HASTINGS, Mich.,-- Heidi Tyner felt alone when she first learned her son Joseph needed a feeding tube. But 15 years later, his rare condition and experience with a tube, have led to an incredible effort to reach out and help other families dealing with the same thing.
"I couldn't do any of this without first taking care of myself and my family," explained Tyner. "Now, I feel like I'm in a place where I can help other people."
It started two years ago, when Tyner said she was inspired by the generosity of students at Delton-Kellogg Middle School to find a way to give back. The students chose to raise money through a carnival and various other activities to help Tyner's son Joseph undergo genetic testing.
Joseph, 15, has a condition where he doesn't feel hunger. He relies on a feeding tube, and wears a backpack 23 hours a day to carry around formula that is
continuously pumped into his body.
The genetic testing didn't yield any answers about what causes his condition, but Tyner says it sparked an idea to begin "Joseph's Genetic Journey Pays it Forward".
The initiative aims to provide specially made pads to help keep tubes secure and in place, along with reusable pads, which alleviate the need for tape and gauze
where the tube is inserted.
Tyner, along with Joseph and several volunteers create the belts and pads in many different sizes and patterns. They are shipped all across the United States and Canada, free of charge.
"'Tubie' families have a lot of medical expenses," she explained. "They're available for purchase on the internet, but we don't want our tubie families to have one
more expense, so we provide them for free...If we can give them comfort at all, make things easier at all, than that's what we want to do."
Joseph has been the "guinea pig" for many of the belts. He approves and uses the belts himself.
"We've found the best fabrics to use," Joseph told FOX 17 News. "We do this to help ease, and kind of lighten up their lives. Because it's very stressful to have a
Tyner estimates more than 300 children have been helped by the effort. The group also has a waiting list of around 100 children.
"We get a lot of 'thank yous' and that's really all we need," said Tyner. "Just seeing the smiles, knowing that kids open their packages and smile...it just makes
As the June Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Tyner is receiving a $500 prize. She plans to use the money to make more belts and pads.
To learn more, or to donate to Joseph's Genetic Journey, visit the group's page on Facebook.
Know someone who should be featured next month? Nominate them here.