Family of givers turns to Canton community for support

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Jacob Apprille, a first grade student at the Kennedy Elementary School, has a variety of interests. “He’s funny and spirited and artistic,” said his mother, Michele Slobin Apprille. “He loves school. He’s obsessed with cooking. He’s a really good artist. We have his toys everywhere. He loves sports. Until recently Jacob was learning how to play hockey. But about a month ago, hockey was put on hold for the foreseeable future.”

The Apprille family of Canton are a close-knit bunch.

The Apprille family of Canton are a close-knit bunch.

“He had a limp,” Michele said. “He said his hip hurt.” The limp and hip pain went away, but a few days later Jacob was limping again and complaining of leg pain.

Michele arranged to take Jacob to see a specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital on a Friday, coincidentally the same day that her husband, Tom Apprille, Jr., left for San Juan, Puerto Rico, to begin a months-long work assignment with Northstar Recovery to do commercial reconstruction of areas damaged by Hurricane Maria.

Doctors at Children’s Hospital told Michele very quickly that Jacob had Perthes disease. “They diagnosed him immediately after seeing the X-rays,” she said.

Perthes disease is a are childhood condition that affects the hip. It happens when the blood supply to the thighbone is temporarily disrupted, causing bone cells to die. There are stages of Perthes, which can last several years. With treatment, the long-term prognosis is good for most children. Jacob is scheduled for surgery December 11.

Michele waited until the evening of Tom’s first day in Puerto Rico before calling him to let him know about Jacob. Tom had just arrived for a stay of up to nine months in a place where he felt he could make a difference.

Helping others is something that the Apprille family does. Their younger son, Michael, is on the autism spectrum and they began a PTO at the Rodman Early Childhood Center to create inclusion between families of children with special needs and their community peers. They have also led Coats for Kids drives in Canton.

“We’ve always been a family that tries to give back to others before asking for something for ourselves,” Michele said.

Jacob has a wheelchair and crutches, which are covered by health insurance. Following his surgery, he will be confined to a wheelchair for three months and will need physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other medical treatments.

The Apprilles have created a GoFundMe page to raise money to help with medical/rehabilitation costs, such as a wheelchair ramp for the outside of the home as well as a stair lift for the interior of the house. The bathroom is on the second floor of the house and with Tom away, Michele has to get Jacob upstairs. He is too heavy for her to carry. Jacob is also receiving acupuncture treatments at Children’s Hospital to relieve the pain, and the treatments are not covered by insurance.

Michele said that Jacob was frightened after being diagnosed with Perthes and concerned that children might make fun of his crutches. She took him into speak with principal Christine McMahon, who suggested that Jacob invite two classmates to stay inside with him during recess and play board games. Now, Michele said, everyone wants a chance to play one of the games with Jacob. It’s just one example of the kindness being shown to the family.

“I’m so grateful to Canton,” Michelle said. “We feel that support around us.”

Michele has channeled Jacob’s artistic talent and energy in a positive way to thank people who donate to the GoFundMe page. He is designing colorful buttons and t-shirts as thank-you gifts for donors. Jacob is donating money he earns for chores into a tzedakah bank, and he plans to use the money to help another child when he is well.

Speaking from Puerto Rico, Tom Apprille said that he is working long days and sending money back home to help cover the family’s regular expenses as well as the modifications that are needed to help Jacob deal with Perthes.

“It’s tough being away from my family,” he said. “But I look at people here. They have it tougher at times than I do. I’m blessed that my family is safe.”

He is going to take a red eye flight from San Juan to Boston on December 10 and will arrive in the early morning hours of December 11 in time for Jacob’s surgery. He is scheduled to return to Puerto Rico December 22, so the family is planning an early Christmas celebration.

“Spending time, playing with them, spending time with my wife. Just to be together. That’s the present I’m going to have for Christmas,” Tom said.

To donate to the Apprille family, go to www.gofundme.com/teamapprille.

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