Abuse left boy damaged, but family won’t let that stop him

EVERETT — Jamarious Carpenter is good at helping his grandma prove people wrong.

The 6-year-old is a pint-sized fighter, defying expectations. Maybe he gets that from his grandma, who was determined to prove to the boy’s doctors that he would beat the odds.

The doctors spent a lot of time telling Ginger Carpenter what her grandson would never be able to do. She has spent the past six years focused on what Jamarious can do and how she can help him reach his next milestone.

“We were never going to let him sit in a corner,” Carpenter said. “We were never going to give up.”

On Sunday, Jamarious played in the pool at the YMCA in downtown Everett. His grandma pulled him around the warm water. He kicked his legs and floated. He squealed, screeched and smiled.

Pure joy in motion.

It doesn’t matter that he can’t tell his grandma he’s having a good time. Words would fall short compared to that smile.

Jamarious and his grandparents recently were given a five-year membership to the YMCA through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. On Sunday, there was a party and a dip in the pool to celebrate.

The Carpenters were joined by dozens of relatives and people who have become family as they work to give the little boy a life that defies what happened to him.

Jamarious was born healthy. Then when he was just 3½ months old his father assaulted him.

Doctors discovered a devastating brain injury, broken bones and internal injuries.

The abuse caused spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. It robbed Jamarious of normal muscle function. He was left with epilepsy and days filled with seizures. His vision is limited. He is fed through a tube, unable to swallow without problems.

His father served a couple of years in prison for the abuse. The man since has died.

Ginger and her husband, Eddy, adopted Jamarious, their daughter’s son, in 2009. Doctors told the Carpenters that Jamarious likely would never walk or talk.

The Everett woman, 49, wasn’t going to allow others to tell her what he was capable of accomplishing. Together they would learn.

Jamarious needs help from a walker but he makes his way just fine. He is in first-grade at Madison Elementary School in Everett. He rides the bus to school. He giggles and “talks in his own language,” Carpenter said.

Sometimes it felt like they lived at Seattle Children’s Hospital. There are always medical appointments. Carpenter pushes the boy. They appreciate the good days.

“He didn’t throw up for an entire year, a whole year,” Carpenter said. “That was a big deal.”

Her grandson has taught her to live in the moment.

“We go day-by-day and we’re not in a hurry to get to the future. It’s not promised,” Carpenter said.

Staff at a special clinic at Children’s Hospital had nominated Jamarious to the local Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions.

It didn’t take the Carpenters long to request a membership to the nearest YMCA.

Jamarious was about 9 months old the first time he was in a pool. He swims at Camp PROV, a day camp for children with special needs. The family went on a road trip this summer, visiting family and attending Carpenter’s 30th high school reunion in Wisconsin. They stayed in hotels with pools. The boy’s screeches echoed off the walls, Carpenter said.

There’s freedom in the water.

It’s not a typical wish, said Jeannette Tarcha, a spokeswoman for Make-A-Wish Alaska Washington.

“I saw this request come across my desk and thought ‘That is such a sweet sentiment,’ ” she said. “It’s the absolute right wish for this kid. This is what is going to bring him joy.”

A trip to Disneyland would have been too much for him, Carpenter said.

The foundation donated $5,000 for the membership. The YMCA picked up the remaining $700.

“We certainly want Jamarious’ dreams and wishes to come true. We’re happy to play a small part in his upbringing,” said Ted Wenta, the vice president of operations for the YMCA of Snohomish County.

Grandma and grandson will enjoy the warm water at the Y. She’ll push him to strengthen his legs. He’ll smile and giggle at the simple pleasure of floating.

Carpenter is grateful for the generosity. Five years is a great start. Maybe by then Jamarious, who turns 7 in January, might be interested in other activities. Maybe he’ll want to play baseball.

“I don’t want to ever limit him,” his grandma said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dianahefley.

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