Family comes together while forced apart
Gail Boaldin’s family has weathered a tough year, dealing with relatives’ health struggles and her daughter’s deployment overseas, but the holiday season has been especially hard.
“It’s extremely hard,” she said. “I have 15 grandchildren and I don’t get to see many of them at all. I haven’t for months, you know, but the holiday makes it worse. This was our weekend to have our family Christmas, so this has been a tough one.”
Gail’s husband, Rick, has been battling chronic respiratory issues, so the couple decided hosting the family for Christmas was too risky.
“It’s tough,” she said. “I’d have to say it’s just our faith that carries us through. It’s just our faith that keeps everything together. Otherwise we’d probably fall apart, honestly.”
Rick’s daughter, Nicole, had a hard time telling her three children they couldn’t see their grandfather.
“It hurts, but what do you do?” she said.
Nicole, who lives in Newton, is dealing with her own health problems. She was diagnosed with stage four liver disease called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis six months ago.
The aggressive form of liver disease can cause liver inflammation and scarring, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“It’s the unknown,” she said. “It’s scary, and we don’t know what to expect. God tells us not to fear, but it’s the unknown that is scary. It’s changed everything.”
There is no cure for the disease, Nicole said, and surgery that might help would cost $16,000. Her health insurance won’t cover the operation because it is considered an elective procedure.
Gail and Rick started a fund that raised $5,370 as of Tuesday.
Doctors were unable to tell Nicole what caused the disease, but she said they assumed it was caused by weight gain and medication she was on after having thyroid cancer a few years ago.
Reducing her number of medications and losing 70 pounds to reach a goal weight of 125 pounds will help, but Nicole still will need a liver transplant.
“It’s just such a bummer,” she said. “I go to see my doctors religiously. Every 30 to 90 days I got to see my thyroid specialist, on a regular basis, and they do blood work constantly. It’s not like I neglect my health.”
Nicole now sticks to a diet of greens, nuts, and eggs and fish for protein, which she describes as a “Mediterranean diet without red meat.”
“She’s having a rough time, there’s not much she can eat right now,” Gail said.
The Boaldins also worry about Jess, another daughter who has been stationed in Germany with the Air Force for the past four years.
Not seeing Jess is difficult because she has six months of duty left, so Gail and other family members can only see Jess’s 4- and 6-year-old children in video calls.
Having their worlds turned upside down taught Gail not to take life for granted.
“You have to cherish every second you get,” she said. “I think that’s something a lot of people take for granted, especially those who live close. It’s not even every minute; it’s every second that you cherish.”
Even with all the obstacles, the Boaldins are doing their part to make the holidays enjoyable, by having frequent video calls, and a secret Santa exchange for family in the area.
“Family is very important,” she said. “It always has been. I would say this is the first Christmas we haven’t been together since my kids have been born, and the oldest child now is 40.”
Last modified Dec. 24, 2020