Jack and Jennifer struggle with their daughter's
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.'
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
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
"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
"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
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.
IS APLASTIC ANEMIA
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
ASHFORD AND REEVES COPE
WITH ABBY'S ILLNESS
AND REEVES BOTH HAVE baby
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
Scott and Emily Reeves.
Ashford bonds with
Grace in Christina's belly.
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