Redding resident LynnAnne DeWitt takes a risk every time she leaves her home.

DeWitt is the mother of four children, including Tannor, a young adult with cerebral palsy and a rare form of Crohn’s disease. Each month, Tannor has to be taken to Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto to receive special treatment for his Crohn’s disease which lasts for five hours.

Tannor was an active student at Enterprise High School who graduated in 2020. He was a member of the school’s varsity basketball team and became the topic of Redding’s conversation after scoring a basket against Spring Creek. of Nevada on December 5, 2019.

“He knows what he wants to do,” said Gordon DeWitt, Tannor’s father. “It’s only his body that lets him down, not his mind.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020, DeWitt must do everything possible to protect Tannor and his three other children living at home, Madison, Aleenah and Isaiah. Children’s ages have not been provided by DeWitt to protect the privacy of his children.

About a month ago, the whole family contracted COVID-19, with Gordon showing the worst symptoms, while Tannor battled a fever of over 102 degrees for three painful days. The symptoms could have been much more severe for Tannor, who lives with an autoimmune disease that makes it harder to fight viruses.

The DeWitts are pleading with residents to wear masks and protect the most vulnerable.

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Crowds go wild for California player with special needs at basketball game

Enterprise senior Tannor DeWitt landed his first shot in the fourth quarter for the Hornets

Courtesy of James Williams, Redding Record Searchlight

The DeWitt family have spoken about their struggle with the pandemic. This prompted LynnAnne DeWitt to start a support group for other families with special needs.

Here’s how their family has been affected, the dangers the coronavirus poses to people with autoimmune diseases, and what the DeWitt family is doing to bring the community together – one sip at a time.

Symptoms and signs

The first person in the DeWitt family to show symptoms of coronavirus was Gordon. It was Christmas Eve. Gordon, who is a pastor at Pathways Church, believed he suffered from allergies or a minor cold. He first remembered having had a sore throat.

“We honestly didn’t think it was COVID because we had done everything to protect ourselves,” said LynnAnne DeWitt, a stay-at-home mom.

At least that’s what she thought.

Then, on Christmas Day, she started to experience similar symptoms. On Monday, she lost her sense of smell and taste. That’s when LynnAnne DeWitt decided to have her family tested at the COVID-19 clinic at 1055 Dana Drive. All of her family’s tests came back positive.

While Tannor had a fever, Gordon experienced headaches, a burning nose, and body aches that lasted for 14 days.

“To me, I felt like I had the worst muscle aches I’ve ever had that didn’t come close to the things I’ve experienced with the flu,” Gordon said. “I felt like every part of my body was being beaten.”

People like Tannor are at a greater risk of suffering from long-term complications from the coronavirus due to his fragile immune system, which is weakened due to cerebral palsy.

A study from the Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine found that respiratory dysfunction is one of the leading causes of death in people with cerebral palsy.

The stress of the coronavirus on people with cerebral palsy increases the likelihood of contracting pneumonia. When a person catches pneumonia, the lungs become inflamed and fill with fluid, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Not only does the coronavirus pose a risk to Tannor’s health, but also to other patients he comes into contact with at Palo Alto Children’s Hospital.

“It’s really a matter of life and death,” his mother said, “not just for our son, but for the kids he shares the treatment center with. Everyone knows you can transmit COVID well. before they have symptoms. The children in Palo Alto, where Tannor is being treated, are literally neutropenic, which means they have no white blood cells. “

White blood cells, also called leukocytes, are found in the body’s immune system to fight infections, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Although Tannor has not experienced the worst symptoms of coronavirus, he is considered lucky. The only residual effect of the coronavirus that Tannor treats is a recurring rash. LynnAnne DeWitt says she still hasn’t regained her smell or taste.

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Advocacy and public interaction

The DeWitt family are calling on residents of the Northern State to take the coronavirus threat more seriously as cases continue to spread in Shasta County.

LynnAnne DeWitt said she had to be careful where she shopped. She said that while some stores are good at providing safe environments for consumers, other stores are not doing enough to ensure the masks are worn by both customers and employees.

