Thomas Hay is a typical 10-year-old boy. He loves football, his dog, Jasper, and competing with his big sister. But life became atypical very quickly one October afternoon.
While at practice with his flag football team, Thomas collapsed during a passing drill. His father, Andrew, was helping coach the team and ran over to see what happened. He immediately knew something was wrong and yelled for the head coach to call 911.
Thomas’ mother, Casey, a doctor at West Michigan Cancer Center in Kalamazoo, was able to get to the field quickly. She immediately saw signs that led her to believe Thomas was having a stroke.
Thomas was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital, where staff reached the same conclusion. In the intensive care unit, doctors treated Thomas with a clot-busting medication that cleared the blood vessel blockage allowing his blood to flow again. Within 30 minutes, Thomas was OK.
But then Thomas had a second stroke. The treatment that first saved Thomas’ life can cause a higher risk of bleeding, so doctors drilled a hole into his skull to release pressure on his brain. The procedure saved his life, but the stroke took a physical toll and Thomas remained in the intensive care unit for the next week.
When he was stable enough, Thomas was transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for intensive rehabilitation. When he arrived, Thomas couldn’t walk or talk and needed daily physical, occupational and speech-language therapies to help him gain strength and function, including how to walk again.
During his stay, Thomas participated in the Halloween Heroes parade. Volunteers transformed his wheelchair into a football-themed costume.
A few weeks later, on Nov. 12, Thomas graduated from Mary Free Bed Kids, walking out to cheers from his family and hospital staff. He’ll continue rehabilitation with outpatient therapy.
Thomas’ love of playing football will have to wait until he’s strong enough. Until then, he’ll watch his favorite team, the Los Angeles Rams and running back Todd Gurley, on TV.
WWMT (Channel 3) shared Thomas’ story. Watch the segment here.