ONALASKA, Wis. -- As families go, this one is about as unusual as they come. Unusual and inspiring.
You see, Rob and Becky Glynn were married in 1997 and had two children - Austin and Maddie. They divorced in 2005. Three years later Rob married Jennifer Sly who had 4 children. Aly, Savannah, Josh and Minnie. Meanwhile Becky married Erick Berling and together they had twin boys Dominic and Cameron. 4 adults, 8 kids. But one happy family.
They spend birthdays, holidays...and actually a lot of regular days just hanging out at each others homes. In fact the Sly's Glynn's and Berling's have even come up with a nickname for themselves. The Slynnlings. And at the heart of this family are two amazing women that ironically have become the best of friends. "I just started calling her my sister, because we're as close as that. We've learned a lot from each other and really balance each other out."
"It just shows what kind of women they actually are that it doesn't matter where they came from or who they are - they're gonna love them no matter what."
The reason this family works and works so well is two moms that are committed to working together. So what happens then when one mom literally starts falling apart.
"I started noticing problems in April of last year."
At first, it was little things. Cluster headaches, periodic fainting. "We could never figure out what's going on."
Finally late last year, doctors pinpointed the problem - or as it turns out - problems. Jen has not one but three separate diseases. A connective tissue disorder, an auto-immune deficiency and a rare condition called Postual Orthestatic Tachycardia Syndrome or POTS. Which essentially means if she tries to stand, or even sit upright for to long, her blood pressure drops causing her to lose consciousness. "I've had 12 concussions."
But getting diagnosed is only part of the problem. "The doctors don't know how to help her.." "They can't figure it out. She's been to Mayo, Gundersen, to Madison."
With no course of action, Jennifer's condition continues to decline. "It's been very difficult because everything in my life, I worked full time. We did girl scouts together. I was always busy. And all of a sudden I couldn't do anything anymore."
Thankfully, there's another mom, a best friend, a sister of sorts, willing - wanting to help. "They're our family. We were raised when your family needs help, you help them. Is it hard? Yes. But we wouldn't have it any other way."
In Jennifer's absence, Becky is the one getting them where they need to go, making sure they have what they need. "I can't even tell you how much she's stepped up to the plate."
"I think it's hard just because she can't go to her kids events. Can't go to their concerts. So at times I feel guilty. I'm more than happy to help out - but it just breaks my heart that she can't be there for them."
"I can't imagine my kids having to go through this without her."
Who knows what the future holds for the Slynnlings. But one thing is for sure - they are a shining example that divorce doesn't have to divide. In fact, sometimes it can result in a union you will cherish forever. "These kids have grown to be better kids because they've seen the way we interact with each other. It's been some great life lessons to them. We are a family and there's no one that can tell us otherwise."
A fund has been set up to help the Glynn family with Jennifer's medical expenses. If you would like to make a donation, send it to:
Marine Credit Union
c/o Jen's Angels
127 West Avenue North
La Crosse, WI 54601
Marine Credit Union
c/o Jen's Angels
1848 East Main Street
Onalaska, WI 54650