Young family struggles to fight sudden genetic disorder
The Whisenhunt family is battling Marfan Syndrome. (Photo Source: Ashley Whisenhunt)
Mitchell Whisen hunt in the hospital. (Photo Source: KLTV Staff.)
Mitchell and his daughter. (Source: GoFundMe.com page)
TYLER, TX (KLTV) -
What was supposed to be the happiest day of one East Texas couple's life has lead to frequent hospital stays, surgery and feeding tubes.
They're battling Marfan Syndrome, a genetic tissue disorder that has been taking a financial and emotional toll on them for four years.
The Whisenhunt family is looking for support now more than ever. Mitchell and Ashley Whisenhunt were married four years ago this July, but hours after they said "I do," Mitchell got extremely ill.
"By the time we got home and got him to the hospital, he had double pneumonia, and that's kind of where everything started," explains Ashley Whisenhunt.
The couple spent months in and out of hospitals and eventually they learned he had Marfan Syndrome. Marfan is a genetic tissue disorder that causes heart problems, but it can also impact your lungs, joints, vision and muscle tone. Ashley says Mitchell had no idea he had the disease until the symptoms started showing in his early 20s.
"I've lost him three or four times and each time they've been able to get him to breathe again. He told me at one point that he wished that God wouldn't have let him come back because he wouldn't be in pain. That hurts the worst," said Ashley as she held back tears.
Their daughter, 14-month-old Brynleigh, has a 50/50 chance of having Marfan, too. It's not the life the young couple thought they would have.
"Each time that he gets sick, we have to start over again and we have to get rid of everything and money's not coming. We lose our car. We lose our house... pretty much everything. We have to sell stuff that we didn't want to sell," says Ashley.
For example, they had to pawn her wedding ring to pay medical bills. Mitchell's health insurance won't pay for any more hospital stays after July 1, so he will go home for the first time in six weeks.
"It's going to [mean] finding someone to take care of both [Mitchell and Brynleigh] so I can go back to work, so we can have the means to provide for ourselves," explains Ashley.
Going home also means finding a way to pay for his at-home hospital bed, feeding tube and oxygen. Medicare Part B coverage might not kick in for 6 months, but they're holding on to hope.
"If you have God in your life like we do, you can't help but smile because you know things are going to get better. It's just going to be hard, and it is very hard," she says.
The Whisenhunt family is selling T-shirts and bracelets to help pay for Mitchell's tube feedings and oxygen. They also have an online fundraiser set up through Go Fund Me. For information on their fundraisers, click here.