Those were the words of Diane Johnson, mother of Cody Johnson, whose home in Manassas, Va., was outfitted with a new HVAC system by members of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America - National Capital Chapter (ACCA-NCC) during the association's Heat the Country program.
Cody, who is two years old, was recently diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma, a form of cancer that affects the sympathetic nervous tissue and adrenal glands. Cody receives treatment at the Lombardi Cancer Center of Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
While he undergoes intensive chemotherapy, which suppresses the immune system and makes him vulnerable to life-threatening infections, his family is living in an apartment, awaiting their return to a "clean" home. The family home is being renovated to abate a serious mold problem in preparation for Cody's return home for a short break from his treatment.
As part of the Heat the Country program, the Johnsons received a new HVAC system, compliments of the ACCA-NCC. Technicians from Krafft Service and Northstar Heating & A/C installed a new Westinghouse air conditioning system with equipment donated by Allied Equipment and Supplies.
Crews also installed a UV air cleaner donated by Northeastern Supply. The Thomas Somerville Co. donated a new oil boiler. Tin Man Sheet Metal donated all of the necessary ductwork for the changeout. Foley Mechanical donated several hundred dollars worth of controls, too.
The original air conditioning system at the property was installed in the attic with no emergency drain pan. As a result of a water leak, a large portion of the ceiling in one of the children's bedrooms fell to the floor and caused substantial water damage.
"We constantly had a problem with mold in our home," Johnson said. "We were told by our doctors that chemotherapy patients were at risk and could not breathe moldy air. The whole house had to be torn apart."
Besides help from local trades people to remediate the mold, replace flooring, and paint, the Johnsons desperately needed help with replacing the HVAC equipment. Dan Clarke, ACCA-NCC president and Heat the Country chairman, helped the family overcome that hurdle.
"Dan came out to visit me at the house," Johnson said. "Soon after, I had to go to the hospital with Cody. My husband called me there and said not to bother coming home because there was no furnace. We didn't know they were putting in a new furnace."
Clarke said that each of the people working in the home was moved by the experience. "It was very emotional working in the Johnson home," he said. "All of the guys working in the home got very close to the situation. It made us all feel good by the end of the day. We never got to meet Cody while we were there because he was always in the hospital."
The Johnsons still face an increasing number of medical bills for Cody's treatment. They have refinanced their mortgage twice in recent years for other home improvements. "We're just not prepared for a problem of this magnitude," Johnson said.
Clarke issued a press release to state that a fund had been initiated to aid the family, and he appealed for more help.
"I hope that we don't stop here," he said. "We have started a collection to help the Johnson family (in addition to Cody there is his four-year-old-sister, Daniella, and six-year-old brother, Justin) for the holidays."
He encouraged everyone to make a donation to the fund. (The address is included below.)
"As a parent of a two-year-old child, I can't imagine being in this position," he said. "I encourage all of you touched by this story to send a donation so that we can provide some joy to this family over what will be a very difficult holiday season."
Donations for the Johnson family may be sent to: Cody Johnson Assistance Fund, C/O Wachovia Bank, 7591 Somerset Crossing Drive, Gainesville, VA 20155.
For more information on the Heat the Country program, see the article "Contractors â€˜Heat The Country'" in this issue.
Publication date: 11/15/2004