My KDL Story: Jim Dykstra
"We bonded in the time we spent together and our tremendous love for books.
[The library] was a quiet place for a difficult time in all our lives..."
When life threw Jim Dykstra and his family a frightening curveball last year, the Kentwood man turned to his library for relief — and grew closer to his grandchildren in the process.
Jim's grandson, Lucas Morgan, then 13, was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, a rare but potentially life-threatening autoimmune disease. During his treatment, which included chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and months of often isolated hospitalization, Lucas's three siblings moved in with Jim and his wife, Mary.
Lucas's health crisis was difficult for his brother, Bryan, 2; and sister, Meghan, 4; but especially for Emily, 15, who is very close to her brother.
As she struggled with her brother's illness and her mother's absence, Emily, who has been known to read under her desk at school and stay up late reading about fairies, werewolves and angels, spent even more time with books. So Jim, an avid reader himself who wanted to reach out to his granddaughter, decided to take her with him to check out KDL's new Kentwood branch.
"We bonded in the time we spent together and our tremendous love for books," Jim said.
Lucas has been home for months and is considered cured of the disease, Jim said. The 14-year-old is back to teasing his big sister and snapping photos of Grandpa "resting his eyes" in the library.
And Emily and Grandpa's weekly trips to the Kentwood branch have become a ritual. Only now, they're often joined by Emily's other siblings, including Lucas, whose first trip in public after he was released from the hospital was to sign up for a library card.
"If you would have told me a year ago that we'd be sitting here together, that he'd be sitting here, I wouldn’t have believed it," Jim said. "He was so sick."
The library, he said, "was a quiet place for a difficult time in all our lives."
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