Winter 2012 is almost over and will soon be a memory. For all of us in the Lyons family, the memories from this winter’s events will be a hallmark to us forever. We can remember during the day of Christmas Eve feeling rushed and overwhelmed, completing the final details for Christmas Day. Around 7:30 that evening Porter, Jessica, Harper, Courtney and her husband Micah were playing Balderdash at the kitchen table. It was a true highlight of the day to see them laughing and enjoying each other. As we left the room to go wrap the last of the presents for Christmas morning, very little did we know what was about to take place in a few hours and the many, many gifts that you were about to bestow upon our family.

By roughly 10:30 pm, Porter suddenly had a very hard time breathing and his heart was racing at about 140 beats per minute. It was not just a simple flutter, the heavy beating would not stop.

To back up a few months, Porter’s routine was to attend his classes, nap for an hour or so when he arrived home, and complete his homework after supper. We always assumed this was just a growing teenager as most we have known always tend to sleep a lot! He caught a cold in the month of December, but so did 2 other members of our family. For them it was a cold. For Porter, it was his heart in its count down to its final beats.

Returning to Christmas Eve, about 11:00pm, because of the cold he had, we thought perhaps he had pneumonia and this was his respiratory system’s way of responding to it. None of us knew at the time but his heart was so enlarged, it resembled a football, as his doctors would later tell us. The doctors would go on to say, “Porter was in such great shape and so strong that his own body did all it could to compensate for his heart’s dysfunction for years, and no one would have ever known.” As we have learned, this is why it’s the strong, young people who die suddenly during such things like an athletic event; the heart just simply, finally gives out.

Community Ambulance assessed him saying….”it could be pneumonia as his lungs did not sound clear, his EKG was not typical for an 18 year old.” As Porter lay on the gurney in the ambulance, the 2 EMS staff closed the doors we felt tears begin to come as we knew what this might be. We had been through this before. How could it be? A random virus had settled in Doug’s heart 25 years earlier, and after 1 year, resulted in a heart transplant. This was not supposed to be hereditary. Reversing our thoughts, we reminded ourselves that it was most likely pneumonia and could be easily turned around.

Porter did not have pneumonia and his condition could not so easily be fixed. A simple echocardiogram showed his heart’s condition was fatal; the same as his Dad’s. Anyway, you all know the rest of the story, and thanks to ALL of you, the story is a beautiful one!

From the moment the word was out about Porter on Facebook, never once did any of us feel alone. We felt the power of EVERYONE present with us at the hospital, giving words of encouragement and hope, offering their time to do whatever was necessary back here at home while Porter lay waiting for a heart. You all were holding Porter and the rest of us up in prayer to the only ONE who could make a difference in Porter’s outcome. You prayed, hard, with us to see Porter through this experience. To every single one of you who did pray and asked others to pray for our son, we are so thankful and appreciate your utmost support during this very critical time. As a result of all this, God showered us with His Grace and Mercy. Porter received the most precious gift of restored life and health within one week of going into congestive heart failure.

You rejoiced with us in this gift, by showing your love to our family in decorating the whole town of Garrettsville in big red paper hearts. They were displayed so prominently in store and restaurant windows. Many, many thanks to Porter’s friend, Jacob Vaughan, Senior and National Honor Society President at Windham High School for this beautiful gesture. Jacob, we want you and everyone you surrounded yourself with who had a hand in this project to know that you made our son Porter and our family feel so very special and cared for!!

Our entire family will never forget the heart-felt emotions we experienced when all of the hearts were carefully placed on a banner that spanned the entire width of the street we live on, and then carried proudly from the Giant Eagle parking lot to our front yard! It looked like a marching band coming down our street with the banner in front. It was so grand!! A great t-shirt exhibited the theme for this walk called “Heart of the Lyons”. We know it took many students and adults to carry this out just to show Porter how much he is loved and supported by his peers and the community in which he lives.

