Auburn jewelry store plays Santa for 11-year-old's sick mom

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AUBURN — Kaden James’ mom Michelle has had a terrible year: 16 surgeries and an amputated left leg as doctors try to fight off flesh-eating bacteria.

Monday night, after visiting his mother in the ICU at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, the 11-year-old joined his grandmother for grocery shopping. He told her he wanted to check out games at Game Stop and also slipped into Day’s Jewelers next door.

He told sales staff how much he had in his savings account and that he’d like to buy something beautiful for his mom for Christmas.

“As they started talking a little bit more, he explained how long his mom had been in the hospital,” said Assistant Manager Vanessa Phipps. “He was very humble and very sad. KimBeth (Merchant), one of our sales associates, is a fan of all Hallmark Christmas movies — it reminded her of every Christmas movie. She’s like, ‘We have to do something.'”

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Staff brought out three pairs of earrings and asked him to pick one, then they wrapped up that pair and a pearl necklace and handed him the bag.

“It was really precious,” Phipps said. “He had tears in his eyes because he was so touched. ‘You guys didn’t have to do that, I don’t want to take this.’ I told him, ‘When you come shopping for your girlfriend, make sure you come see us.'”

Diane Trepanier, Michelle’s mother and Kaden’s grandmother, said the family’s had a very rough year.

Michelle James, 45, noticed a blister on her foot in February. Two weeks later, after a family vacation to Florida, that blister was still there and starting to bother her when she got up in the morning.

“I didn’t like what it looked like,” Trepanier said. She urged her daughter to go to the doctor. “From the doctor she went to the emergency room. From the emergency room, they gave me 24 hours to decide to either take her leg or she wouldn’t be living in 48 hours, she was so sick and had a flesh-eating bacteria in there.”

Michelle James had been taking immune system suppressants for arthritis, which complicated her recovery.

“By being on immune suppressants, she’s never been able to fight infections, and that’s pretty much what happens,” Trepanier said. “They kept having to cut more because the infection kept coming back.”

The family lives in Turner. Trepanier said she was shocked to see the sixth-grader meet back up with her in Shaw’s on Monday night with a bag from Day’s Jewelers in his hands.

Kaden told her the story.

“I said, ‘You’re kidding, right?'” The pair walked back to the jewelry store together.

“When I went in, they said they’d never seen such a polite little boy in all their lives,” Trepanier said. “I thought that was amazing.”

The staff was in tears. It turned out one of them had known Michelle from several years before. Trepanier thanked them profusely.

Kaden will give his mom the gifts on Christmas, in the hospital.

“I feel so good for him; it made him feel good,” Trepanier said. “He’s been having a hard time because he’s really close to his mother. It’s been rough. She hasn’t been home in nine months — she’s been in and out from the hospital to a nursing home, from the nursing home to the hospital.

“(There’s) so many bad people in the world and so many bad things they do, and when something like this happens, I think people should be noticed for it,” she said.

Phipps said six staffers pitched in to cover the cost of the jewelry.

“Of course, his mom’s story is very sad and unfortunate, but it was mostly him and how he wanted to give what little he had to give his mom something special,” Phipps said. “He was so polite and kind and so appreciative and it was really kind of what Christmas is all about.”

kskelton@sunjournal.com

Employees at Day’s Jewelers in Auburn gave Kaden James a pearl necklace and a pair of earrings for his mother, Michelle James, after they heard his story of how he wanted to get his mom a nice Christmas gift because she has been in and out of the hospital over the past nine months. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Kaden James opens a pair of earrings in front of his grandmother, Diane Trepanier, at their Turner home. The earrings and a pearl necklace were given to James by employees of Day’s Jewelers in Auburn after they heard his story of how he wanted to get his mom a nice Christmas gift because she has been in and out of the hospital over the past nine months. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

A pair of earrings and a pearl necklace were given to Kaden James by employees of Day’s Jewelers in Auburn after they heard his story of how he wanted to get his mom, Michelle James, a nice Christmas gift because she has been in and out of the hospital over the past nine months. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Kaden James opens a pair of earrings at his home in Turner on Wednesday. The earrings and a pearl necklace were given to James by employees of Day’s Jewelers in Auburn after they heard his story of how he wanted to get his mom, Michelle James, a nice Christmas gift because she has been in and out of the hospital over the past nine months. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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