Stonington — Zachary Abbett could not walk until he was 4 years old. At 6, a spinal infection left him temporarily blind and paralyzed. Now, doctors have told the freckle-faced 10-year-old that his kidneys are failing and that he will soon need a transplant.
“All he asks me is, ‘Why can’t I be a normal kid. I just want to be a normal kid,’ ” Zachary’s mother Laura said Wednesday as she fought back tears. “He’s just tired of all the doctors and all the tests. He told me, ‘Mom, If I’m going to be sick again like I was before, I’d rather be dead.’ That’s not something you ever want to hear your 10-year-old son say.”
Last year, Zachary’s parents had to declare bankruptcy after being laid off from their jobs. They’re working now but find it impossible to pay the mounting insurance deductibles and co-payments along with the costs of testing and treatments not covered by their insurance. They worry that their minivan, with 186,000 miles on it, will not be able to keep making the frequent trips between Stonington and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford.
So two borough women, one of whom wishes to remain anonymous, have established a fund to help Zachary and his parents pay their medical bills and other expenses.
“These women are angels,” Laura Abbett said. “The people have been so great in Stonington, the teachers and the school system.”
Lyn Kimmerle, a part-time borough resident from New Jersey heard about Zachary and the problems facing his family from her son, who works with Laura Abbett at The Yellow House, a popular coffee shop on Water Street.
“I don’t know what I’d do if that was my son. That could be any one of our sons,” Kimmerle said this week. “If we can get the word out to people, maybe we can help them.”
Kimmerle said she hopes people will come forward in the affluent borough to help the Abbetts, who live in the borough on Bradley Street.
“All of us have had times in our lives when we were poor or needed help. I hope they help out for the kid’s sake. They need a leg up,” she said.
Donations may be sent to the Zachary Abbett Kidney Fund, c/o Fleet Bank, Cannon Square, Stonington, CT 06378.
When Zachary was born in 1990, he was diagnosed with gross motor problems as well as a congenital problem that makes it difficult for him to move his eyes. On the day of his sixth birthday party, Zachary began feeling ill and doctors diagnosed him as having viral spinal myelitis, which left him unable to walk for a month and blind for a week. He spent six weeks in the hospital and then underwent rehabilitation before recovering.
“He’s fought one battle after another,” his mother said.
Zachary has never had a summer off from school. He has had to enroll in summer school each year to make up work he’s missed. He will be a fifth grade student at Mystic Middle School this fall.
Last winter, Laura Abbett noticed Zachary was pale, had dark circles under his eyes and was always tired. In February, a doctor diagnosed him as having juvenile kidney failure, meaning he would soon need a transplant. His sister, Amber, cannot donate because she is only 14, and doctors ruled out his mother because of her high blood pressure. Doctors are scheduled to do tests today on Zachary’s father Alan to determine if he is a match.
Zachary’s parents worry that a genetic disorder is causing his problems and fear it will lead to a lifetime of problems for their son. Some genetic testing is now being done.
“They may not cover it. It’s always been a fight with the insurance companies,” Laura Abbett said.
On Wednesday, Laura said Zachary was having a good day. He had a lot of energy and was his normal wisecracking self.
“I’m a warrior. I’m a champion,” Zachary joked, raising his fist.