Andrew Dys

Rock Hill spider bite victim awaits transplants at Duke

Chloe Jenkins, pink nail polish on her tiny toes, laid it out as honestly as only a little kid can for Father’s Day: “I want my dad around on Father’s Day. I don’t want my daddy to die.”

Now Miss South Carolina, Brooke Mosteller, is trying to help Chloe’s dad stay alive.

Chloe, 8, and her sister, McKinley, almost 2, will live this summer with their grandmother because their parents will be waiting near a North Carolina hospital. The wait is for the heart and lungs from some person who dies. Those organs will replace the heart and lungs damaged in Richard Jenkins’ body when an apparent black widow spider bite, left untreated more than seven years ago, led to an infection that decimated his body.

“There’s no telling how long we will have to wait; it just will happen when it happens,” said Jenkins, 31, of the transplant.

After reading about the Jenkins’ family plight, Mosteller and her mother, Cyndi, offered to help. The Mostellers, from Charleston, have reached out to area pastors and are working to raise the needed money. Brooke Mosteller is scheduled to appear today at Catawba Baptist Church’s morning service to talk about Richard Jenkins.

Mosteller even has taken a “cold water challenge” fundraiser where people donate for the chance to throw cold water on her for what she is calling the Richard Jenkins spider bite fund. The Mostellers also are working on a video appeal to be sent out to churches.

“This just seemed like a way for us to try and help another family in South Carolina that needs it,” Cyndi Mosteller said.

To get ready for his transplant, Jenkins was given a Father’s Day present: a Build-A-Bear Workshop bear covered with a Spider Man outfit. He also went to a tattoo parlor and had a giant black widow spider tattooed on his left forearm. It is far larger than the tiny black widow tattoo he has on his leg near the spot where he believes he was bitten by the spider while working as an exterminator.

“I can’t change what happened,” Jenkins said. “I get these tattoos to remind me to keep faith in God that I will be healed and can watch my kids grow up and be a husband to my wife.”

Chloe calls her dad’s tattoo: “The Spider Man one.”

But she knows even at her young age that the spider bite is why her father is fighting for his life. Her father is no superhero, even if she believes him indestructible.

Jenkins has been unable to work for years since his bacterial infection illness caused severe organ damage. The share of the huge cost of the surgeries that Richard and Laura must come up with, even with Medicaid, is $25,000. Since The Herald first reported on Jenkins in March, more than $17,000 has been donated , but the family still is short more than $7,000.

“People have been so generous, we thank them all,” said Laura Jenkins.

Laura Jenkins, a young mother, said it is difficult to think that her husband’s eventual new heart and lungs likely will come from a young person, probably a teen, who dies from a car crash or some other terrible accident.

“Richard is so small the new lungs and heart have to be the same size as he is,” Laura Jenkins said. “Imagine – that young person’s heart will beat in his chest, keeping him alive.”

A church group in Durham, N.C., where Jenkins will live as he awaits the call from nearby Duke University hospital, has found free housing for Richard and Laura Jenkins.

On Wednesday, Laura and Richard Jenkins left for North Carolina. They left their children with grandparents. But they took their hope and their faith that Richard will get a new heart and lungs with them, because Chloe said she doesn’t want her daddy to die.