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Through surgeries, health restrictions, Jamie Yowell stays positive

By Ben Orcutt - borcutt@nvdaily.com

Amy Jo Yowell, right, sits with her son, Jamie, at their home in Front Royal. She has written a book, "The Silent Cry -- A Miracle of Life," about her son's struggle with breathing problems. Photos by Andrew Thayer/Daily

Jamie and Yowell pose with the book she wrote.

Yowell, right, sits with his brother, Jeremy, as they enjoy one of their favorite pastimes, video games. Jamie is a NASCAR fan and has traveled to Dover, Del., to see races. His favorite driver is Mark Martin, and he hopes to meet him some day.

Jamie Yowell can drink his favorite drink, Sunkist, but cannot eat food.

Amy Jo Yowell has written a book called "The Silent Cry" about her son's struggle against breathing problems.

FRONT ROYAL -- Sept. 15 can't get here fast enough for Jamie Yowell. That's when he turns 13.

Becoming a teenager is exciting for any youngster, but for this Front Royal lad, it will be extra special. His lifelong struggle with neurofibromatosis and severe tracheomalacia have affected his ability to breathe normally, requiring a tracheotomy, as well as being on a ventilator at night.

Jamie's mother, Amy Jo Yowell, has written a book about her son's struggle to stay alive, titled "The Silent Cry -- A Miracle of Life."

The 38-year-old Yowell says she wrote the book, "because I wanted other families and other mothers to know that they're not the only ones that deal with what we go through, and Jamie wants to be famous."

It's clear that mother and son have a special bond, one that has been forged as the result of roughly 60 surgeries and numerous near-death experiences. Yowell says it's their faith in God that has kept them going.

"That's why he's here," says Yowell's mother, Carolyn Settle, with whom she, Jamie and her 11-year-old son, Jeremy, live.

Settle, 74, recalls one of Jamie's more serious surgeries at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville when doctors thought his intestines were in such dire shape that he would not survive.

While making the 70-mile drive from Front Royal to Charlottesville, Settle says she also thought that Jamie might not survive the surgery, but once she arrived at the hospital, she changed her mind.

"I felt all the way down there he wasn't, but when I got down there, we talked to him and I said, 'He's going to make it,'" Settle says. "So, he did."

When Jamie flashes his smile and trains his bright hazel eyes on you, it's easier to forget about the breathing tube in his neck. Jamie says he doesn't want people to feel sorry for him.

Like other 12-year-olds, he's looking forward to the start of school, which for him means being home-schooled by his mother, whom he says is tough on him when it comes to his studies.

Jamie says when he grows up, he'd like to be an ambulance driver "because I think it'd be a good job for me."

He's had his share of rides in them in trips to the emergency room, that's for sure.

Jeremy believes his big brother, who loves to root for NASCAR driver Mark Martin and whose dream is to meet the driver of the No. 5 Sprint Cup car, is here for a reason.

"Me and Grandma have both said this before," Jeremy says. "I think God must have some really good purpose for him. Like, if he's an ambulance driver, he gonna save a lot of people. Because otherwise, he'd be dead by now because he's had more surgeries in 12 years than most people have in their entire lives."

Settle agrees.

"I feel like we're special because God gave him to us and if we couldn't take care of him, I don't think we'd have him," she says.

While Jamie is making good progress, he's still not out of the woods. He has to undergo a bronchotomy -- a surgical procedure to remove scar tissue from his airway -- every other month and he also has a tumor entwined around his spinal column and esophagus that's closing off his airway.

"The last we heard, it can't be operated on," Yowell says.

Although Jamie is aware of how serious the situation is as doctors keep a close check on the tumor's growth, he still flashes his smile and his eyes light up.

Jamie says it's "just happiness" from his family that boosts his spirits. Although he can't eat solid food, Jamie enjoys going out to eat to smell the different flavors and to enjoy others' happiness. His mom says if you hang around him long enough at their home, he'll ask you if he can make popcorn for you.

A registered nurse, Jane Rowe, spends one day a week with Jamie and his family.

"I've done a lot emergency work," Rowe says. "I've done a lot of work all over the world, and I can't wait to come here to spend an eight-hour day with them, and I come away blessed. I come away whole when I leave this house. Everybody he comes in contact with, they love him. His presence, his very being is surrounded with love. He doesn't know anything else, but he knows how to love and I don't know anybody who could walk away from his presence and not feel that love."

"I just want them to think that I'm a happy person and just happy to be alive," Jamie adds.

For more information about obtaining a copy of "The Silent Cry -- A Miracle of Life," visit Yowell's Web site, www.MyMommyNeedsALife.com, or go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com. Yowell says Samuels Public Library is planning to hold a book signing for her sometime next month or in October.


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