LIMA — Last Christmas, things were looking up for Brittany and her young family.
Brittany and her fiance, Jeff, not their real names, were happily raising their five children and advancing in life. Little did they know Brittany’s 40th year on the planet would turn things so upside down for her.
Back in February, she was one of the first people in the region to get COVID-19. She thought it was a bad cold but later learned she had pneumonia in one lung that was encroaching to the other. After identifying the cause as coronavirus, they learned the disease had pushed water on Brittany’s heart, causing heart failure. Now she also has asthma and a kidney condition, and she later was diagnosed with lupus.
“The worst thing about COVID was that for my kids, I wasn’t there,” Brittany said. “I spent over a month in the hospital, and they were constantly worried about me. Any time I get a little bit of a stuffy nose from allergies, my 9-year-old son will ask, ‘Mom, are you OK? You don’t need to go to the hospital, do you?’”
Brittany’s family is one of the families profiled in this year’s Adopt a Stocking series, a joint fundraising venture between The Salvation Army and The Lima News. Most days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the newspaper will feature a different story of a family hit by hard times, unable to provide the holiday they want for their children. Names of the recipients are changed to protect family member’s privacy.
Last year, the program raised $8,280 in money and some donated items to help families in need last year.
In Brittany’s case, her time in the hospital meant Jeff had to take time off work to care for the children while she recovered. Beyond the annoyances that Jeff couldn’t make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich the same way Brittany does, it took a financial toll on the family.
“We’re playing bill catch-up from when he needed to be off,” Brittany said. “With our five kids, they know money is always tight. … They kind of understand that Santa can’t buy them everything this year. It means we need to do some bill catch-up, including utilities and rent. The main stuff has to come first, then we’ll do whatever we can.”
It doesn’t mean they don’t want things, of course. The 11-year-old and 5-year-old girls are both “girly girls,” and they enjoy fashionable clothes and nail polish. The 5-year-old also likes stuffed animals, babies and Barbies.
The 9-year-old boy has already told the family’s Elf on the Shelf that he wants Legos and remote control cars. The oldest two, 15 and 13, are typical teens, being unclear on what they want but generally interested in video games and music.
“For me, everything’s about my kids. It isn’t about me,” Brittany said. “My kids are what I fight for every day. Anything that me or anyone else can give them for Christmas, it would make them happy. They deserve to be happy.”