The Hewitt family, of Livermore, bought a ranch home between Livermore and Tracy partly to provide a higher-quality life for their special-needs children.
But a simple remodel revealed black mold and other problems in the home that have become possibly life-threatening for their children.
Darrel and Beth Hewitt have seven children, four of whom were adopted. All of their adopted children have serious medical issues. Their first adopted child, Hannah, 16, whom they adopted when she was 3, has cystic fibrosis, which attacks lung function.
The county asked the Hewitts to take her temporarily because she wasn't receiving proper medical care in her current foster home. Hannah was only supposed to be with the Hewitts for a week, but Darrel and Beth knew they wanted to adopt her. Before she came into their home, she hadn't received any medication and treatment like she should have. She did have prescriptions, but the foster family hadn't been administering the drugs to her.
In her first year with the Hewitts, Hannah had to have several surgeries, and she was put on medications. Within a couple of years she was starting to get better and enjoy childhood. She was able to live a very full life, but in the last year her condition has become much worse. She has been hospitalized multiple times. Her left lung has begun to fail. She is no longer able to go to dance class and other activities she used to enjoy. Sometime in the near-future Hannah may need a lung transplant if she is to survive.
In 2008, the family adopted an infant who was born with 13 birth defects. Medical screening had shown no signs of defects when Andrew was in his mother's womb, so when he was born, his parents were not prepared for the extensive medical problems he had. They searched for someone willing to take on the daunting task of raising their child for however long he had left to live.
Beth and Darrel answered an email asking for help, and within a week Andrew was theirs. Andrew wasn't expected to live long, but he has thrived under the care of Beth, despite living with a large number of ailments.
Right now the large family is living in a trailer while their home goes through an expensive rebuild. A healthy home environment is crucial for Hannah as the disease progresses. Hannah is constantly battling pneumonia, chest pains and infections.
Darrel works as a truck driver, and Beth is a stay-at-home mom, so their savings quickly evaporated as the remodel turned into a major rebuild of the home. While Darrel has good medical coverage for his family, there are many expenses associated with raising special-needs children that are not covered. The Hewitts also don't qualify for government medical programs.
The Hewitts bought the ranch home with hopes that Darrel would be able to stay home more often and be with the children more if he could run a stable business on the ranch. They also hoped to start an equine therapy program for special-needs people.
The Hewitt's have received a lot of help over the years from friends and family, including their fellow members of Trinity Baptist Church in Livermore. This time, their friends and family are hoping all of Livermore can chip in. Downtown eatery Sauced BBQ hosted a fundraiser in May, and more fundraisers are planned. Donations can be made directly to Team Hannah at https://fundly.com/fight-like-a-girl-team-hannah. A yard sale fundraiser will also be held June 27-28. Organizers are asking for donations of new and gently used items. Bring items to 855 Hanover St. in Livermore.
Samantha Henshaw, 18, was "adopted" by the Hewitt family of Livermore 6 years ago when she was at their house for a church-run yard sale to help raise funds for the medical care of their children. Henshaw wasn't literally adopted. A senior at Granada High hoping to become a paramedic after she graduates, Henshaw's birth parents care for her.
She was adopted in the sense that their home became her second home and that through being around them she learned how to live a compassionate life. It was the Hewitts' willingness to adopt children whom nobody else would that first enamored Henshaw with the family.
"They are just an amazing family," said Henshaw. "I love them as if they were my own."
Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@bayarea- newsgroup.com.