Monroeville firefighters help family of boy diagnosed with brain tumor

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

It takes a little time for Matthew Jacko to complete a sentence, but those who love him hang on to every word.

“We just let him talk, however he wants to talk,” said his mother, Carey Mynahan-Jacko.

In April, after Matthew celebrated his seventh birthday, he was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor.

Carey said the family experienced a range of emotions.

“It can't be, how can it be, why didn't we know?” she said.

From the time Matthew was born, he developed faster than most children, his mother said. When he was 3, he stripped the training wheels from his bike and taught himself to ride on two wheels. By the time he was 7, he was playing baseball and football with plans of signing up for soccer.

“He was a sports guy,” said Brian Jacko, his father.

Then, last April, the results of an X-ray set Matthew apart in a different way. Since doctors discovered the tumor, his motor skills have regressed, causing his speech to slow. Doctors predict that he might soon lose the ability to walk, his parents said.

As the family copes with Matthew's condition, the bills never stop mounting. They also have a daughter who is a senior at Gateway.

But they're not doing it alone. Carey said the support from family, friends and strangers has strengthened her faith in humanity.

“It just kind of baffles me,” Carey said. “There really are good people out there, and they don't want anything in return.”

Last fall, members of Monroeville Fire Co. 5 spent $3,000 from their budget to build a path and a ramp that are wheelchair-accessible, from the family's driveway to the rear of their Monroeville home. Without it, Brian would have to carry Matthew up a flight of steps.

They also constructed a deck extending from the family's back door.

“If he's going to be in a wheelchair, he shouldn't be confined to the house,” said Stan Karwoski, a volunteer firefighter who spearheaded the project.

“At least he can get out on the deck when it's nice.

After his workday ended, Karwoski would measure, saw and hammer outside the Jacko home until the sun went down.

“I can't tell you how much time this man has put in to this kid's home,” said Ron Harvey, Co. 5 fire chief. “He undertook this humongous job that started as just a sidewalk.”

While some helped with their time and expertise, others donated money. Fundraisers were held, and a Matthew Jacko Fund was established to, in part, help make up for the hours both parents have lost at work.

Three months passed between the time Karwoski first met Matthew and he began working at their home.

“The decline in that short amount of time, it was heart wrenching,” he said. “They're strong, they really are. From talking to them and learning what a regular day for them is like, that takes a hell of a person.”

Matthew's physician too, has seen what the family has endured since their son's diagnosis.

“Matthew really is a trouper,” said Dr. Regina Jakacki, director of the neuro-oncology program at UPMC Children's hospital.

“The younger children don't compare themselves (to their peers) as much as teenagers and adults. He keeps everyone smiling.

“He makes it easier for everyone to be strong.”

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or

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