PILLAR OF STRENGTH: After cancer and lung disease take toll on her parents, CoMo teen asks community for help
The weight of the world -- at 15 years old
Jodie Bappe's mother has a deteriorating lung condition; her father, a Marine Corps veteran, was just diagnosed with cancer.
Both parents out of work, Bappe has taken to a fundraising blog called Indiegogo, where donations so far have exceeded her modest $3,500 request by nearly $1,000. Bappe thanked her donors last week while updating them on her mother's condition.
"I have known that my mom is sick from as long as I can remember," Bappe writes. "But she wasn’t that unhealthy until I was about seven or eight years old, and my brother Josh was ten. Since then, my brother and I have been getting ourselves up in the morning and to school. Since I was 12, I have had to cook dinner, balance my schoolwork and take care of all my mom’s needs."
"In September 2011, we had the biggest scare of our lives. My mom almost died," Bappe writes. "When we got to her hospital room, I went numb. She looked awful, with all the wires and IV tubes hooked up to her, pale and shaking. It was the middle of the night but I could not sleep."
Doctors advised the family that permanent breathing assistance was in the offing, and that if an infection or other complication developed, they would have to decide "whether or not to turn the machine off."
"Right there. Clear as day," Bappe writes. "My world: shattered. I could not breathe, could not blink, could not cry."
But after several weeks on a ventilator, her mother left the hospital and came home. "Doctor after doctor told us she wasn’t going to make it. But my mother, the strongest person I know, pulled through and got off the ventilator."
Bappe's father isn't fairing as well. Since August, he has lost 40 pounds, she writes. "His skin is discolored, especially his neck, where the radiation was centered. All the time, he is nauseous, sore, and exhausted. We are just waiting for him to recover."
But the wait may be long, and with bills piling up, Bappe says her family has been struggling. She and her brother Joshua -- another long-time honor roll student at Columbia Public Schools -- are the last two pillars of strength.
A technology innovator, Bappe recorded a faux ABC 17 news segment (above) for a school project about the novel Flowers for Algernon, which later become the movie Charly, the story of an earnest man who overcomes difficult times of his own with the help of people who believe in him. Bappe hopes her second tech project -- the online fundraising appeal -- will plant similar seeds of hope.
"I need my parents to get better," she says. "Some part of me is very mature. But the other part is still a little kid, who needs the protection and the care of two loving parents."