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Every Parent's
Day's Jack and Jennifer struggle with their daughter's grave illness

EVERY PARENT'S WORST nightmare -- that his or her child will become seriously ill -- is a reality for Jack and Jennifer (Matthew Ashford and Melissa Reeves).
Their baby daughter, Abby (Meghan Nelson), is diagnosed with aplastc anemia this week on Days of Our Lives.

Abby has been having sporadic episodes of high fever, and the couple rushes her to Salem University Hospital. They're told their little girl will have to remain there for treatment and tests.

Head writer James Reilly explains why this tragic development is happening to a couple whose lives usually have a more bizarre comedic bent. "Jack and Jennifer have always had external forces attacking them from the outside, in terms of going on these scams and larger-than-life kind of adventures," he says. "We watned them to go through something very human, very personal, and very indentifiable to young, married couples.

"When you look at a young couple with a child, the greatest conflict that canarise is when something happens to that child," he notes. "You see the stress that it puts on both parents. Usually what happens is the frustration they feel toward the illness and their inability to take away the pain of the child builds up inside each parent. They wind up taking it out on themselves. Their marriage and family becomes a pressure cooker for both of them. Even the strongest marriages are tested at times like that.

Jack fears he and Jennifer have done something wrong, something that caused Abby to become ill. Tom and Alice (Macdonald Carey and Frances Reid) try to reassure them that it's not their fault, and Jo (Marilyn McIntyre) attempts to comfort them. Somehow Jack finds the strength to promise Jennifer that they will beat this thing, and that Abby will recover.

By Thursday, tensions are high as Jack and Jennifer wait for word on Abby's condition. At this point, Jack refuses to believe that anything could be seriously wrong with her. "Jack has lost so many people in his life," Ashford says referring to back story; Jack was given up for adoption by his natural mother, and later lost his adoptive father, Harper, and brother, Steve. "He can't think about it happening again. That's why he's kept a distance, and created a distance underneath [between himself and his child]."

Jennifer fears the worst — and she's right. Abby's biopsy will reveal she has aplastic anemia. "Jennifer's always been the practical one in this relationship, says Reeves. "She's always felt she's had to be strong one because Jack sort of goes over the top sometimes. Plus, Jennifer's really grown up in the hospital. She comes from a family of doctors. I think that's why she has a little bit more of a handle on things."

Reilly elaborates: "It's not in Jack's character to be honest and open as Jennifer is about this whole situation. He doesn't want to hear that something might be taken away from him again. He'll do everything he cane to save Abby, but you'll never hear him say to Jennifer, `We may lose our baby.'

"Jennifer's more realistic. She realizes [Abby's illness] is not her fault. It's not something she and Jack had control over," Reilly continues, hinting that as this plot progresses, Jennifer may discover she's been wrong. "That's going to be the twist and surprise of this story."

The parents are devastated when they learn the diagnosis of Abby's illness, and that she will die if she doesn't get a bone marrow transplant. They try to steel themselves for the fight of their lives as they begin a nationwide search for a donor to help their baby.

According to Reilly, Abby's illness will have major effects on Jack and Jennifer, individually and as a couple. "You really get to know people by how they handle events in their life," he says. "And there's nothing more challenging to a person than to find someone they love in danger of dying. What the audience is going to see is a continuing process of developing these two characters.

"This story will expand who Jack and Jennifer are and set them off. It will be a test of their characters. We'll find out who they are, that they're a serious and real couple. It will affect their marriage too," he adds. "Jack and Jennifer love each other. Yet sometimes you can love someone but not work things out at the time. If you stay around and talk things through, the marriage goes through the storm. If you don't sit down and face the situation — if you ignore it — the marriage suffers."

"Jack and Jennifer will definitely have to pull together to get through this. I think it will bring them to a new level of depending on each other," says Ashford, noting that this story is bring out "Some aspects of their relationship what the audience hasn't seen in quite some time."

Reeves agrees that it's "a nice change," but points out that she "wouldn't want to do it all the time. It's nice to have drama and lighter stuff," she says. "This has really been hard. I leave drained at the end of the day, because I was able to pull it off."

Reilly says the outcome of this story will reveal several secrets and involve Victor (John Aniston), Kate (Deborah Adair), Jennifer, Abby and Austin (Patrick Muldoon). "While the actor playing Jack is leaving the show, that's not to say the character of Jack will never be back. He's an important part of the show. He'll be there," Reilly assures.


APLASTIC ANEMIA IS A deficiency involving all the formed elements of the blood unlike anemia, in which only the red-cell count is reduced — and is caused by a failure of the bone marrow to generate blood cells. While not entirely preventable, it can be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, ionized radiation or some forms of antibiotics.

Dr. Charles R. Gordon, who specializes in pediatrics in New York City, says, "It's a disaster. Once the body stops producing red blood cells, you have about 120 days left." Gordon adds that once diagnosed (children and adults are susceptible) plans for a transfusion or bone marrow transplant should be done immediately.

by Janet Di Lauro

the  news


baby daughters (Grace Ashford and Emmy Reeves were born eight days apart in June 1992), but their reactions to this storyline are different. "It's been really hared for me," admits Reeves, "and I didn't think it would be. I thought, `It's not my baby. It's just pretend. This shouldn't bother me at all.' But when you're out there and really concentrating, for some reason your baby pops into your mind, and it's really emotional."

Ashford says that while the material has been tough to play, "It really hasn't bee difficult for me to deal with, personally. I have a definite line drawn between make-believe and real. I'm very confident about life. I have a good feeling about my life, about my baby's life, about my wife's life —
besides, I would deal with this differently than Jack, who's kinds of bouncing off the walls and doing all sorts of things.

photos photos photos photos photos photos
SOW Aug 93, Missy, Scott & Emily Reeves
Melissa, Scott and Emily Reeves.

SOW 95, Matt & Christina pregnant with Grace (92)
Matt Ashford bonds with
Grace in Christina's belly.


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