Tyler DeBock was beat. The fifteen-year-old hockey player was usually energized after an early morning practice and his steaming shower, but not on this bitter February day. He struggled to stay awake during school, and when he arrived home that afternoon all he wanted to do was climb into bed.
The next morning, Tyler awoke uncharacteristically lethargic, with a rash on his arms and legs. Concerned, his mother Beverly took him to the family’s doctor, who suspected an allergic reaction. The following day, the lethargy was so pronounced that Tyler couldn’t even leave his bed. Beverly called the doctor again. Probably a virus, he surmised; just let it run its course. But after seven more days, during which Tyler remained bedridden, couldn’t hold food down, and was dropping pounds frighteningly fast, Beverly insisted his doctor see him, as in now.
The doctor took a look at Tyler’s bloodshot eyes, linked them to his other symptoms, and suspected Kawasaki’s disease, a rare childhood disorder that can affect coronary arteries. He called a cardiologist for a same-day appointment, and after his examination, the doctor told Tyler’s father, Lance, that it wasn’t Kawasaki at all. He then detailed the following: Tyler’s heart was alarmingly enlarged and exceedingly weak. He suffered from myocarditis, a viral inflammation of the heart, and his natural antibodies, instead of fighting the virus, were diverted to attacking the heart muscle itself.
The cardiologist then directed Lance to take Tyler to the ER, where he had alerted the staff to stand by to receive him. He had phoned the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to dispatch an ambulance staffed with coronary care nurses to monitor Tyler during the 60-mile return to CHOP. Tyler was to be admitted immediately to the cardiac intensive care unit.
Lance said, “But our son will be all right, won’t he?”
“To be frank, I can’t assure you of that.”
The ambulance arrived and Tyler was loaded aboard. Lance said to the EMT, “He will be all right, won’t he?”
The EMT replied, “There’s a good chance that he won’t. You’ve got to make yourselves ready for that.”
How exactly do parents make themselves “ready for that”?
The EMT wasn’t sure Tyler would be alive by the time the ambulance returned to the hospital. Fortunately, he was alive, but even the cardiologist who gave him his initial exam told his parents that it was too soon to tell if their son would survive. “If he does make it, I’m afraid he’ll be a candidate for a heart transplant.” Echoing the EMT, he advised them to prepare themselves emotionally for the worst-case scenario. “I can tell you this: If the cardiologist back home hadn’t recognized Tyler’s condition, your boy would not have survived one more week.”
Tyler spent the next eight days in the ICU, hooked up to a series of IVs, with nurses monitoring his vital signs day and night. Then he spent another three days in the cardiac care unit, where he found himself the only patient not in a crib. Observing the babies suffering with their own heart problems, the once glib athlete found his feelings of empathy for others intensified; and observing his parents’ emotional trauma, he called upon his own religious training and renewed his acquaintance with prayer.
By the end of his eleven-day ordeal, Tyler was still weak but ready for discharge — on two conditions: that he not participate in any athletic activity for at least one year, and that he not return to school for three months. A tutor provided home instruction, and when he wasn’t occupied with schoolwork, Tyler returned to his passion for hockey in the only way available to him — playing NHL on his X-Box.
Ten months after his discharge, Tyler convinced his doctor that he was fit to return to the ice for real.
And two years later, on the day of his eighteenth birthday, Tyler visited a tattoo parlor. On his arm he now wears an inked cross, the date of his admission to CHOP, and the proclamation, “In God I trust.”
One night, about 3:00 AM, Tyler woke up with a back and neck ache and asked if I could massage him. I did, of course (for about hour), which gave him great relief. All the while I was thinking about his childhood, and holding back tears. At one point he must have seen that I was upset and said, “Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll be alright.” Well, you can imagine how hard it was to ‘keep it together’ and not break down. Brave little soul. I have to stop now, as it’s upsetting to just think about it.Anyway, I think if parents listen to The Holiday Magic CD together with their child, maybe it will create just one more happy moment to remember and cherish during this difficult time.” ~ Lance DeBock
“Tyler’s father, Lance, gave us permission to share his son’s miraculous story, and he has donated a spectacular reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” that will be included on the Holiday Magic, a Gift for Children of All Ages 2012 CD. Kids of all ages will love visualizing the story as they listen to Lance’s terrific voice, music and effects. Please donate today and help share the CD’s with every hospitalized child this holiday season. Thank you!” ~ Jeff Gelder DONATE HERE