"Sometime our lives are turned upside down and we feel like there's nothing to hang on to,
But it's during those times we discover that there's no need to worry - we're not going to fall
because GOD IS HANGING ON TO US." (Linda Byce)
The Byce Family has been living a nightmare since Christmas Morning 2006.
As Linda sat down, which is very rare for her, to tell their story, she was aware of David’s and Trammell’s every move, anticipating anything they might need.
She smiles as she turns the ring on her fourth finger to show the Cross. I have to tell you about it. It was a new wedding band David had made for me. If he had waited until Christmas morning, I would never have known about it. He gave it to me the day before Christmas Eve with the promise that from then on he was going to be the husband and father Trammell and I deserved .”
Those two days where two of the best days of our now 18 year marriage."
Of course now David has no idea he and Linda are husband and wife. Most days he thinks she is his "Mama".
Forced to sale their house in Greenville, Linda McAlister Byce moved her husband, David Byce, and their son Trammell, who are both disabled, to Anderson, SC in Feb. 2009.
Linda, a former professional model who had given up her career to be a stay at home Mom and later Home School their son and David, a safety inspector for Institutional Resources and a certified instructor for the Red Cross, lived in a beautiful three-story home with their son, and enjoyed a lifestyle similar to other middle class families. David had undergone quadruple bypass surgery after suffering a massive heart attack, nine months to the day, earlier, but had fully recovered and was in better health than ever. Even walking five miles a day. They had no way of knowing that their lives were about to be completely turned upside down.
On Christmas Eve, Trammell, who was 13, begged his parents to open their gifts instead of waiting until Christmas morning, as was their tradition. After opening their gifts, the three retired for the evening in anticipation of Christmas day.
At 2:30am Linda awoke to find David in cardiac arrest. As Linda was giving information to the 911 operator, David stopped breathing. Linda spent the next 15 minutes performing CPR before EMS arrived and worked on him for another 20 to 25 minutes, still unable to keep a heart beat, before transporting him to St. Francis Hospital in Greenville.
The attending physician informed Linda and Trammell that David was not expected to live.
Days later when life support was turned off, David surprised everyone by living. Another three weeks passed before David went home but due to severe brain damage, he was not the same man with whom Linda had shared 15 years of her life or the father Trammell had grown up with.
Because of the severity of the brain damage David suffered due to being dead for over an hour his mind was stuck in the 1970's.
He thinks Linda is his mother and Trammell is the kid next door from that era, named Timmy. He also now has no short term
memory so everything he is taught today is gone tomorrow.
It's easy to see Trammell gets a little frustrated when his dad calls him Timmy.
“Trammell will say, ‘What’s my name?’ and David responds, ‘Timmy,’ ” Linda said. “He’ll say, ‘My name's not Timmy! It’s Trammell.’
The sympathy for her husband and son is apparent in her voice.
On the rare occasions David understands that Linda is not his mother, he asks for his parents.
“He says, ‘I want to go home,’ ” Linda said. “I’ve quit telling him that his mother and father and two brothers are dead because each time I do, he suffered their loss all over again. The doctor advised us to be honest with him, but that's too hard on him .” Now Linda tells David his parents are on a cruise and his brothers are at a friend's house. He is happy with that. In a few minutes he will have no memory of the entire conversation.
In the months that followed David’s near death, Linda made some tough choices. Faced with a mortgage payment, now no health insurance, a disabled husband who required 24/7 care, and a child to support and NO income, Linda leased their home to a man who planned to buy it and moved the family to Summerville in hopes of getting help for David from MUSC. Seven months later David’s disability payments started, but the family’s nightmare had just begun.
On Feb. 3, 2008, just a little over a year later, at 4 in the afternoon, as Linda was changing David's diaper. Trammell had been outside with his friends who were planning on coming over in a couple of hours to watch the super bowl. He came running up the stairs to straighten up his game room, where the boys would be having their little Super Bowl Party. It was then she heard Trammell cry out in pain. " Mom! My Back!" As she was finishing up with David's diaper change she was asking Trammell if he had hurt his back. He yelled "NO! It just hurts!" Never dreaming what was happening to her son, she came through the door to find him now screaming, "I can't feel my legs!"
She got Trammell to a small hospital less than five minutes away. The physicians sent him by ambulance to MUSC, where after days of testing a team of doctors diagnosed him with Acute Transverse Myelitis, a rare virus that causes a neurological condition that leaves its victims paralyzed.
Linda, who had been a volunteer at the Greenville Shriners Hospital for a few years before Trammell was born, was working on trying to get Trammell admitted to the Shriners Philadelphia Spine Center.
In the mean time her sister Glenda and her husband Jim drove to Summerville and packed the family’s belongings and put everything in storage in Easley where they waited for a handicapped access apartment to become available.
Linda moved her family into the apartment and three days later, with David and Trammell, flew to Philadelphia where she had secured treatment for Trammell. After a month of grueling therapy, Trammell became the first person with Acute Transverse Myelitis (with leg braces and a walker) to ever walk through the doors of Shriners Hospital. He has sporadic feeling in his legs and cannot walk or stand on his own, but he hopes one day to do so.
A quiet but bright boy, Trammell is home schooled and in the ninth grade. He plans to attend culinary school one day.
“Trammell is my hero,” Linda continues. “With all that child has been through and is still going through, every day he is upbeat and makes me laugh.”
Linda smiles through the tears that well up in her eyes.
In August 2008, the buyer for the Byces’ house backed out of the deal and left the home trashed and in need of thousands of dollars in repairs. To keep from going under financially, Linda had to move David and Trammell back to their house and live on the first floor.
It soon became apparent that the arrangement was not going to work. “We only had a half-bath on the first floor,” Linda explains. “It was a nightmare. All the bedrooms and full baths were on the 2nd floor.”
By December, Linda decided to put the remainder of their savings toward a condo in Anderson and put their Greenville home back on the market.
Trammell recently got Medicaid, but David’s Medicare does not start until June 2009.
For Linda there is no medical coverage.
As desperate as her situation is, Linda is vigilant about helping others in need. HIS radio personality Kristin Roberts has known the Byce family for four years. She recalls Linda and Trammell volunteering at the radio station for various causes and David helping out at the
Bi-Lo Center during one event.
“David was one of the first to pitch in and carry the heavy boxes,” Roberts said. “This family had a heart for helping others before this happened, and Linda is amazing. She’s held an incredible faith through everything and continues to help others despite her situation.”
Since David and Trammell’s illnesses, Linda started a fund called Families Helping Families in Need. Although she has helped several families, her goal is to pair families together to provide support for each other. In Dec. of 2007 she and Trammell saved a Navy veteran who was blinded in in service, his wife and their 4 grandchildren who live with them, on a small military pension from being homeless and are now trying to get them a home through Habitat for Humanity. " The wife in this family is carrying everything on her shoulders just as I am.
We each have a broken wing, but together we can fly”.
“God has chosen to make me completely dependent on him,” Linda explains. “I can’t work; I can only take care of my boys 24/7 and try to help others.”
She recalls times when she gave all that she had to God, only to open the mailbox in the days that followed and discover a check or money order from a church or an anonymous donor for more than what she gave away.
“I’ve learned you can’t outgive God,” Linda said. “He always comes through for us, no matter how bad it gets.”
“God has put us on this earth for two reasons,” she continues passionately, “To Serve Him And To Help Others.”
Recently a friend said to her she was sorry Linda was having a bad day.
“Oh no,” Linda told her friend, “We’re living a nightmare, but this isn’t a bad day. A bad day is when I haven’t helped someone else.”