The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Features

June 10, 2013

Putting a Roof Over Their Heads

CLINTON — Thankful for the community spirit around them, James and Roberta Jess are grateful to the 20 people who recently helped put a roof on their home at 3106 Roosevelt St.

That assistance is very appreciated as 11 years ago, James was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. Now 54, James said that while some forms of MS are relapsing and remitting, his form continually progresses.

When he first heard his diagnosis over the telephone - learning the news from doctors at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City — he was in denial and went for a second opinion. That physician said it could be a spinal infection that could get better within nine months, but it never did. Instead, James had to be hospitalized and suffered from seizures.

“I don’t know how I ever made it through it, but I did it,” James said. “It was awful.”

During the past five years, James’ condition has worsened. He has four lesions in his spinal column, by his neck and 10 in his brain. He is in pain and can barely walk.

Two years ago, the couple moved out of the home that James raised his children in and moved to the one-story home where they are today. Through these two years, James and Roberta have done a lot of painting and redecorating of that. James has added a lot of landscaping and plants in the front and back yards. He accomplished this on his hands and knees.

James enjoys working in the yard. He used to work as a manager in the lawn and garden section at Wal-Mart before his condition required him to quit. Roberta said he tries to do what he wants to today because he never knows if he will be capable of it tomorrow.

“I keep trying to do what I can,” James said.

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