Jones presents Keen with comments from House floor
By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 29, 2011 1:46 PM
Congressman Walter Jones reads the comments he read into the official Congressional Record on the U.S. House floor in May honoring Abby Keen, left, and telling the story of her illness.
Congressman Walter Jones wears a green wristband given to him by Abby Keen's mother to remind him and to tell others about Keen's need for a liver transplant.
GRANTHAM -- Slipping the bright green bracelet on his left wrist, Congressman Walter B. Jones Tuesday afternoon promised Abby Keen that he would not remove it until she told him she didn't need for him to wear it any more.
The bracelets are part of fundraising efforts for Abby, 14, a sophomore at Southern Wayne High School, who suffers from primary sclerosing cholangitis, a very rare liver disease found in children and normally seen in men 35 to 50 years old.
The family has been told that a liver transplant is the only treatment that will help her. The surgery will be performed at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.
"It is just incredible that he thinks my story is unique enough for him to come here and visit," Abby said.
Jones spent about an hour with Abby and a small group of her family and friends as they enjoyed homemade lemonade, cake and ice cream at the Selah Christian Church Fellowship Hall. Jones was at the church to present Abby with a framed copy of his comments about her that were published in the Congressional Record. She also has received a U.S. flag that was flown over the Capitol.
"I am very delighted to be here," Jones said. "It is very special, your story. This (bracelet) is very special to me. I have a bracelet given to me by Jerome and Rachel Lee whose son was killed in Iraq. They gave me this and I told them that I would wear it as long as I lived. I will put yours on the same wrist and when you tell me that you don't need me to wear it, I will take it off."
In his comments on the House floor on May 10, Jones said, "Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor Miss Abby Keen."
Jones spoke of her school activities and that she suffers from a rare liver disease and she is currently on a waiting list for a transplant at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa.
"Abby is hoping to return to her active roles upon completion of her liver transplant," he said in his comments. "Mr. Speaker, today, I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring Miss Abby Keen and wish her the best in her upcoming future."
Jones said he loves children and wants them all to have a chance. He said he had learned about Abby's story through the media and primarily the community.
"We were made aware of how this community was helping this beautiful young lady who has the liver problem," he said. "It was brought to my attention by my staff. She is a unique child. A lot of times members will put stories of their district in the Congressional Record because we think it is worthwhile for America to know about it. This was just important for me to read into the record.
"That is the way I felt about Abby. You don't think about children her age being sick, certainly not seriously ill, and yet here she is waiting for a liver to give the quality of life that she has now lost. I wanted to be here today."
Abby's mother, Deon Keen, told Jones that her daughter had always been a healthy child and outwardly still appears to be fine, but that her life had quickly taken a 180-degree turn in the fall of 2009. She has been on the transplant list since March 2010.
"She went in one day from being a normal healthy child on the cheerleading squad, playing softball, and literally, within 24 hours we found we had a huge problem," Mrs. Keen said. "It took almost three months to get a diagnosis and we did not expect to be on the transplant list."
She provided Jones with Abby's biography and information about the disease.
Having a sick child suffering from such a disease is a difficult topic and hard to understand, she said.
"But we feel people need to understand and it is not just something that you know from birth," she said. "You can be living a normal life, then bam, find it out, which is exactly what happened to us.'
Jones said he studied the information.
"Generally speaking, I normally support all funding for the National Endowment of Health," he said. "I believe they do a lot of good and do research with the universities and research hospitals to find cures. I will do whatever I can to help you. I have always been support of programs to help find cures or at least make quality of life what it should be. It is a touching story.
"She is an angel and it is something that needed to be told. A lot of people read the Congressional Record. This was presented on the floor of the House not only to tell your story but to honor you. Until I read the story I didn't know about this liver disease. This is pretty much your story that is in the Congressional Record. This is very special because you are a very special young lady."