'A life-shaking event': 5-month-old has rare disease, father is a laid off Blackjewel miner

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HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - The last five months have been difficult for Sara and Derek Parker. It all started back in spring when Sara was pregnant with their third son, Stryker.

"It takes a toll on us. It really is, we're exhausted," said Derek. "I feel like we haven't got to sit down and actually realize what's going on," chimed in Sara.

While Sara was getting an ultrasound, they found issues with Stryker. His belly was developed at 40-weeks, while Stryker was only 37-weeks developed.

Despite the issue, Stryker was born on May 8 of this year, soon after was when abdominal problems began. After "numerous tests" and going to multiple hospitals, the couple learned what was wrong with their youngest son.

Stryker had an enlarged liver and spleen. Doctors later determined it was Wolman's disease, a rare disease with a low survival rate.

Since the diagnosis, the couple has been traveling to Cincinnati every week to get Stryker his treatments. Without the weekly visits, he would not live long.

"They've been putting it [IV] in his head the last three treatments," said Derek pausing for a moment. "It's just really hard to see your kid get poked and gouged at."

On top of the building medical bills, Derek was suddenly out of a job.

"During the mix of all the hospital stays and visits the thing with the Blackjewel happened," he said.

Derek was one of the hundreds of Blackjewel miners laid off in the region after Blackjewel's bankruptcy back in July. Derek has been without a job since.

"It was just, our whole future. You know that's a life-shaking event to lose your job," he added.

Stryker will have to go through treatment on a weekly basis for the rest of his life. That treatment will soon be available in Lexington, a slight burden relief for the family. Derek says he will likely be able to find a job once Stryker's treatment comes a little bit closer.

A GoFundMe has been set up for the family. The two want to thank the community for the support they have received in the previous months.

"I mean we just work together and stick in there for each other and for him," said Derek.

"We just go day by day," added Sara.