Friday, March 17, 2017

Roloff Friend, Jen Montzingo, Left Paraplegic - Faces Critical Surgery

This is not really a Roloff related item, but given the real life impact on someone -- I wanted to at least let some of our readers know what has happened to one of the "friends" of the Roloffs from the early seasons of Little People, Big World.

Long time fans of the show, will remember wayyyy back when the show started (and in truthfulness, before the show), Jen Montzingo was one of Zach Roloff's closest friends. Jen was often featured in the "LPA" conference episodes and in one of the early seasons Jen was featured in quite a few episodes as she had spent a lot of time at the Roloffs house.

Jen has answered some reader comments on our site before. Years ago, Jen had moved from her home in Seattle to Hollywood to pursue her dream of acting. She was known as one of the Roloffs few friends who were more "liberal".

Anyhow, over the years, Jen's once close friendship with the Roloffs (considering she was a family friend before the show) sadly seemed to end.

Given the Roloffs negative feelings towards Spiritswander Blog, it seems as though anytime there was talk of Jen, that would create drama.

Moving on, in 2014, something tragic happened.

After hearing the terrible news that Jen had become paraplegic, I reached out to Jen to bring awareness to our readers about what had happened to someone they probably remembered from the early seasons.

We were doing a question and answer item with the main purpose of letting people know about Jen's situation. However, because this is a Roloff blog, I perhaps unfairly, asked if we could discuss some Roloff topics,  her current relationship with them, her thoughts on then current happenings with the Roloffs (it was around the time of Jacob's and when Jacob started speaking out that he wasn't a Christian, etc.).

When I was just about to publish the item, Jen had a change of heart and asked not to include any Roloff related topics as she had no interest in creating more drama or bad blood with the Roloffs (although she didn't say anything negative, even trying to explain what happened would probably open up old wounds). So the item went unpublished.

I hope I am not out of line and if so I sincerely apologize to Jen, but because I don't believe this is controversial -- I did ask Jen about her relationship with the Roloffs in 2014 and she replied that she hadn't seen them in a long time.

Since Jen was a friend of the Roloffs with very different views on social issues than most of the Roloffs, I did ask for her opinion on the "controversy" with Jacob and the backlash he was facing from Christians fans of the Roloffs.

Spiritswander QuestionAnd just one final Roloff question just because it has been by far the most discussed topic on the blog in the last several months. There is some similarity between Christians on our site being upset with you for being "pro-gay" and quite frankly saying nasty things about you a few years ago and how Christians are now upset with Jacob for his social media posts. I realize that when you were close friends with the Roloffs, Jacob was just a young boy, but I'm sure people are curious as to what you think about Jacob being outspoken about rejecting Christianity, and his overall presence on social media. He answers questions on all social issues and posts his opinions and often times his opinions seem to be very different from the rest of his family. What are your thoughts about Jacob?

Jen Montzingo: : Hmmm...that is quite a complex question, especially for someone who doesn't follow Jacob on any social media accounts. I don't know, but perhaps Jacob isn't rejecting Christianity, but rejecting those who don't allow for questioning, doubts, and exploring things. 

From the way you worded your question, it sounds like Jacob is really thoughtful, philosophical and interested in seeking truth no matter the cost. I remember what an old youth pastor told me, it really sticks with me to this day and applies to this question. He said, "all truth is God's truth, so you really don't have to be afraid of it." Before I get a bunch of hate mail from atheists, let me explain the heart of what he meant. This isn't against atheists way of being at all. He's just saying, you don't have to be afraid of seeking truth and having doubts. Because it's normal to wrestle with these complex issues and feel like the way you grew up sheltered you from other ways of thinking and being. It's a really normal developmental stage that I think most psychologically healthy young adults go through.

I commend Jacob for taking the time to really research different issues and form his own opinion and be confident enough to speak up. It takes a strong core to go "against the flow." Simply following something when you have no idea on what it actually means seems kind of inauthentic and shallow.

SW: Any opinion on the backlash from Christians who feel that Jacob should be banned from social media or who say they are hoping he is disowned by the rest of the Roloffs next January when he turns 18? 

JM: : I cannot even fathom the type of person who would write that he should be disowned from his family? You have to ask yourself about the heart of someone who would write that? It's easy to be anonymous online and say hurtful things without reaping any consequences. Things you would never say to someone's face.

If Jacob were to read this I would want him to know that I support him because I know his character based on who he was as child. I'd actually be really interested to hear what he thinks about different issues - I'm sure he could point me to really interesting points of view from credible sources.

I just thought some readers would be interested in Jen's opinion on Jacob.

Most of our interview was on the life changing events:

SW: People might recall that a few years ago you moved from your home in Seattle to Hollywood to pursue your dream of acting. Can you give people an update? What has been happening in your life?

JM: I did somewhat pursue acting, but mostly I was happy teaching kindergarten-age children. I didn't really go "full force" with acting because in the process I realized how shy I can be and how much I don't like to be the center of attention. For example, if you sing happy birthday to me, I will turn bright red, even if it is a classroom of children singing to me. But I'm open to bit parts here and there, although I'm pretty picky on the type of parts I'm willing to do. I went more of the public speaking route and before this year, spoke pretty frequently all around the greater LA area. 

