.
A sharp curve
Getting up from the floor and taking the stairs became more challenging as Jake grew. He could be pushed over with a gentle touch. While no one believed it was anything serious, he was referred to a specialist.
“We received the call right after Christmas in 2006,” Audra says. “Jake’s blood work showed muscular dystrophy.”
Jake had Duchenne MD, which affects boys almost exclusively. By the third grade, just touching him caused him to fall over. He started using a wheelchair.
MD affects more than 50,000 Americans and causes weakened muscles due to the body’s inability to produce proteins needed for healthy muscles. But, as Audra learned, muscles mean more than just Jake’s legs.
“Your heart is a muscle,” she says. “So are your tongue, your eyes and your lungs.”
Right now, Jake continues to see positive results from his treatments at Duke University. His internal muscles are good, and he keeps fighting.
“I think he’s got more strength than my husband and me put together,” Audra says. “I hope they find a cure. There are new findings every day. They will find something to make it better.”
A safety belt
When Jake was only a few months old, well before anyone understood the challenges he’d face, his parents met with their Modern Woodmen financial representative Marilyn Colyer-Neece.
“I was only a few weeks old when my parents bought life insurance for me, and I still have it to this day,” Audra says. “My dad told me that Jake needed life insurance, too.”
She took her dad’s advice, hoping it gave Jake a firm financial footing, maybe helping to pay for college someday.
“We did it then, not knowing what we know now,” says Audra. “I’m so glad we did it when we did. When your baby is born, you think there can’t be anything wrong. But things happen.”
Marilyn agrees. “I encourage parents to get their kids covered while they are young and healthy,” she says. “I’ve had to meet with parents who come to me after their kids get sick, and it’s too late to get life insurance.”
“I would tell any parent to get life insurance for their kids,” Audra says, “because you never know what’s down the road.”