A swim to remember my son Tylor
David Stevens writes about his special son Tylor, who tragically died when he was 17 years old after battling heart problems. Tylor's spirit for life has inspired David to take on a huge swimming challenge in his memory.
Tylor – my inspiration
I’m swimming Windermere in memory of my son Tylor, on what would have been his 21st birthday.
Tylor had multiple heart problems and we nearly lost him so many times – he got over so many hurdles and so many challenges.
Through everything that he went through his spirit for life stayed strong.
Heart and spine surgery
Tylor had heart surgery when he was just a few days old. When he was 5 we nearly lost him because he had a massive fit and it transpired that Tylor’s epilepsy didn’t stop without treatment.
The heart surgery he’d had when he was a baby led to him being diagnosed with scoliosis when he was about 9 years old.
He ended up having to wear a full body brace to try and stop him from needing surgery. He wore that for two years. He had to wear it for 23 hours a day – through school and everything – he even had to sleep in it. He showed such commitment wearing that every day.
Unfortunately, he did have to have surgery for the scoliosis in the end. A year later, it became loose and he had to have more surgery. I carried Tylor into surgery probably seven times, and I remember the amount of people that used to be in the surgery room with him was phenomenal.
Not just physical battles
He fought so many battles – not only physical battles but the prejudice as well. We’d take Tylor out in his wheelchair and he could still walk but he couldn’t walk distances. So we’d push Tylor to the shops and then he’d stand up and have a look and the amount of people that looked at him, and stared and pointed. And he’d deal with that so well.
His wish was a bright orange laptop – which was his favourite colour. He loved the fact that people were doing something just for him – it was a very personal thing for him. We couldn’t afford the laptop at the time – and he loved it.
That's now a living memory. We know that it’s always going to be there when we’re strong enough to look at it. There’s lots of funny times on that laptop – Tylor used to make funny short videos with his friends – and we’ll be able to enjoy the memories for time to come.
A brilliant art student
Even though he was going through so much he still went to school whenever he could – he got an A* in art and passed his GCSEs.
Tylor has two memorials on the art block of his school – and we couldn’t be more proud. One of his art teachers said to me they wanted to be able to talk about Tylor and his spirit to many children in the future and that’s a wonderful thing.
Sadly Tylor passed away in July 2013 when he was 17 years old.
Deciding to swim
I’d watched a man called Kev Brady swim Windermere and that’s what inspired me to want to use my swimming and do something for Make-A-Wish.
Grief is a horrible, horrible thing and the swimming has given me something to fight that with.
Tylor gave me the ability to fight with his want for life.
Last year, to mark Tylor’s 20th birthday, I swam the length of Windermere in a local pool. I didn’t know how long I’d be able to last but I had the lane from 6:30am until 4:00pm and I swam the whole duration of the day. We had a great response from people supporting the swim.
Where that went so well I continued my training and decided to go for Windermere on Tylor’s 21st.
One of the most physically challenging parts was swimming in the winter, the coldest we swam in was about 2.1 degrees and I lost the feeling in two of my fingers through first time frost bite. When you’re in cold water you have to listen to your body and I stayed in too long!
My wife Samantha’s been amazing – I’m often getting up to swim so early that she’s not up.
We’ve had people donate 2 or 3 times during my training. I kept a blog to keep people interested on the journey.
I incorporated mini events along the way one of these was a swim at Weymouth bay, I chose that because we’d always holidayed in Weymouth with Tylor. On that day, I got chatting to three guys – two of them who were homeless – the other one wasn’t.
They told me how they appreciated that I was talking to them, and I turned around to this guy and said: ‘I understand how easy it can be for someone’s life to fall apart’. I explained what I was doing, and then he started crying and obviously connected with what I was saying in relation to life being so precious.
As I turned to go he put a wad of cash in my hand and donated £180. This complete stranger who I’d spoke to for 10 minutes! I was very moved personally by that.
We took our buckets down and collected outside Sainsbury’s and they were overflowing! There was this little girl who off her own back decided she wanted to donate her own money and she came back with this jar full of about £16 worth of 2ps and 1ps!
Wishes bring everything – the smiles that are created and the memories that are made are so important. You might not realise it at the time – but it creates something when you’re in the dark place that helps to pull you through.
This isn’t about me, this is about Tylor, this about Make-A-Wish, this is about everyone joining and having an amount of money that’s going to help create smiles for another child and create memories for another family. That’s what keeps me going to achieve this.
David has raised over £7,800 for us. If you're inspired by his story and would like to sponsor him for swimming Lake Windemere, click here.