Eddie Moen's health problems should be all any family has to deal with.
The money, the care, the prayers of friends, normally it would all go to him.
But even though Moen has endured countless rounds of chemotherapy and, in February, a stem-cell treatment designed to prolong his life — for his kind of cancer, multiple myeloma, there is no cure — he's not the priority. His oldest grandson, Koah, 8, last year received lifesaving heart surgery that revealed his aorta was as big around as a pinhole.
His youngest grandson, Isaac, was born in October 2010 and has been hospitalized most of the time since with a severe heart defect.
"It's been a triple whammy," said Moen's wife, Denise.
And when children are sick, said Eddie Moen, 59, there's no question about it: "They always come first."
Friends and family members have scheduled a dinner and silent auction for 5 p.m. April 13 at First United Methodist Church in Brooksville to help the family with the many expenses not covered by insurance.
We've all heard this story before: medical troubles compounded by financial ones. We've all been asked to help.
Whether we do or not depends on how well we know the family, how much they've given the community, how tough their situation is.
Well, you might know Eddie Moen even if you don't know you know him.
He's the guy who's been delivering UPS parcels in Brooksville — sometimes with a wide-brimmed straw hat, always with a wave and a pleasant word — for the last 22 years.
I once heard that delivering mail was the perfect platform for a political career. But if people like their letter carriers, they love their UPS workers, said his sister-in-law, Dawn Brook, who is helping organize the fundraiser.
"When I went to the businesses on Eddie's route, I'd just start to say what we were doing, and they'd say, 'What do you need?' "
Denise Moen has run the Hernando County School District's HEART Literacy program for 25 years.
Some of the students start as complete nonreaders. Some need help preparing for their GED tests. Either way, these adult students — about 14,000 in Moen's time at HEART — get a skill needed to function in society, a chance to succeed.
Isaac's other grandmother, Sue Wetherington, is also in education; she works in the schools' information technology department. Her former husband, Keith, is retired from the school district's maintenance department. Isaac's father, Jason, is a full-time math instructor at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
Stephanie Wetherington, Isaac's mother, has been living in Boston since August, when Isaac, then not even a year old, was flown to the Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital there for his third open-heart surgery.
The insurance company paid only one-third of the air ambulance fees, leaving the family with a bill for $21,000. That's one expense the families had to cover. The cost of living in Boston, where Stephanie lives with Abigail, 4, and Koah, is another expense, a big one. In Boston, the rent for even their tiny one-bedroom apartment is astronomical.
They also must pay for Jason Wetherington, who has stayed at his job in Brooksville, to fly to Boston two weekends a month to see his family.
He flew there again last week because Isaac was hospitalized with concerns about his kidney function.
But Isaac has been more responsive and alert in recent days, his mother said in a telephone interview on Tuesday, and much more vigorous than when he first arrived in Boston.
During his first months of life, Isaac was not just hospitalized, but in intensive care. And after an unsuccessful open-heart surgery last summer at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa, his heart function was so weak that he was kept in a drug-induced coma. Basically, his mother said, his heart couldn't handle the demands of being awake.
The surgery in Boston has allowed doctors to wean him off some of the sedatives. He is still on a ventilator and a feeding tube, Denise Moen said, but between late last December and last week, he was able to live at home — or at least the temporary one in Boston — for the first time in his life.
"He's our little miracle guy," she said.