Injured youngster responds to friend's voice

Saturday, June 7, 2003

It took hearing the words of his best friend, but the 11-year-old Jackson boy who nearly drowned Thursday gave his family a reason to rejoice when he started communicating by blinking Friday.

Though Andrew Tyler is not fully consciousness, his brain has not started to swell as doctors at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis, Mo., had expected -- lessening chances of brain damage, said his grandfather, Charles Breeden of Sikeston, Mo. The boy's parents are Ed and Becky Tyler of Jackson.

"Praise the Lord -- He's come through, again," Breeden said Friday night.

Andrew didn't immediately resurface Thursday morning after jumping into the Jackson city pool during swim team practice. He was pulled out of the water by a teammate and given CPR by coaches and paramedics, but now the boy needs a machine to breathe for him.

The outlook remained grim Friday morning, but the words of a friend finally got through to the boy's mind later in the day. A fellow swim team member, Sam Reihn, visited Andrew's room.

"He brought in some games and said, 'If you can hear me, blink twice,'" Breeden said. "And he blinked twice."

Family members also tried to get Andrew to communicate, but weren't as successful.

"He responded, but he seems to respond to Sam best," Breeden said.

That made perfect sense to Andrew's head coach, Meredith Jackson.

"Sam is his best friend," she said.

Jackson and other coaches gave the team a pep talk Friday.

"We were very vocal with them about how well they handled the situation," she said. "Everybody who helped did a good job."

At today's swim meet, the team will be sport red ankle bands featuring Andrew's name in support of his recovery, she said.

At first, there were concerns Andrew suffered an asthma attack that precipitated his near drowning, but doctors now think he took in a gulp of water and went into a panic reaction, according to Breeden. Family members were told that the next 48 to 72 hours would be critical for Andrew because he may have suffered from a lack of oxygen, the grandfather said.

Doctors told the family Friday the boy also suffered a rare heart problem in which his heart shut down for a second and then got out of rhythm and locked up, Breeden said.

Once he is conscious, he may need a device installed next to his heart to keep it beating a regular rhythm, the grandfather said. But since brain swelling hasn't started, things are at least positive.

"There's people praying all over the world for him," Breeden said. "We're just really thrilled he's come along this far."

mwells@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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