EVERETT — Jamarious Carpenter shuffled across his living room after school in January, pushing off one foot then another using his walker.
That’s not something he was ever supposed to be able to do.
Jamarious was beaten by his father at 3½ months old. He suffered a devastating brain injury, broken bones and internal injuries.
The abuse caused spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy — leaving him with epilepsy, seizures and limited vision.
Jamarious, known as “Jammers” by family and friends, recently celebrated his 11th birthday.
That’s another milestone he was never expected to achieve.
When Jamarious was a baby, doctors told his grandmother he likely would never walk and wouldn’t live past the age of 5.
“I’m a firm believer that you just cannot set boundaries for anyone for any reason,” his grandmother Ginger Carpenter said at her home in central Everett.
Jamarious initially was placed in the foster care system after being removed from his parents’ custody in 2008, but his grandparents adopted him shortly after.
Carpenter quit her job in customer service so she could attend every meeting the state required.
“I just wasn’t going to give them any grounds to say no, we couldn’t have him,” she said.
An adopted child herself, Carpenter has fostered 12 other children in addition to her grandson.
Jamarious can’t sit, stand or eat by himself. He’s nonverbal, and a weakened immune system means the common cold can send him to the hospital.
Jamarious’ mother has continued to be involved with his life and helps Carpenter with his care.
Around the time the father was sentenced, The Daily Herald began following the boy with a big smile and a dark past.
In a September 2010 article, former Herald reporter Diana Hefley wrote of a giggling 3-year-old jumping on his grandpa’s lap.
Today, Carpenter said the only thing Jammers loves more than jumping is swimming.
He got to combine those at his 11th birthday party last month.
In the Lynnwood Recreation Center pool, Jamarious bobbed in the water — his squeals of delight echoing through the aquatics center.
Being in the water is his absolutely “free” moment, Carpenter said. The constraints of gravity melt away and he can move with less difficulty.
When he’s not at school, he’s taking assisted walks around the neighborhood with his grandma, scooting around in his walker, at physical therapy or spending some quality time watching action movies with his “Papa” Eddy Carpenter.
Jamarious’ grandparents don’t want him stuck in a chair. He’s along for the ride in most everything his grandma does.
About four years ago, he took a 37-day road trip with stops in Nevada, New Mexico, Minnesota and other destinations to see his great-grandparents.
“I can’t believe how well that boy sat in the car for that trip,” Eddy Carpenter said.
But a recent snowstorm reminded the Carpenters of the things they won’t get to experience with him.
Ginger Carpenter watched from her living room window as children grabbed sleds and headed for the hill behind Forest Park, tying on scarves and slapping on hats as they went.
She can’t take Jamarious out to build a snowman or make snow angels because he’s sensitive to the cold.
While they’ve been denied some joys, they celebrate each and every accomplishment. A step, a birthday or a smile hold the weight that good grades or an “I love you” may have for other grandparents.
Carpenter said Jamarious will grin at her if he likes something. It’s one of his few forms of communication.
He’s recently started gaining more range of motion in his left arm, which is stiff and curled back toward his chest.
The challenges have been many. Some needs, like his feeding tube, will never change. There have been periods of physical and emotional exhaustion and a few scares.
It’s rare for the Carpenters to sleep through the night. Their routine is more akin to that of parents of a newborn than grandparents.
They awake to Jamarious fussing one to two times on a “good night,” Ginger Carpenter said.
If they sleep without interruption, they wake up terrified something happened.
Three years ago in December, a virus sent Jamarious to the hospital for 16 days. On Christmas morning, he stopped breathing.
“I was so scared to lose him and also for him to lose all the progress he’s made,” Carpenter said.
Jamarious stopped breathing twice more before recovering from the virus.
He hasn’t been back to the hospital since, Carpenter said. That’s the longest stretch he’s ever gone without needing urgent care.
Carpenter attributes her grandson’s successes to good nutrition, his fighting spirit and his dedicated advocates.
From the moment they adopted their grandson, the Carpenters knew their lives would change drastically.
“We fully understood the choices were now all about Jamarious,” Ginger Carpenter wrote in a 2010 letter to the judge on his case.
Those decisions have included trading their car for a specially equipped van and their former home near downtown Everett for a one-story, handicapped-accessible house near Forest Park.
“I’ve pretty much poured my life into him,” she said. “I’m known as ‘Jammer’s nana.’ But I’m a person.”
At the Carpenters’ house last week, Jamarious’ half brother and sister, 6 and 3 years old, played in the living room. They tumbled and squealed, knees banging on the hardwood floor. Jamarious, standing in his walker, watched.
“He’s a happy boy by nature,” Eddy Carpenter said. “But when you look at him, you can’t help but think of what he was cheated of.”
At 4-foot-6 and 65 pounds, Jamarious is getting too heavy for his grandparents to lift him up to change him, put him in his walker or get him ready for school.
They’re going to need some help as he continues to grow, Ginger Carpenter said.
Before their backs give out, they hope to have a mechanical lift installed in their home. It would run on a track leading from Jamarious’ bedroom to the bathroom and into the living room. The lift would have attachments to carry him and to hold him up while he works on walking.
They need to raise about $15,000 to get the lift installed, Ginger Carpenter said. They’ve started an online fundraiser.
The device will also allow him to do more of what makes him happy — moving his body. Whether it be across the living room, in a pool or on a trampoline during physical therapy, Jamarious loves movement.
Eileen Grimes, who was Jamarious’ physical therapist at Providence from the time he was about 5 years old until last summer, said she attributes much of his progress to his grandparents’ commitment.
“I think a lot of it comes to the fact that Jamarious’ family has been excellent with providing him with opportunities to move his body every day,” Grimes said. “And that really is what it takes to continue to improve the motor skills.”
In that letter to the judge eight years ago, Carpenter wrote of the night Jamarious was beaten. She sat with him at the hospital as he fought for his life.
“My only thought was to stay by Jamarious’ side and talk to him and touch him so he knew he was not alone,” she wrote. “I felt Jamarious needed a reason to fight to live.”
In many ways, Carpenter is still doing this today. Every morning, she gently nudges him awake. She whispers “Good morning, Sunshine,” and tells him about the great things he could accomplish with the day.
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.