Jeff Clemence has a lot on his mind. As a committed husband and father; his first priority in life is protecting his family. His identity rests firmly on the belief that he can keep his children healthy and happy. But there are things that are bigger than him… things he can’t control.
He and his wife Kelly were overjoyed when they found out they were expecting. When they became parents on February 18th, 2009, what should have been the happiest day of their lives was also one of the scariest. Daughter Lizzy was born under 4 lbs and doctors were confused as to why she wouldn’t eat. “They knew that something was wrong,” said Kelly, “they just didn’t know what.”
15 months later, the Clemence family still didn’t have an answer. Doctors assured Kelly and Jeff that whatever Lizzy had, they had no reason to believe it would affect their second child. While continuing to search for Lizzy’s diagnosis, the Clemence’s were thrilled to find out they were pregnant again. When Mason was born at almost the exact same weight as his sister… that was the moment that Jeff and Kelly knew that something was very wrong.
Both children were diagnosed with Ligase IV Deficiency, a serious disease that can only be found in 14 other people in the world.
For this rare immunodeficiency, there is only one known treatment: a bone marrow transplant. Essentially, Lizzy and Mason’s immune systems are not sufficient. They were not born with all the tools they need to survive. A bone marrow transplant wipes their current immune systems and replaces them with healthy, donor cells. Extremely invasive, painful, and associated with a high mortality rate, bone marrow transplants are used as a last resort effort in most cases. For Lizzy and Mason, it’s their only option.
The medical bills and treatment costs quickly became overwhelming for the Clemence family. Mom Kelly keeps their world spinning on axis, aligning medical appointments, g-tube feedings, and often living alone for weeks on end with one or both of the children while they receive treatment. Jeff keeps his family financially afloat by commuting back and forth from the hospital in Cincinatti to work in Illinois. It is on these long, quiet hours on the road that he has time to think.
He needed some help. His wife needed some help. Most of all, his kids, who have never not had to fight to stay alive in their short existence, needed some help. For them, for his family, the most pressing need was transportation. A safe way for his family – the most important and precious people in the world to him – to travel the 6-hour trip to get the treatment his children depended upon. For a father, knowing your family is protected even when you’re not there is not a luxury, it is a necessity. He needed peace of mind, and his family needed a van. There was just one problem. He had no idea where to turn to get help.
Enough of this. He needed to clear his head. He focused his attention back on his job. It was a good job. It kept a roof over his children’s heads, food on the table, and just enough money to cover expenses. Plus, he really liked it. He enjoyed being a part of the beer industry, distributing all over the state. He pulled a case and recognized the name: KCCO Black Lager. He had heard this before. KCCO.
Keep Calm, Chive On.