Women convinced that miracles still happen

From left, Sis Evans, Jayci Evans Holley and Shannon Evans in front of Jayci's pool, which is covered for winter.

When Jayci Evans Holley’s favorite therapy was threatened, her family slowly devolved into desperation mode. The 17-year-old’s mother, Shannon Evans, and grandmother, Sis Evans, were simply not financially equipped to replace the swimming pool Jayci had come to rely on for aquatic therapy. The Nettleton High School junior’s need for a pool began when, at the age of one, she went in for open heart surgery to repair a congenital hole in her heart called a ventricular septum defect. The condition is today usually repaired with surgery that has become more or less routine. Back in September 2002 it was riskier but still overwhelmingly successful. Not so in Jayci’s case. She developed an extremely rare neuromotor defect that is seen in only .005 percent of cases; as a result, Jayci stayed in the hospital two months and came home a completely different child. Unable to walk and talk and prone to seizures, Jayci’s future looked bleak. In fact, one neurologist at Vanderbilt University told them, “Y’all might as well find a home for this child because she will never walk or talk.” Shannon recalls that she was incensed at his prognosis: “My daughter will be Miss America one day!” she exclaimed to the doctor. While she has yet to receive the Miss America crown, Jayci has competed in a number of beauty pageants. And she served two years as a Nettleton Junior High cheerleader, one year as a high school cheerleader and is now in the school’s dance line. Jayci was also a homecoming maid during her sophomore year and has sung “Life is a Highway” onstage with Rascal Flatts country music band. Jayci killed her first deer, a seven-pointer, this year with her mother’s help and likes driving the golf cart around the family property. She spends a number of days each month with her dad, Billy Holley. “I have a brother, Hunter,” Jayci said proudly of her 20-year-old sibling, a Mississippi State University student. Jayci said she would someday “really want to be a cop” but Shannon and grandmother Sis aren’t too hip on that career choice. “No, she’s not,” said Shannon. “That’s too dangerous. She’s going to be a therapist.” Indeed, that would seem a natural choice since Jayci has spent her entire life in therapies: occupational, speech and physical. She began walking after one session of hippotherapy (horse riding therapy) at 3½ years old: “When we took her off the horse, she walked,” said Shannon. Her horse, Munchkin (because of her small size) is still a member of the family but is no longer ridden. For the past year-and-a-half, Jayci has had her therapies at Regional Rehabilitation Center, which Shannon and Sis laud as a “godsend.” Her aquatic therapy was done at home – Shannon and Jayci live in a mobile home behind Sis’ home north of Nettleton – in Sis’ pool. But that pool was beginning to fall apart and had become pretty much unusable. Enter Teresa and Tony Green, owners of Green Construction, for whom Shannon has done some work through the years: “We noticed Jayci’s body relaxed when she got into a (spa) tub,” Teresa said. “Then we found out the condition of the old pool.” The Greens rounded up the troops. Imperial Pools donated the walls and braces while Tony dug out the old pool and excavated for the new one. SCP donated the liner and other subcontractors helped with the effort. Lights were even installed that provide a kaleidoscope of colors at night. “We wanted to make it enjoyable for Jayci,” said Teresa. “She was really surprised.” The inground pool measures 16x30 and is a daily retreat for Jayci during the warm months; it’s covered for the winter now. “She’s like a little fish in that water. She’s a unique little girl.” Shannon and Sis said the pool would have cost them $27,000-$30,000 if they had had to build it themselves. They call it “a miracle.” Sis, a longtime employee of Holland Funeral Directors recalls a time when a client stated, “I don’t believe miracles happen anymore.” “No,” said Sis, “I can tell you one.”

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