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Feel Good Friday: Jilly’s Journey

Feel Good Friday - Jilly's Journey
Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 6:59 AM EDT
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PERRYSBURG, Ohio (WTVG) - When a family member is suffering, the feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming. A local woman discovered an outlet for all those emotions in a surprising place.

Janis Kay says she spent years struggling to find a way to help her 15-year-old granddaughter, Jillian Szenderski, who was born deaf in both ears. A little over a year ago, the teen also began experiencing trouble with her eyesight.

“U of M diagnosed an additional syndrome, which is called Usher Syndrome. And it’s the leading cause of deaf/blindness in the world,” explained Kay.

Jillian underwent a series of surgeries as a toddler, and got hearing aids at the tender age of two. Still, she often finds herself trying to explain something that so few understand.

“When I trip over things, when I can’t hear stuff in school, they say ‘what’s going on?’. I tell them and they just ask me, ‘you don’t look like you’re deaf’,” she said softly.

That’s when Grandma Janis had a dream, telling her to put all her thoughts and feelings into a book - something the one-time English major had never done. She submitted her draft of “Jilly’s Journey” to a few publishers, and was shocked to learn one of them accepted her project.

“And then when I was looking for an illustrator, I thought of my other illustrious granddaughter,” she said with a laugh.

That would be St. Ursula Academy freshman, Gabi Sterling.

“I felt committed and proud to be a part of this. Something that is much bigger than me,” Sterling explained.

Janis says the book is meant to raise awareness, and inspire understanding and kindness for those who fight private battles.

“As my legacy, when I’m long gone - I just want, in case she needs some of the resources, I want it to be there for her.”

“Jilly’s Journey” is available on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble. Janis says she plans to donate every penny she earns from its sales to research for Usher Syndrome.

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