Community gets involved for local student in health crisis

Charlotte Ferrell Smith Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

November 10, 2013

CHARLESTON (MCT) — More than 25 companies and organizations are joining forces to help raise funds for a family facing an unexpected crisis.

Jay Wessels, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Horace Mann, is in Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in need of a heart transplant.

Jay’s health problems began just a few weeks ago with a cough and some respiratory issues, said family friend Luci Wellborn, an attorney with Kay, Casto & Chaney in Charleston.

Jay, son of Barbara and Andy Wessels, was a healthy child before that episode struck and then continued to spiral into more serious problems, she said. Barbara is marketing director at the law firm and Andy is chief executive officer of Sterling Communications of West Virginia.

“Jay is the same age as my youngest daughter,” Wellborn said. “His older sister is the same age as my son.”

Wellborn, who has stayed in touch with the family, relayed the agonizing chain of events as best she could recall.

A few weeks ago, doctors believed Jay had asthma or an early case of pneumonia and a nebulizer was prescribed. However, his condition continued to worsen and he was taken to Charleston Area Medical Center’s Women and Children’s Hospital on Sept. 16. It was determined he had pneumonia in both lungs and he was placed in intensive care. As medical professionals tried various methods of helping him, heart issues developed.

He was airlifted to Pittsburgh on Sept. 18 and by early October was placed on a heart transplant list.

“He was taken by helicopter and his parents went with him,” Wellborn said. “His parents are staying in the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh.”

Meanwhile, friends back home in West Virginia began thinking of ways to help the family, and “Jeans for Jay” was launched.

It started at Kay, Casto and Chaney. For a $5 donation, an employee may wear jeans to work on a Friday with the money going to help Jay and his family with expenses.

As word spread through word of mouth and social media, more people climbed on board to offer assistance.

There are now 25 places participating — ranging from law firms and accounting offices to banks and schools.

Wellborn said people tend to feel a connection to Jay and the unexpected crisis he is facing.

“That could be anybody’s child,” she said.

Mountain Mission has agreed to handle the tax-deductible donations for Jeans for Jay with all proceeds going to the family. Go to www.mountainmission.com and on the receipt page indicate the donation is for Jay Wessels.

Go to www.facebook.com/JStrong.GoRed4Jay for more information.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymail.com or 304-348-1246.


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