Until a year ago, the life of the Sears family was nothing out of the ordinary. Mom, Karen Sears, and her children, daughter Jhyrve and son Lucas lived together in Martinez, California. However, their lives changed in February 2004 when Jhyrve was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, Krabbe Disease. With the knowledge that death usually occurs within two years of diagnosis, Jhyrve accompanied by her mother, relocated to North Carolina to undergo a life-saving blood transplant at Duke University. Since her April 1 transplant, Jhyrve has remained in the pediatric ward receiving the high doses of chemotherapy and medications that make up part of the procedure.
Though Jhyrve is determined to recover and has kept a positive attitude, the strain has been great on the entire family. Due to her fragile immune system, the doctors won’t let Jhyrve return to her Martinez home until it has undergone extensive – and expensive – modifications. This means that the entire family has been separated with Jhyrve at Duke University, her brother in California attending school, and her mom spending most of her time on the East Coast with her daughter. The family’s challenges prompted family friends, Steve and Lise Wallace, to nominate the family for ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, so that the Sears could be once again reunited under one roof.
Jhyrve’s return home requires more than equipping the family home with special physical therapy devices and balance-enhancing fixtures. Her lowered immune system means that the entire home must conform to certain standards to ensure that her health and recovery will not be compromised. The heating and air conditioning system must contain a HEPA filtration unit. The house must be “mold proofed” as much as possible. Surrounding plants must be hypoallergenic. Sun, dust and bugs are extremely harmful so an attached screened-in porch has been suggested. All of these structural changes, plus the many others that are required for her return, proved beyond the family’s means. This is where Extreme Makeover: Home Edition stepped in to create the home Jhyrve needs.
Jhyrve still has a challenging road of recovery to navigate but at least now, she will be surrounded by those who love her most. On December 15, the Sears family will come home to both a new house and a new beginning.