Jerrica was born with Stickler Syndrome – a group of hereditary conditions characterized by a distinctive facial appearance, eye abnormalities, hearing loss and joint problems. Her childhood was riddled with surgeries, and her 18th birthday was tainted by more devastation: Jerrica’s mother, Tami (a senior store manager for us), could no longer carry Jerrica on her insurance.
Jerrica underwent two hip replacement surgeries that weakened the enamel on her teeth. In 2016, she was eating a cupcake for her birthday, and her tooth broke off.
“The fact that I broke it on a cupcake was devastating. It was my birthday. People were around. I started crying. I was so embarrassed,” Jerrica said.
Together, Jerrica and Tami researched several options with no luck. During this process, Jerrica broke three more teeth.
“It was going to cost thousands,” Tami explained.
Not having the financial capability to undergo the necessary procedure, Jerrica would spend the next five years avoiding family photos, turning down invitations from friends and avoiding public places. Additionally, she gave up several foods that caused extreme pain to her teeth.
“I thought everyone was looking at me all the time,” Jerrica said. “I just wanted to explain that I am worth more than my missing teeth. Everyone assumed I struggled with addiction, despite never having done drugs. I just cried a lot and wondered why this was happening to me.”
Tami, feeling hopeless, confided in a coworker, Joanna, and said, “Jerrica is my child. I don’t know what to do!”
Joanna, a career coach for Goodwill, decided to conduct some research and came across Smiles Across the Bluegrass in Butler County – and Jerrica qualified!
Jerrica was finally able to have her painful teeth removed and got fitted for a partial denture, to replace those missing teeth. After the partial was in place the first time, Jerrica sent a photo to Tami at work.
“I cried when I opened the picture. The joy … It was like watching your kid take her first step,” Tami said.
Jerrica added, “I spent ages 26-30 being stuck inside, crying, feeling embarrassed. I am happy to be able to smile again. Now, I am working on my confidence. It surprised me that a stranger [Joanna] was willing to step up for me and change my life. It restored my faith in humanity. Hopefully, one day I can meet her in person and give her a big hug.”
Jerrica joked, “Because I don’t have to evaluate everything I eat now, I have to be careful, or I will get fat!”
We at Goodwill hope Jerrica enjoys a cupcake for her next birthday.