For me, I had planned on pursuing a master's degree in some combination of social work, public policy and clinical therapy. I was in the process of looking at different programs and figuring out what would be best for me.

I had major orthopedic surgery in February where they did two osteotomies, basically replaced both of my knees and one ankle (the other ankle will be done soon) and I had to wear external fixators for five months. It was brutal and gruesome, the most painful experience I have ever had.

My legs were extremely bowed and my knees were not aligned correctly, which was essentially compressing my nerves to the point of, if I did not do the surgery, I would have ended up in a wheelchair. 

Then, I slipped backwards off my stool while I was doing dishes I ended up having emergency spinal surgery by the Head of Orthopedics and the Head of Neurosurgery at a prominent LA hospital that is the west coast leader for people with skeletal dysplasia. Long story short, I suffered permanent spinal cord damage from the fall and my life has completely changed. 

Jen's dad took this while waiting for her to get of surgery #4

SW: Are you still in the hospital? 

JM: I was in the hospital for, let's see, 7 of the 12 months this year. 5 of the months I wore these unbearably torturous external fixators and two of the months I was at a spinal cord rehabilitation center. I had two glorious months this past summer where I was able to live at home. This is not said for people to feel sorry for me. This is just my story. 

SW: What have you been told about recovery?

JM: Nobody anticipates I will make a full recovery due to the extensiveness of the spinal cord damage, but I continue to press on in physical and occupational therapies, hoping to regain what is possible for me. But many essential functions, I have lost and I now use an electric wheelchair, unless I am just in my room or something.

SW: How are you coping with all of this? 

JM: In all honesty, I am grieving and totally devastated. I should probably think of some Pollyanna thing to say, but that is my current reality. I know emotions can change, and time heals many things, but right now, everything is fresh and I am also in shock. 

Jen's first trip out of her in 43 days. Downstairs to hospital Starbucks! A huge Treat!

SW: There has been a lot of talk about medical care in the U.S. How are you coping financially with all that has happened to you? 

JM: I was able to use my savings to pay for my medical care so far, but unfortunately it is ongoing. I have many new daily needs which are expensive, like having a care giver. But everything going on with me kind of pales with the suffering of others in the world. I know many have it far worse.

That was back in November 2014.

Of the past 3 years, Jen was in the hospital/acute/rehab/nursing home for 870 days.

Jen's brother atakes Jen to the courtyard in her wheel chair after 60 days

Friends of Jen's, distributed this letter in March 2017 to let people know of what is happening and help that is needed if possible:

For those who do not know, in August of 2014, Jen fell and incurred a massive spinal cord injury, leaving her an incomplete paraplegic. After this, she had a fourteen-hour emergency neurosurgery and spent August 2014 until May 2016 in the hospital, subsequent rehab and nursing home(s). In May of 2016 she was finally able to move into a Seattle apartment with caregivers coming in to provide care and where she could be closer to the support system in which she grew up with.

Throughout this time, Jen had a second neurosurgery to try and stabilize her spine. She is now scheduled to have a third and hopefully final neurosurgery for the foreseeable future on April 10th at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, California. If left untreated, this spinal cord injury will cause further paralysis or fatality. 

Their skeletal dysplasia department has extensive experience and critical expertise in maintaining this injury in combination with the medical difficulties due to achondroplastic dwarfism. Her surgical team has been very committed to her care throughout these past few difficult years. 

We are writing to ask for some help for her for a limited amount of time.  We would be grateful for your support as we fundraise to assist Jen with at least some of the additional costs for this surgery.

Her hospitalization, surgeons’ fees and imaging are partly covered by her insurance. She is gratefully receiving financial assistance from the hospital for the rest of her inpatient costs.  However, Jen needs assistance for her airfare and subsequent lodging costs for when she is not actually checked into the hospital (i.e. pre-op and post-op appointments from three different physicians who need to see her regularly and sign off on these surgeries, outpatient MRI’s with the surgeons present as well as blood typing/matching for transfusions and necessary lab testing). 

We are in the home stretch and hoping this will finally be the end of the surgical road for our dearest Jen!We are also hoping that this surgical intervention leads to less pain, more sensation and increased mobility so that she may be more active in her community.

Would you consider contributing toward this effort on Jen’s behalf? 

Jennifer’s grandparents are 50+ year legacies at a Seattle-area church that wants to help her during this difficult time. They have set up an avenue for you to receive tax credit for your contributions, if you donate through the First Free Methodist Church. The site is and you would click on the “Giving tab”.  Mark your donation for Local Impact Partners fund. The church will direct your donation toward Jen’s health funding needs and you will receive a tax credit receipt for your gift.

Thank you so much for your consideration of this need.


Jen’s Advocates: 

Jen and her dad at her cousin's wedding in between surgeries

Just to clarify, because some commenting were wondering about insurance, while it pays for medical, Jenn still has medical equipment expenses, $400 + caregiver copay and a lot of airfare and lodging costs due to the back and forth trips..

The hospital chart from Jen's amazing surgeon who has given her best chance of recovery

For anyone interested in how they could help if they are in a position to do so, the best way would be through a Go Fund Me Campaign. Here is the link:

Go Fund Me Campaign for Jen Montzingo