Photo courtesy of Jeanna and Jay Sims.
Jeanna Sims kisses her son, Mason. Mason has faced health issues his entire life, including infections in his IV line and intestinal problems.
Mason Sims is 2 years old, and he has never been able to eat solid food. He’s on an IV for nutrients and medication for 20 hours a day, and due to health complications has been in and out of the hospital several times since birth. Despite these obstacles, Mason and his family keep fighting.
“He is the sweetest baby,” said Jeanna Sims, Mason’s mom. “With everything he has gone through, he’s still smiling.”
The Hoover community has also rallied to help the Sims family, which lives in Deer Valley. Cameron Iverson knows Jeanna through Zumba at the Hoover YMCA and has helped to organize fundraisers for the family. The group planned a Zumba-based fundraiser in Ross Bridge to help the Sims family pay for medical bills.
Mason and his twin brother, Gray, were “surprise” babies for Jeanna and Jay Sims. The boys shared a placenta in the womb -- a high-risk factor in pregnancy.
At 16 weeks, the Sims found out the babies were growing at drastically different rates. They were warned Mason might not make it through the week, but Jeanna and Jay refused the option of elective reduction.
“Every week, we would be going to our high-risk doctor and weren’t sure if he’d -- if they’d -- make it,” Jeanna said.
Jeanna had a cesarean section at 28 weeks. Mason was born at 1 pound, 6 ounces, and Gray was born at 2 pounds, 7 ounces. Mason spent the next eight months in the hospital, with his brother in a different hospital for two months.
“It was just a lot at first,” Jeanna said.
Mason has continued to face health issues, including infections in his IV line and intestinal problems.
“He is such a fighter, though,” Jeanna said. “People start praying like crazy and he pulls through.”
On Sept. 28, Jeanna took Mason to Nebraska for a chance at an intestinal transplant, which could improve some of his health problems.
“That’s one of the things that keeps him in the hospital,” said Iverson. “It’s one of the reasons he needs a transplant so bad — he’s so susceptible.”
To help cover past and future costs for the Sims family, Iverson created a GoFundMe page. The goal is lofty — $300,000 — and Iverson said Jeanna had some reservations about starting the page.
“She’s very concerned that GoFundMe is asking for money for a transplant, which is what it says,” Iverson said. “I said, ‘But that is the goal. If a doctor turns that down because Mason can’t handle it or because they find some other way, that’s fine.’ ”
After arriving in Nebraska, doctors told Jeanna that the survival rate five years post transplant is only 60 percent. The statistics were tough, but the Sims made the decision to look into intestinal rehab. Doctors also recommended heart surgery for Mason’s pulmonary vein stenosis, a condition that obstructs blood vessels.
Even though an intestinal transplant isn’t the next step, Iverson said the Sims family has medical bills and other family expenses to face.
The GoFundMe page has raised over $12,000 but still hopes to reach the $300,000 for the family. While Iverson can see donations as they come in, the family has full control of the money raised. They are able to take money out as it is needed and choose how to spend it.
“They’re a very deserving family because they’re not going to misuse,” Iverson said. “They’re so humble. They won’t ask, they will not ask you for money — I made her do this.”
In addition to the GoFundMe donations, community support has provided the Sims family with meals, gift cards, carpools and play dates for their two older children, Parker and Addison. There have also been efforts to get other kids in the community involved, and some children have asked for donations for Mason rather than presents at their birthday parties.
Jeanna said seeing families willing to help them is one of the most moving qualities of the community’s support.
“That brings me to tears, that people are raising their kids to be selfless and giving,” Jeanna said.
Although Mason and Gray’s health problems prevent them from going to church, Jeanna also said she appreciates the support of their community at Hunter Street Baptist. Prayers and faith have been a huge help in their family’s struggles, Jeanna said.
“It has literally carried us through some of his sickest times,” Jeanna said. “Our faith has been our rock.”
Iverson said the community has several more fundraising efforts in the works, and she hopes everyone will band together to support the Sims family.
“I just feel like I can’t express enough how much I appreciate the love and support,” Jeanna said. “We just pray that they’re blessed more than they have blessed us.”
The GoFundMe page for the Sims family can be found at gofundme.com/Mason-Gray.