ATLANTA — It's been nearly a year since a diehard Auburn fan got the surprise of a lifetime in his hospital room. Now, he's not only celebrating his team being in the SEC Championship this weekend, but his return home, too.
Taylor Austin Deckard, 11, is no stranger to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.
Adriane Deckard explains that Taylor Deckard has struggled with asthma-like symptoms for years now.
“He’s always had his inhaler and frequently had trouble during PE,” Adriane Deckard said.
But his loving mother and father, Timothy Deckard, always felt something was just wrong.
“We just had a feeling in our gut,” Adriane Deckard said. “No matter what the doctors did, he wasn’t getting any better.”
They would go to her local doctor in Phenix City, Alabama, and everyone would tell them the same thing: "It’s just asthma, don’t worry about it."
But on one December morning in 2016, something went terribly wrong.
Taylor Deckard was unable to walk. His mother explains that his ankles were so swollen it was impossible for him to do so.
He was instantly flown to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and was diagnosed within 10 minutes.
That’s where Adriane Deckard learned her son had an incurable form of pulmonary hypertension, which is called idiopathic.
Luckily for the Deckards, though, they were at the right place. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has a special center for treating the disorder.
Clinical manager Patricia Lawrence tells Richardson the center has been open for nearly seven years now.
“It’s the only pediatric center in the state of Georgia,” Lawrence explains.
But even with the absolute best care imaginable, it hasn’t been easy.
When Taylor Deckard first arrived at the hospital, doctors told Adriane Deckard her son may not make it because his disorder had escalated so quickly.
So, Adriane Deckard only had one thing on her mind: To make her son as happy as possible in the short time they could have left.
Soon after being in the hospital, Taylor Deckard's elementary school teacher posted on social media about his condition and how he wished to meet his favorite football player: Atlanta native Cam Newton, the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner.
To the family's surprise, Newton came to visit Taylor Deckard in the hospital and the two instantly shared a hug. During the long embrace, Newton said, "I feel your heart. It's going 1,000 miles an hour."
One year later, Taylor Deckard is still here with us, and Adriane Deckard credits a lot of that to the hospital’s kindness and to the special visitor.
“He was on cloud nine,” Adriane Deckard said. “It was just a huge boost for him. After one to two days you could just see the difference!”
After a month in the hospital, Adriane Deckard tells Richardson that Taylor Deckard was able to go home, but was still too sick to go back to school. He returned in August 2017 and is “doing great.”
Now, the loving mother is trying to spread awareness for the rare disorder that her son will have for the rest of his life.
“I just want parents, teachers, nurses and doctors to have an open mind,” Adriane Deckard said.
She and Lawrence provided Channel 2 Action News with the following signs to be aware of:
- Shortness of breath
- Exercise intolerance
- Chest pains
- Swelling of lower extremities
The two reiterate these are all common signs of asthma, but if you notice your child isn't doing well after being treated for some time, they could have pulmonary hypertension.
Lawrence tells Richardson it's important for parents to have regular checkups for their children and to take action if you have a gut feeling.
"You know your child better than anyone else," Lawrence said.
Now, thanks to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Newton, the 11-year-old is able to cheer on his favorite team in the comfort of his home.
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