Now, if that isn’t enough, an outstanding Spaghetti dinner was planned and served to those who wanted to partake before the last basketball game of the season. The dinner was in honor of Porter, and we want to send special thanks to Mrs. Bell of Garfield High School who donated ingredients and so much of her time to make this happen. We also appreciate the participation of our JAG National Honor Society at this event and to the many others who donated money, food, and time for this event. The dinner accommodations were complete with hand-made heart shaped decorations in the high school commons AND posters of artwork all over the walls that included notes from our intermediate school students. They were words of encouragement and well wishes for Porter which meant so much to our family.

This was all followed by yet another event, where another cool t-shirt was designed
for those who wanted to wear one at the black-out during our last basketball game of the season! This event being called, “Rivals For A Cause”, was carried out in honor of Porter. During half time, Porter was able to say a few words of thanks and a rush of students poured out of the bleachers and encircled him with the largest group hug we had ever seen!

We have shaken our heads in amazement so many times at all of the support we have been given as a family through all of this by ALL of the MANY STUDENTS and MANY ADULTS in our community!! You have truly “been there” for us, making us feel very special, loved and supported. Your efforts have shown all of us (including the Akron and Cleveland media) how Garrettsville and its surrounding communities takes care of “one of their own”.

There were many other MAGNIFICENT ways in which people showed their support! We are so grateful to have neighbors like Laura and Paul Simon, and Stuart and Xinlu Tannehill, and Steve and Debbie Hadzinsky who watched over our other children, Jessica and Harper, and provided them with strong support while we were with Porter. To Becky Russell for working tirelessly, making certain there was a plan in place to assist us financially during this time. And she didn’t stop there. Becky also organized 90 days of meals with our Cub Scout Pack 62 and Boy Scout Troop 62 in Garrettsville. This all allowed us the freedom to keep Porter on his rigorous schedule back and forth to Cleveland Clinic nearly daily. Every one of you are such beautiful people and we are eternally grateful. Money and gift cards were sent to help with expenses incurred by meals at the hospital and the many overnight stays and trips back and forth at all hours. MANY THANKS to all of you individually and collectively who donated your time and generous support. We are baffled by it all and are so appreciative. We want to extend our gratefulness to Joe Malmisur , Jen Mulhern, Keri Dornack, and Jennifer Alvim as well as all of our children’s teachers and staff who have patiently and creatively worked with us during this time. Our school system consists of a marvelous group of people and we are BIG FANS!

When Porter went into congestive heart failure, our entire focus was on our son. Many generous people from all over knew that this would be a very expensive surgery and recovery; the bills would be astronomical. Having been through two other transplant surgeries for Doug (Heart 1987 and Kidney 1997), we know this to be very true. It takes a very long time to recover financially from this. Nonetheless, all of you gave of your hard earned money to our family to help with these finances. As you know this money was collected and distributed to us by The People Tree through the hands of Jerry Kehoe. Yes, we all know Jerry sells cars in town, but you need to know Jerry and his entire family have given their time, talent and love to us. Jerry, you have an amazing family. WE are Blessed to call you friend. Because of everyone’s generosity we have maintained our monthly bills and will be able to pay for a large chunk of the medical bills yet to come.

Many thanks go to the Garrettsville-Hiram Rotary for naming us “Family of the Year”!! Please know that we could never meet the standards set by the Rotary for this honor without the love and support of the community we live in. We feel that you all are our family.

In closing, back in early Elementary school, we learned about our continent, and state, and our community. The first two have more concrete shapes and we can pick them out on a map. We were also taught that a community, which does not have a distinctive shape is a place where people live, work and play; it can be anywhere. However, we feel that our community stands out in that it takes care of each other too; especially in times of need. And, unlike other communities, ours DOES have a distinctive shape, and that is in the shape…of a heart!

With Love, Peace and Appreciation,

Doug & Karen Lyons