CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Two kids from Cape Coral started a lemonade stand to raise money to help pay for their father's medical expenses. For more than eight years their father's health deteriorated as multiple doctor visits and exams provided no answers.
"I knew there was something wrong. But until we got to a certain point, I didn't realize how drastic we needed to work. Or how quickly we needed to work., said Lindsey Garrison.
Lindsey and her two children, Hunter and Jillian, watched as Virgil Garrison's health slowly declined. The cabinet business owner lost weight, experienced severe headaches, and had limited vision and ability to taste. Doctors couldn't seem to find a cause, leaving the family with no answers.
"Every time you leave and you just don't have an answer…you don't think you can keep going," said Lindsey.
The answer did come. After years of managing his condition, Virgil was diagnosed
with a CSF leak. It's a tear in the outer portion of his skull from an accident in 2012.
Virgil needed to get to Duke Medical Center for treatment, and more answers. The family needed to figure out how to get him there ...and how to financially survive.
"We sold both of our vehicles just to continue to live."
And the kids turned lemons into lemonade, making their Cape Coral lemonade stand a fundraiser for their dad.
The family was evicted and homeless for weeks during the pandemic. But amidst loss, there was hope. The family's insurance finally kicked in, and with the community's help, "I did manage to get to Duke University and they did find the three holes in my spine," said Virgil.
After eight years, the Garrison's say a 15 minute procedure finally gave them answers.
Lindsey says soon after the corrective procedure of the leak and diagnosis of a spinal malformation, she remembers Virgil eating a burger and telling the family he could taste once again.
"That moment I think we'll never forget about that."
The family is back in Southwest Florida and doing well they say.
Virgil owns an outdoor kitchen business and Lindsey is working to advocate for families that need medical answers but feel they're being dismissed.
You could call what happened at Duke miraculous, but Virgil says, "The miracle came at the lemonade stand" with the outpouring of the community.
"People were just coming and coming and coming. There were fifteen cop cars, fire trucks…there were thirty…it was just unbelievable."
The stand raised just over $7,600.
The procedure costs more than $180,000, but Virgil says, "It helped us get there." And that help changed their lives he says.
"I thought that money was the only thing. And it's not. It's your health. Cause without your health you're not going to make money and you're not going to take care of your children. So it's been a journey."
A journey full of lemons now turned lemonade.