Jackson's Journey

Many in the community have visited Jackson’s Journey Benefit, a Facebook page acting as a journal for the Kangas family.

Michelle and AJ Kangas, are a local couple who have resided together in the area for over eight years. The couple owns Go Broke Farms, where they raise beef and poultry in Chetek. When asked about the story behind the name AJ responded “Michelle came up with the name because you’ll never be a millionaire raising beef cattle.” Michelle and AJ met in the area over eight years ago.

Their journey began when they realized that they wanted another baby. Michelle and AJ persevered through five miscarriages in order to have their fifth and final child. Michelle’s pregnancy was riddled with complications due to a medical condition she was diagnosed with which causes pregnancy-induced epilepsy. Michelle spent close to six months on restrictions and bed rest. She found herself going into preterm labor at 29 weeks and then again at 32 weeks.

While in the hospital to halt the labor, Michelle’s seizures became more severe and created complications for her OB team. Due to complications with her care at the hospital, the Kangas had to move to a facility better equipped for the symptoms that Michelle’s body would produce. Once at the other hospital facility in Eau Claire, her high-risk OB did an ultrasound and found that her placenta was dying. She needed to be induced immediately.

The child’s heart rate bottomed out twice during the induction process. Out of extreme concern, Michelle’s doctors decided an emergency C-section was the best option. Jackson Kangas was born on Oct. 8, 2021, weighing five pounds and ten ounces.

Initially, the Kangas took him home and cared for him as they did their other children. They knew that Jackson was fragile due to his size and high-risk birth, but thought that with time, he would gain weight and a sense of normalcy would return to their lives.

While on their way home from visiting AJ’s parents in Bayfield, AJ had an overwhelming feeling that he needed to pull over and check on Jackson. When the Kangas’ looked in the car seat, little Jackson lay lifeless.

AJ conducted CPR on Jackson for the first time. This would not be the last time that the Kangas’ would have to face every parent’s worst nightmare. Jackson would die four more times after this occurrence.

The Kangas took Jackson to St. Mary’s hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, after Michelle resuscitated Jackson for the second time in his short life. After countless tests, doctors found that one of Jackson’s main arteries from his heart is overreaching, putting pressure on the front of his trachea and the backside of his esophagus which is causing his windpipe to be more oval in shape than round. Doctors also found that Jackson’s esophagus is misshapen, ballooning out and then narrowing back down to a small hole in his stomach. This shape creates problems for his digestion, causing aspiration and a severe case of acid reflux. Another discovery doctors made was in Jackson’s stomach, where they found a hernia that causes his stomach to slide up into his chest cavity. While Jackson was undergoing tests in Rochester, he died three more times. Eventually, doctors determined that the best way for the Kangas’ son to receive nutrition would be via a feeding tube during his hospital stay.

The couple spent Christmas and the New Year in Rochester with Jackson while their children, Steven age 12, Jazmine 7, Aleah 6, and Brayton 4, stayed with family and close friends. After weeks in the hospital, Jackson stabilized, and the Kangas were able to return home.

If Jackson’s road to recovery was complicated before, it was further hindered when it was discovered that Jackson had ingested a formula that was part of a recall during his hospital stay. This tainted formula caused Jackson to suffer from salmonella and two other bacterial GI infections that took time to correct. The Kangas’ family and friends pitched in to help care for the farm and children while AJ and Michelle were away with Jackson.

“We’ve always found a way to make things work,” The Kangas’ said. Michelle and AJ’s family do all they can to support them. Due to Jackson’s needs, AJ and Michelle have not had a night away since he has been born and take turns caring for him when one needs a break. Doctors told the Kangas, “He looks normal on the outside but has a lot of issues on the inside.” The Kangas were told by doctors that they have “seen stuff like this in kids but not in one kid.”

The Kangas’ family and friends have come together to throw a benefit for Jackson which will take place at Chetek Lanes on April 2, from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

People have come out of the woodwork to show their support for this family, and the Kangas’ gratitude is overflowing for all of those who have donated items or contacted them over the past several months. Family, friends, and local businesses have donated over 150 items for the Chinese auction. Tickets can be purchased for a dollar a piece and placed into the desired item’s bucket.

A live auction will take place at 7 p.m. which will include 40-plus items, including an African Safari hunt package, a trip to Montana for a three-day fishing trip, or a six-day bear hunt. A couch furnished with pillows has also been donated by Furnish 123 of Rice Lake. There will also be auction items from the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and the Minnesota Wild Hockey Team. Chris Kroeze has donated some autographed pieces, Almena Meats has donated meat bundles, casino hotel package stays will also be up for auction. There will be T-shirt and sweatshirt sales provided by Del Sportswear of Chetek, and a 50/50 raffle throughout the day.

There will be a spaghetti feed with supplies provided by AJ’s mom who manages a bakery, and some of Michelle’s family’s friends have kindly donated the beef needed for the meal. There will be kid’s games and a full bar. Chetek Lanes have generously donated the space for this event and will also be giving a portion of all liquor sales back to Jackson’s benefit.

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