Jennifer Hale was 2½ when she was diagnosed in 1974 with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), an incurable genetic disease. At that time, children with CF had a life expectancy of just 15 years. But Jennifer had a special passion for life, and her parents – Donna and Evan Michael Codell – had the determination and fighting spirit to enrich and extend Jennifer’s life in every way they possibly could. This combination produced an amazing young woman who, later with the steadfast support of her husband Mark, beat the odds and lived fully for 43 years while continuously battling the unrelenting savagery of this ultimately fatal disease, until her death in December 2015 that came as she was awaiting a lung transplant.
There Are No Alligators in Heaven! is a moving story of an unheralded hero. It is a first-hand account of Jennifer and how she and her parents – united in unwavering love and commitment – followed their instincts, pieced together solid guiding principles, and took decisive action, some counter to prevailing medical practices of the time, to wrestle the alligators of Cystic Fibrosis day after day after day. The book features Jennifer’s own writings, along with the personal accounts of her parents, presented in an easy, engaging conversational style. The story that the three of them tell together is one of optimism, courage, and hope that inspires others to find joy in life and to never give up the fight – whatever the battle happens to be.
The extraordinary story of Jennifer moves to another level when her father, Evan Michael, found that he needed to draw strength from Jennifer when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2012. In an ironic twist of fate, Evan experienced first-hand so many of the horrific effects of lung disease that Jennifer bravely battled her entire life, and he realized directly how strong and courageous his daughter really was. While Evan was fully involved in the development of There Are No Alligators in Heaven! he himself passed away in December 2016, just before the book was published. It was his dying wish for others to know Jennifer’s story and how she set the bar for her life.
Jennifer challenges all of us: “Be the light that stays on even in the darkest of moments. Keep fighting your battle with a light heart, a smile on your face, and a spark in your eye. This will feed your soul and spirit and give you strength to battle on.”
And, in the end, thank God, there are no alligators in heaven.
There Are No Alligators in Heaven! PDF: A family’s perspectives on surviving the unrelenting savagery of Cystic Fibrosis
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