CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - A local family is struggling to give four of their eight children the medical help they need.
The parents say they often go hungry to make sure the kids are taken care of, and they are battling their own serious illnesses too.
Bryan and Vickie Townsend of Carter County sat down with our news crew, along with their 14-year-old son James, who is one of eight children ranging in age from eight to 19. "Four boys and four girls," said Bryan.
Bryan translates for Vickie, who is deaf, as she signs.
This close-knit family used to do a lot of missionary work before their health troubles began to spiral out of control. "It's a sweet mother and sweet father who have worked very hard to take care of their children," said Sarah Wells with Good Samaritan Industries. "They're a very worthy family. It just seems they have had so many things against them, yet she rises up with a big smile and steals my heart, and so do the children."
Four out of eight are living with a condition called neurofibromatosis, known as NF. It's a a genetically-inherited disorder in which the nerve tissue grows tumors that may or may not be benign, and may cause serious damage by compressing nerves and other tissues. "It affects their learning and their speech. They take speech and special education," said Bryan, who also has the disorder.
Meantime, Vickie struggles with a heart condition and their son James is battling cancer.
Vickie explains how hard it has been on all the children. She says James' older brother checks on him in the night to make sure he's still with them. "What a burden that is," said Sarah Wells. "And yet they come up with smiles and hope."
The family is in need of so many things, including a wheelchair ramp.
But the Townsends still call themselves the "can-do" family and they have faith that things will be better tomorrow.
If you would like to help them, you can click on this link to make a donation. Good Samaritan Ministries says it will ensure your money makes it directly to the family if you specify it's for them.
The Townsends need help paying for gas because they travel to Vanderbilt twice a month for medical care.
We're told they also need a volunteer electrician to help make some much needed repairs to their home.