MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A family whose two sons both have a devastating disease and the bills to match got a little help from a longtime friend of the family.
The definition of mitochondrial disease is pretty simple: a group of disorders, primarily genetic, of dysfunctional mitochondria. But that doesn't mean much, until you learn mitochondria are in most every cell in our bodies and perform a very basic function: convert food into energy.
If they don't work, all of the body's systems shut down.
Playmaker Dave Hale wants to help the Kopacko family, whose 3- and 6-year-olds both have this devastating disease.
Dad Jason is an ITnetwork engineer, as well as a volunteer Shelby County deputy.
"So he takes his turn to risk his life for us our serving as a SCS deputy, and Sarah has to stay home to take care of the boys," Hale said.
That's more than a full-time job. The boys' stomachs have shut down, so they must be fed through tubes attached to their hearts. Eight times a day, the boys need three or four different medicines. Three times a week, there are doctor visits to Le Bonheur.
Every month, medical bills are in the thousands. The Kopacko's were getting by OK until they had to buy an SUV to hold a power wheelchair, adaptive strollers, and medical equipment.
"They're scared they're going to lose their home," Hale said. "It's bad enough, worried about paying those medical bills, but if they lose their home, it's going to be even harder to take care of these two boys."
We went to the family's home, where Sarah was with the boys. She thinks this visit is about a golf fundraiser for the family. Guess again.
On the day we passed it on, little Colin and Jesse were as active as they could be. Sarah wishes it was always this way.
"As long as they're happy, we feel we're doing our job," she said.
But there are lengthy hospital stays and constant reason to worry. Hale hopes he helped alleviate that a little.
"I hate not being to help the way I want to," he said. "(Passing it on) has been a tremendous feeling."
One reason Hale wanted to be a playmaker was to bring attention to the family's fundraising effort. They need $50,000 and have set up a website where you can donate and learn more about the family's struggles. Click here to learn more.