Phoenix PD Helps Save Christmas for Online Student’s Sick Child
By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau
Linzy Hoffmann sits in the gravel landscaping of her front yard, a smile entrenched on her face almost as bright as the Christmas lights that surround her.
The hardscrabble surroundings of her Phoenix home could be new-fallen snow as far as the happy-go-lucky 5-year-old is concerned as she unearths items in the gravel to share with her visitors on this cool winter evening.
And the lights?
They came from the “fah-may,” says Linzy, who her mother fears may be experiencing her final Christmas as she awaits chemotherapy and radiation treatments to prepare her for bone marrow and kidney transplants due to a rare disease called Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia.
First explanations first: Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia is
an often fatal disease characterized by short stature (dwarfism), kidney disease and a weakened immune system.
And the “fah-may” is what Linzy calls uniformed ambulance, police or fire department officers. In this case, the “fah-may” are Phoenix police officers Jacob Lewis and David Head, who last week went above and beyond the call of duty to save a big part of Christmas for Linzy’s family.
Stealing Christmas: ‘Who does that?’
Linzy’s mom, Jessica Smith, put Christmas lights and decorations out a week before Thanksgiving this year. She wanted her daughter to experience Christmas for as long as she could, knowing an operation also could cut short the holiday season.
But on Nov. 21, after Jessica had dropped her fiancé off at work at 3 a.m., she returned home to find that all of the outdoor decorations had been stolen. Three spiral Christmas trees, two reindeer, a Santa’s sleigh, snowflake lights hanging from the roof and netting lights on the ground to resemble snow all had been ripped out and carted off.
“They must have had a window of about 20 minutes to do that,” Jessica said. “When I got back home, I was like, ‘Oh my God, who does that?’”
Buying new lights really wasn’t an option; Jessica is on food stamps while she cares for Linzy during the day and takes online classes at GCU to become a special-education teacher. But “I really wanted the lights there when Linzy was going through chemo,” she said.
When Jessica called police, Lewis and Head responded.
The chances of recapturing the stolen property weren’t good, but Lewis and Head knew there was another way they could help after they learned of Linzy’s situation.
They contacted Angels on Patrol, an organization that assists Phoenix police with families and children in need, and wheels were set in motion to take the Smith family to Walmart to purchase new lights.
“We are not just police officers. We are fathers and have children of our own and want to help the community,” Lewis told Channel 12 News. “I am expecting my fifth child.”
The officers also dug into their own pockets, buying $80 worth of groceries for the family.
“I want to give her a good Christmas,” Lewis said.
That night, after the newly purchased lights were assembled on the Smith home, Linzy came outside and screamed, “My beut-bull (beautiful)” and “Santa’s coming!”
She and her 2-year-old brother, Skylar, immediately began running around the front yard.
“I was so thankful,” Jessica said. “All I could think about was how happy my babies were.”
Holding out hope for 15 percent
Jessica said doctors have told her that there is an 85 percent chance that Linzy won’t make it through the bone marrow procedure.
Physically and mentally, she more resembles a 2-year-old in her development, and she has been going through stages of kidney failure since she was 6 months old. In November, she started IV injections designed to boost her immune system so that it is strong enough to endure chemotherapy and radiation. If Linzy then gets through the bone marrow transplant, Jessica said doctors will want to perform the kidney transplant immediately while her immune system is at its peak.
Even then, Jessica said another bone marrow procedure will be needed in another year or two.
“She is such a happy, energetic child. She doesn’t know she’s sick,” Jessica said. “She thinks going to doctors and going through tests is everyday life.
“Her immune system is so weak that we can’t go out in public where there are lots of people. We went to a McDonald’s for the first time about six months ago, and two days later she had bronchial pneumonia.”
For Jessica’s part, she is adamant that she stays strong for her daughter.
“Over the years I have learned to stifle my emotions,” Jessica said. “I don’t want her to see me like that. I don’t want her to ever see that anything is wrong. I want her to focus on being a little girl. … If I do lose her, I can cry all I want after.”
Still, there are moments …
“On Thanksgiving, I had to leave (the table) because I didn’t know if that would be our last Thanksgiving.”
As the Christmas holiday nears, the Smith family is still looking for bone marrow or kidney donors (Jessica didn’t qualify because she is diabetic). Donations also can be made to help the family with medical expenses.
Jessica said she would love to be able to take Linzy to see snow before she begins her medical procedures, and to meet Santa – possibly at the North Pole Experience in Flagstaff if she can arrange a time when not too many other kids are present.
A bank account has been set up at Wells Fargo – the account number is 1064675190 – and an online donation page has been established at http://fundly.com/help-for-little-linzy.
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or [email protected].