Tyson Sawyer spent much of his young life just struggling to breathe, let alone develop like a normal youngster.
But he is stronger than ever now at age 5.
Tyson and his twin, Cooper, were born Aug. 23, 2006, to Taylor and Luke Sawyer. The twins are the couple’s third and fourth children.
Difficult pregnancy and birth
Tyson’s struggles began well before he was born. Shortly after his parents found out they were pregnant with twins, doctors diagnosed the boys with Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTTS).
TTTTS is where twins share the same placenta and circulation. One twin basically gives the other twin its blood and becomes smaller than the other twin.
In this case, Tyson was giving Cooper his blood.
Taylor Sawyer gave birth to the twins at 27 weeks and five days of pregnancy. Cooper was 3 pounds and 14 inches long while Tyson was 1 pound, 6.8 ounces and 11 inches long.
Tyson Sawyer’s eyes were still fused shut and his skin was paper thin.
Both of the boys were placed on ventilators for breathing assistance and immediately taken to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Cooper went home after 54 days in the hospital. Taylor said premature babies usually stay in the hospital until their due date, so Cooper’s hospital stay was normal.
So far, Cooper’s only lasting medical condition is a small heart murmur that isn’t affecting him. Doctors don’t plan to treat it unless it worsens.
Tyson faced a more uphill struggle.
His lungs were too weak and the ventilator that kept him alive at birth broke blood vessels in his lungs, which were only one-inch in size.
“We watched him struggle to live,” Taylor said. “I remember telling him several times it was alright if he wanted to go with God. I told him that he didn’t have to stay just for me, that if he needed to he could give up. He didn’t listen.”
During the time Tyson spent in the hospital, Luke and Taylor were told many times that Tyson wouldn’t survive.
“He had respiratory arrest more times than I could count on one hand,” Taylor said. “We were told he would be on a ventilator his entire life. We were told he would never be strong enough to sit, let alone walk or play.”
The first time doctors discussed a tracheotomy, Luke and Taylor decided against the procedure. They decided the quality of Tyson’s life would be so little that they didn’t want to prolong it. Tyson finally came home for the first time after 141 days in the hospital.
“We brought him home to be with us until he passed away,” Taylor Sawyer said.
But the home visit was short lived. Tyson got sick a few hours later and returned to the hospital. Luke said Tyson was a familiar face at the hospital.
“Every time Tyson came in, the nurses would fight over who got to take care of him,” Luke Sawyer said. “They just loved him.”
Tyson went home again 165 days into his fragile life but returned to the hospital four days later after contracting another illness. The Sawyers then decided to give Tyson a tracheotomy, a tube placed through his neck into his trachea to allow him to breathe, after discussing it with a doctor. Luke Sawyer asked the doctor what he would do as a father during the discussion.
“I asked him if he had kids and what he would do as a dad,” Luke said. “He said, ‘Tyson’s a fighter. I would give him every chance (to live).’”
Tyson also received ventilator assistance with the tracheotomy to allow his lungs to grow with the hope of them healing.
Home, growing at last
In April of 2007, about eight months after Cooper and Tyson were born, the Sawyers brought Tyson home again. They had a private nursing staff that cared for Tyson in their home and transformed an office into a hospital room.
“I never wanted this, but I watched as Ty began to smile, to play with his toys in his crib, to interact with his siblings,” Taylor said. “I watched as every person he met saw the light in him and couldn’t help but be inspired.”
Tyson began to sit up by himself for the first time at 18 months, crawled for the first time just shy of his second birthday and took his first steps at two and half years old.
Tyson is a little behind Cooper and his other classmates developmentally, but Taylor said Tyson is determined to catch up.
Tyson started kindergarten this year and even played flag football, where he scored a touchdown. Taylor said the other team let him score because they knew Tyson and wanted to see the enthusiastic and proud smile on his face.
Tyson’s teachers believe he will catch up with the rest of his class soon. Tyson has been weaned off his breathing machines.
His tracheotomy was removed permanently on Nov. 21.
The sky appears to be the limit for Tyson now, although Taylor said he may suffer from some lingering respiratory issues, such as asthma.
“But as he has shown us time and time again that anything is possible. I can’t say that will ever stop him from doing anything,” Taylor said.
Tyson Sawyer ran around with his twin Cooper and his older siblings, Annie, 8, and Jaxon, 6, at their house on Thursday. He was proud to show off the Toy Story bandage covering the spot where his tracheotomy was.
The Sawyers are planning an public open house party in late January to thank the community for its help and prayers during Cooper and Tyson’s struggle.
“We are doing this to thank all those that have prayed for both Cooper and Tyson since before their birth,” Taylor Sawyer said. “We’ve had so many in our community lift us up in prayer and most of them have never even met our little miracles. So we would be happy to have any and all of them join us.”
Follow Tyson Sawyer’s journey on Facebook and to keep updated on final arrangements for his open house at facebook.com/tysonsawyer