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Family learns what life is like with Arthrogryposis

“Following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, my heart knew we needed to go. Not to photograph, though I did do a little of that, but to restore what was broken and give hope where there was none. We found ourselves in a mountainside orphanage above Port-au-Prince less than three months following the earthquake. Little did we know at the time that our purpose was to bring restoration and hope to one special toddler. Jerrensia joined our family on a medical visa in January of 2011. We have an incredible team of doctors and therapists surrounding her with the best care imaginable as we learn what life is like with Arthrogryposis. She has blessed us with her extraordinary strength, relentless determination, and unequivocal passion. Our boys are smitten. We are, too.” – Jen Kroll

Jerrensia’s big smile stole Jen and Jay Kroll’s hearts when they traveled to an orphanage serving malnourished children after the earthquake in Haiti. Despite her limb differences, Jerrensia was the happiest child at the orphanage.

When Jen asked the orphanage about Jerrensia’s care plan, they were disappointed to find out that nothing was in place because she was considered a healthy 4-month-old girl. Immediately the couple knew they wanted to help Jerrensia. They knew that help would be ready back at home and at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.

Then an orphanage employee told Jen exactly what she needed to hear – “You can try, but it’s not going to do you any good”.

Her response – “Watch me.”

When the couple returned home, it didn’t take long for Jen to get connected with Dr. Maples, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. In just two weeks, Jen worked with Dr. Maples to coordinate the donation of care for both Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Mary Free Bed. Jen soon contacted the orphanage in Haiti informing them of the donations and requested to be Jerrensia’s host family.

Ten months later, Jerrensia’s medical visa was approved and she finally made the trip to Grand Rapids. She was soon evaluated and diagnosed with arthrogryposis – a rare, non-progressive muscle disorder causing stiff joints and abnormal development of muscles.

“The next step was casting and a tendonotomy to release a tendon that was keeping her foot pointed,” explains Jen.

Jerrensia then completed physical therapy through the Center for Limb Differences at Mary Free Bed. “The physical therapy has been wonderful at Mary Free Bed and the orthotics team is incredible because they’re willing to try new things versus using standard techniques and equipment,” shares Jen.

Julie Honeycutt, senior pediatric clinician at Mary Free Bed, also worked with Jerrensia to overcome fear with exercises. “Julie is phenomenal and creative with Jerrensia’s therapy,” says Jen. (Watch Julie and Jerrensia work on a balance exercise together.)

Jerrensia is more mobile than ever, and has no plans on slowing down. “Most of the time we’re trying to catch up with her,” explains Jen.

The Krolls recently submitted paperwork to officially adopt Jerrensia. In the meantime, the family is enjoying the adventure, and feels blessed to be part of Jerrensia’s life.

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