Mother of boys with rare conditions kicks off Easter egg hunt
Ashley Etheridge is no stranger to social distancing.
Limiting errands, ordering groceries online, and keeping her sons at home as much as possible is the family routine every flu season.
Her boys, Blake, 7, and Ryder, 5, both have rare medical conditions and reduced ability to fight off infection.
Blake began having seizures at 18 months and was diagnosed a year ago with mitochondrial disease. Ryder is still a bit of a medical mystery, but he has serious seizures whenever he runs a fever. He had his first episode two years ago on Father’s Day.
“We really have to watch illness,” Etheridge said. “If either one gets an illness it takes them down fast. When the flu season got really bad I took him (Blake) out of school a couple of days.”
Like many young parents of children with rare conditions, Etheridge sought out support for her boys online by joining Tiny Superheroes, a group that empowers kids with illness and disability.
She spotted and reposted an idea for a Social Distancing Easter Egg Hunt as a fun way for everyone to celebrate the holiday and stay safe during an outbreak of COVID-19 that has canceled Easter services and many other events.
Children still have time to decorate and put up paper Easter Eggs in their windows before Sunday.
In the meantime, she is keeping busy helping Blake with work for his second-grade class.
Her husband, Monte, works at Rod’s Tire and Service, and runs most errands for the family.
Etheridge says she is happy to be with the boys, but social distancing can be hard on children who don’t grasp the seriousness of a deadly viral outbreak and miss their grandparents.
“The real struggle is ‘why can’t we see gramma and papa?’ ” she said, looking at Ryder Monday. “He doesn’t understand. He’s pretty attached to his grandpa.”
Etheridge tries to distract them from their stir-craziness with outside play time.
Then the boys can let out their pent-up energy, laughing running, and racing each with other.
Etheridge knows, however, that her sons are still vulnerable despite their brotherly high jinks.
“People look at these kids and think they look normal, not knowing what they have,” she said looking at Blake.
“People could look at him and not know he has anything wrong with him because he looks pretty normal. But kids who are immunocompromised are really fragile.”
For this reason, she is glad community reaction to an event her boys can take part in has been overwhelmingly positive.
They will keep their eyes peeled when they hop in the car this weekend and hunt for eggs.
“I am hoping the whole town will get involved,” she said. “It would be really fun to see a lot of eggs in windows.”