“We don’t have the luxury of taking this as a political agenda,” she said. “We have no choice but to think this is a threat to our family. There are a lot of families like us who are stuck at home and we feel very forgotten.”

DeWitt recalls an incident while at Lowe’s with Madison. She said that she and her daughter were called communists because they wore a mask.

“I feel like I should be wearing a shirt that says I’m the mother of an immunocompromised son,” DeWitt said. “I shouldn’t have to say that. People should have the compassion to know that maybe someone is fighting a battle that has nothing to do with a political agenda. And situations like these are more common. than we think. ”

Shasta County Health and Human Services spokesperson Kerri Schuette said by email: ‘Just as we wouldn’t denigrate someone for wearing a bicycle helmet or stopping at a sign. stop, we should not disparage people for wearing masks or physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID. “

The “start of something we want to see grow”

The DeWitts aren’t the only family with special needs who want some members of the community to take the coronavirus more seriously.

Robyn Valdivia, a mother of five, said her youngest son, Silas, was born with Down syndrome. Valdivia says that even the slightest cold could put Silas in the hospital.

“If he’s got a stuffy nose or a cough, it’s likely he’s not getting enough oxygen,” Valdivia said. “If that happens, either he needs to be put on an inhaler or we need to take him to the emergency room. It’s COVID-free. It’s clear that having a respiratory virus there poses a serious risk to his health.”

If Silas caught the coronavirus, the results could be catastrophic.

A study from the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people with Down syndrome were 10 times more likely to die and five times more likely to be hospitalized after being infected with the coronavirus.

Valdivia said she wore a mask everywhere she went, including in her own home to keep Silas safe. If her family sees friends or family, they need to be socially distanced. The children of Valdivia, aged between 5 and 13, can only leave the house for necessary trips. Children are not allowed to enter the stores.

“They are more likely to touch their nose or their mouth, which also has a huge impact on their life,” said Valdivia. “My husband and I have to be careful. In fact, I wear two masks because the cases are so important in our community and there are people who still don’t wear them. Because there are people who don’t wear masks in public, I have to wear two to protect my son’s survival. “

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Last Halloween, the DeWitt family created a virtual supportive discussion group for families who cannot travel during the pandemic called “Sip N Chat”. Children of different ages and families meet every Thursday on Zoom.

Every Sip N Chat meeting comes with a sweet surprise. LynnAnne and Gordon deliver brown bags filled with various mixes of hot chocolate and cider. There are four drinks included in each bag, one per week for the kids to drink together while they chat on Zoom.

Children play video games, laugh, sing and pray among themselves, while adults have the opportunity to relax and find comfort in this tense social climate.

“There are a lot of parents who are grieving right now,” DeWitt said. “There are a lot of people who don’t have the same access to share their story, so it’s our heart to be there and let them know that they are not forgotten. The real joy comes from helping others.”

DeWitt hopes more families will join Sip N Chat.

“This is just the start of something we want to see grow,” DeWitt said. “It’s been so powerful in so many ways and we want others to know it. I know there are other families and siblings who feel the exact same way we do.”

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Valdivia said her family is feeling the benefits of Sip N Chat.

“It gives my kids something to look forward to and helps them develop relationships this year outside of our family,” said Valdivia. “It has been a real blessing to have the DeWitt family design this for these families.”

LynneAnne DeWitt said she had no strong political beliefs. All she wants is for her children to be in public again without risking Tannor being sickened by the virus. All she wants is for Redding to become a safe place for her children to hang out in public without risking spreading more deadly viruses to Tannor.

“I encourage people to come out of themselves because there are a lot of fragments and a lot of anger,” DeWitt said. “If anyone really wants to fight this, find people who are suffering, who need help, and serve them.”

To become a member of the social group, DeWitt was told to text “info” to 530-206-0703.

Ethan Hanson started working for the Redding Record Searchlight after four years with the Los Angeles Daily News as a freelance writer. Her coverage includes work from the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in South Bend, Indiana, and writing about the Rams’ move from St. Louis to Los Angeles with the Ventura County Star. He started his career as a play-by-play broadcaster for LA Pierce College from 2011 to 2017. Follow him on Twitter at @EthanAHanson_RS.

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