Bad Boy News

Alive for a Reason: Ozzy's Story

Ozzy Self: A story of inspiration. The contrast couldn't have been more vivid: Ozzy, minutes old, a mere seven pounds of soft skin and downy hair, asleep in the arms of Joe Self, his burly hulk of a father who had shoulders as big as Christmas hams. Ozzy was five weeks premature and completely unexpected on this, the 11th of September, 2011. It was ten years to the day that the world changed forever. Hovering protectively over that blessed baby, keenly aware of the value of life in light of those sad memories, Joe spoke out of pure conviction when he whispered one word –

"Amazing."

Two months later, Joe and his wife Tanara again leaned over this child. This time was different, though. Ozzy, who should have almost doubled his birth weight, clung to his seven small pounds.

He was wasting away.

Joe's heart hurt, but his conviction was resolute when he spoke the hardest of words: "Something is wrong with this baby." And he knew what had to be done. He and Tanara drove Ozzy to the Arkansas Children's Hospital. And they started praying. They also enlisted the praying heart of Mike Fulcher, Joe's friend and co-worker at Bad Boy Mowers in Batesville.

Prayers were needed. Something was wrong with Ozzy.

That same sense of conviction is what put Joe where he is today: twelve years drug-free, with a beloved family experiencing the joys of starting over. So many things could have ended his life along the way. Addiction. Incarceration. A destructive car wreck.

But the man is alive for a reason.

He remembers the day he finally woke up to the truth. It was during his second prison stint. The tattered pieces of his life floated around him – a broken family, a lost career, no hope for a future. That same conviction, the one that would later insist on saving his small son, rose up in him and helped him walk away from the sickness of addiction. And he never looked back.

Joe credits his then father-in-law with the first of many outstretched hands that pulled him back into clean living. His father-in-law's generosity in opening his Batesville home to Joe during an eight-month parole served as just the fresh start he needed. Having a place in his older children's lives during that time reminded him daily of what he was living for.

Today, Joe may look like a descendent of a fearsome Arkansas black bear, but he's actually more of the teddy bear variety. In his long-time role at Bad Boy Mowers, Joe "Hawk" (named for his trademark mohawk) is committed to lifting his co-workers' spirits. Grateful to work for a company whose daily emphasis is on giving second chances and helping those in need, he seeks to do the same.

As he'll tell you again and again, he's alive for a reason.

And that reason is Ozzy – Ozzy, who was dying before he'd had a chance to live. "Failure to thrive" would be the medical term, but Joe didn't need a doctor to tell him what his gut knew. "He couldn't breathe and suck a bottle at the same time," Joe recalls, tears in his eyes.

After more than two weeks of testing at ACH, fears of a heart murmur turned for the worse when the doctors told his parents that Ozzy had a pulmonary valve condition preventing the valves from opening and closing correctly. Every bit of this baby's energy and strength went to keeping blood pumping through his tiny body. There is no time to grow when a baby is merely trying to live through the day.

To make matters worse, before the doctors could address the heart valve problems, their more immediate concerns were his throat and stomach, both damaged by the heart condition. Surgery to open and repair them, and time to heal from those surgeries, preceded his open-heart surgery two months later.

All that means one thing: this tiny infant, barely the size of one of Joe's powerful biceps, was laid open and his chest peeled back. For eight excruciating hours, gifted doctors tried to repair what had gone wrong inside Ozzy’s chest. All the strength in the world couldn't have helped Joe in that moment. It was his praying knees that got him through.

A baby cannot describe its pain on a scale from one to ten. A baby can only float in that medically-induced sleep of healing, hovering somewhere between life and death.

Ozzy lived. But his troubles are far from over. Doctors at Children’s Hospital have also diagnosed him with Noonan Syndrome, a condition that carries lifelong developmental, physical, and mental implications. It's too early to tell just what will result from this diagnosis, but the complications are inevitable. Maybe Ozzy will only suffer slightly. Or maybe he'll struggle with the full range of Noonan difficulties – learning disabilities, severe joint pain, growth retardation, motor delay, scoliosis, low muscle tone…the list goes on and on.

For now, Ozzy is home, for which Joe praises God. But more immediate concerns are pressing on all sides. Tanara must stay at home with Ozzy in his fragile state, leaving her unable to work. The extended hospital stay has drained their resources and saddled them with enormous medical bills. Joe and Tanara share one vehicle and are significantly past due on the payments. Their landlord has been more than generous, but they've fallen dangerously behind on their rent. The eviction notice hangs over their heads. And it's only getting worse.

Eviction. Repossession. The Selfs just want to do the best they can for Ozzy and their other sons, six-year-old Caleb and two-year-old Eli. Ozzy needs much in the way of medical help and therapy. More than Joe can afford. Just getting through the day is proving to be more than the family can handle. This is where we step in. Joe is our neighbor. Please consider helping Joe Hawk and family. He'd never ask you to. So I am.

Friends and co-workers of Joe "Hawk" Self have established a fund to help Ozzy and his parents through this difficult time. Your generosity for this young family cannot be underestimated. It will equip them for the battles they face today, and the battles Ozzy will face in the future.

To donate to the Ozzy Self fund you can send your donations to:

Benefit Account for Ozzy Self
First Community Bank
P.O. Box 4327
Batesville, Ar 72503-4327

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