Ten-year-old Tyler Johnson watches his Little League Baseball team Friday with his friend Colton Pasternak at Emerald Park. A fundraiser for Tyler is being held from 2 to 8 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Ten-year-old Tyler Johnson watches his Little League Baseball team Friday with his friend Colton Pasternak at Emerald Park. A fundraiser for Tyler is being held from 2 to 8 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Tyler Johnson comes home for physical therapy after battle with disease

Advertisement

Past Event

Fundraiser for Tyler Johnson

  • Saturday, August 23, 2008, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / Free - $20

More

Less than two weeks after 10-year-old Tyler Johnson lost his feet and part of the fingers of his right hand to amputation, life is starting to look a little more like it used to.

While playing a video game, left-handed, from an overstuffed recliner Friday in his home in Fish Creek Mobile Home Park, Tyler describes the experience of being airlifted to The Children's Hospital in Denver with big eyes.

"It was awesome, but scary too," he said. "I'm normally afraid of heights : so it was scary."

Tyler was airlifted from Yampa Valley Medical Center on June 24 after doctors were unable to determine the cause of his condition. Tyler had a temperature of 103.7 degrees, had been vomiting for 24 hours and had developed a rash on his feet that indicated blood infection.

Although they were unable to diagnose Tyler, medical staff later told his mother, Shara Johnson, the disease commonly associated with Tyler's symptoms is a form of meningitis called meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is a bacterial infection in the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

"I died, Mom : just for a minute," he said, not taking his eyes off the screen, "but I did."

Describing his arrival in Denver, Tyler said one moment he was awake, talking to doctors about his allergies and in the next moment, his heart stopped, prompting medical staff to rush to resuscitate him.

Tyler has come a long way from his first week in intensive care in late June. Since then, he has had two surgeries to amputate his feet just above the ankles and remove at least half of each finger on his right hand. He arrived home the evening of July 26 and spent this week playing with his 8-year-old sister, Tehya, in between physical therapy sessions.

"I hate 'em," Tyler said of his physical therapy appointments. "It hurts."

11 steps

Tyler has pins inserted into his heels, which now cushion the bottom of his legs and will make prosthetics more comfortable. Tyler said therapy is also painful "because I haven't walked in a long time."

Tyler's progress was evident Friday, as he asked for his walker to try to take a few tentative steps on his own. With Johnson's help, Tyler grasped the metal sides of his walker, which has a fitted arm piece, and embarked on a mission to walk. He took 11 steps and barely acknowledged that it was the most steps he'd taken so far.

As he settled back into the recliner, his nose wrinkled as he fought the pain.

"Tehya's been a big help to Tyler," Johnson said, "sometimes they go into giggle mode where one starts laughing and then the other starts laughing and they can't stop."

Tehya also keeps an ear out for Tyler's cries in the night, when the pain gets to be too much, and she'll wake Johnson. She helps with carrying things and enjoys riding with Tyler in his motorized wheelchair. Like most siblings, they like to pick on each other, and Johnson said the banter is a good sign things are getting back to normal.

Tyler has a lime-green cast on each leg. They are covered in supportive signatures from friends and family members. The casts will be removed in two weeks when the pins are taken out so he can be fit for prosthetics. He'll hopefully have his prosthetics in time to start school Aug. 25.

After driving by the new universal playgrounds that are being built at Soda Creek Elementary School and Strawberry Park Elementary School, Tyler said he's especially excited to play on the structures. Doctors told Johnson that once he gets his prosthetics, the best thing for him is to get out on the playground.

"The less he thinks about it, the better off it is for him," Johnson said.

- To reach Kristi Mohrbacher, call 871-4243 or e-mail kmohrbacher@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.