This is why I’m a photojournalist

After receiving an allergy shot, Brian Shaffer, 33, calms down and gives his mother, Dee Shaffer a hug on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 at their home in Ashland, Neb. Brian, who is severely autistic, is allergic to 97 different things, so Dee must take several precautions to prevent reactions. Brian frequently chews on a piece of cloth for comfort. The two have been living off Dee’s retirement fund for over a year after the state stopped paying her to care for Brian. After her retirement money runs out, Dee said they would be forced to the streets. “That would kill him,” she said, crying.

After receiving an allergy shot, Brian Shaffer, 33, calms down and gives his mother, Dee Shaffer a hug on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 at their home in Ashland, Neb. Brian, who is severely autistic, is allergic to 97 different things, so Dee must take several precautions to prevent reactions. Brian frequently chews on a piece of cloth for comfort. The two have been living off Dee’s retirement fund for over a year after the state stopped paying her to care for Brian. After her retirement money runs out, Dee said they would be forced to the streets. “That would kill him,” she said, crying.

I had a gut feeling about this story that I don’t usually have with daily assignments. I knew that I needed to put in the extra work for this. It was also one of the most difficult assignments I’ve shot.

The first time I met Dee and Brian, my time was cut extremely short because Brian was having an allergic reaction to something that JoAnne (the writer) or I had on. He has severe autism, chemical sensitivity, and 97 allergies. Brian was affected by scents that most people wouldn’t normally notice. We both had to leave so Brian would be okay.

The next few days, Dee and Brian were all I could think about. While I had photos that would work for the story, I knew I didn’t have what I wanted. I called Dee and asked if I could just spend a little more time with them the next day I had off.

The two days before I went back to meet with them, I only rinsed off in the shower avoiding anything that had any fragrance to it. I left my clothes outside to air out and completely covered myself in baking soda to absorb as much fragrance as possible.

When I got there, Brian was having an episode. I had to leave again so Brian could calm down. Dee gave him an allergy shot, so when I returned an hour later, he had settled down a lot and became more comfortable. Dee said he usually doesn’t like to be touched, but with the allergy shot he was better.

I shot the photo above moments before he went to his room and slept from the effects of the shot.

Several weeks later, a nice package ran with several photos. After that, JoAnne wrote this follow up:

Fund set up to help mother and son

by JoAnne Young/Lincoln Journal Star

Dee Shaffer heard a knock on the door of her Ashland home Sunday, and when she peeked out she saw a couple holding up a $100 bill.

She opened the door and they told her this: We read the story this morning in the Journal Star, and we want to help.

Shaffer started to cry. And the couple, who said they were traveling from Tecumseh to Omaha, pulled out $40 more.

Shaffer owed $146 on this month’s electric bill and had been wondering how she was going to pay it.

This week, she also received money in her mailbox, including $90 sent to her by a 14-year-old. The teen had saved the money from payments for mowing lawns.

Since “For love of her boy: A mother’s fight” ran, other generous Nebraskans have been asking how they could  help the mother of the severely autistic and highly allergic young man Brian.

The state had been paying the mother, who is a nurse and dietitian, to provide his care. But state Medicaid and its managed care provider decided to stop those payments. The mother has not had an income in more than a year as she has struggled to provide for her son’s needs.

A fund has been set up through Pinnacle Bank to collect contributions on behalf of Brian. Contribute at any Pinnacle Bank to the Dee Shaffer for Brian Shaffer Fund, or mail donations, marked for the fund, to: Pinnacle Bank, 13240 Callum Drive, Waverly, NE 68462.

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