Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium set an attendance record with 55,632 people watching Louisville defeat 2nd ranked Florida State on Saturday September 17th. Even though it was the largest crowd ever, there was one person not in attendance. 7-year old Bryson Betts is a huge Cardinal fan but wasn’t able to witness history because he was resting in his hospital bed after approximately 8 hours of brain surgery.
Bryson is a first grader at Ascension Catholic School and has always been a very healthy boy. He plays just about every sport and has the sweetest baseball swing I have ever seen from a 7-year old. I promise you that you do not want to challenge him to a game of horse of the basketball court. He can throw and catch a football like a 12-year old. Bryson’s love for the Cardinals coupled with his athletic ability leaves absolutely no doubt in my mind that he will be taking the field at Jim Patterson Stadium in about 10 years.
But after a couple of weeks of nausea, vomiting, headaches and several trips to the doctor’s office, Bryson found himself as a patient at Kosair Children’s Hospital where doctors found a tumor in the pineal region of his brain. The tumor was blocking fluid from draining off the brain. This blockage and subsequent buildup caused a lot of pressure on his brain, which is what was causing all of the headaches and vomiting. Bryson went into surgery where a drain tube was installed to drain off the fluid and relieve the pressure. Surgery was a success and after a day or two, Bryson was feeling as good as new.
He was ready to bust out of there and get back to school, back to playing sports and to go see the Cards play Florida State. But there was this matter of the tumor that doctors were discussing how to treat. Many tests were run and the family just had to sit and wait. There could be no plan to attack this tumor until doctors knew exactly what they were dealing with. On Tuesday, the Neuro and Oncology teams met to discuss Bryson’s case and agreed that surgery is needed to remove the tumor. The surgery was scheduled for Friday morning. Until then Bryson, his family and friends just had to patiently wait without really knowing anything and having any guarantees on the results.
As a 7-year old, you can’t fully grasp what is about to happen to you. As a parent, it’s nearly impossible to find the words to explain to your child why this is happening and simultaneously remaining calm when you are terrified on the inside. You can only tell him everything is going to be alright, try to keep him comforted and his mind busy. It was going to be a long week but that is where friends and family come in.
A couple of friends of the family reached out to the University of Louisville to see if a few student athletes or coaches could come visit Bryson. The CardsCare Community Outreach program said they would arrange a surprise for Bryson. What followed next was truly amazing. First, Bryson received the jersey Reggie Bonnafon wore vs. Syracuse and a football signed by the whole team. The next day Ryan McMahon stopped in to see Bryson where Bryson beat him in a shooting contest on a little goal in his hospital room. After hearing about Bryson the sharpshooter, Luke Hancock decided to stop in and challenge Bryson. Bryson was down 4-3 and promptly drained two in a row to defeat Luke thus earning the name, The shooter in 416. Mike Marra heard of Luke’s defeat and decided to try his luck. Mike had the same luck, as Bryson defeated him as well. Mike stuck around and went down to McDonald’s with Bryson and the rest of his friends who were visiting. Rumor is that Mike wants a rematch next week. Rick Pitino sent Bryson a signed note of encouragement as well.
As if the outpouring of support from the University wasn’t enough, The Ascension community, friends, strangers, hospital staff and many many other people rallied to support Bryson and his family. Students and classmates set up a lemonade stand to raise money. Members of the Ascension community started a GoFundMe page. Eric King of WLKY stopped in and filed this report on the 11:00 news. ( http://www.wlky.com/news/louisville-boy-is-in-the-fight-of-his-life/41671202). Bryson’s football team wore his number on their helmet to let Bryson know they were thinking about him. His baseball team al batted opposite-handed to support him. The KSU baseball team wore red all week in practice to show support for Bryson. Everyone decided to wear Cardinal red on Friday to show support for Bryson and his family. Social media was covered with hundreds of pictures of people wearing red with the #BrysonStrong. The support was amazing and went on and on. Bryson’s dad posted this on his Facebook page, “Just continue to be completely blown away by the support and love from the community, family, and friends for Bryson! It hasn’t mattered if it’s a relative or a complete stranger, it’s been across the board for this little boy. The community at Ascension Longhorns is just overwhelming what those kids and their parents have done for us. What UofL has done to continue to keep his spirits up so he can continue to fight has been amazing. All of our family and friends that have done everything from donate money, to providing a hot meal, to simply praying and saying they are there if we need them. I’m not sure there are words or actions that could show enough gratitude for what has happened. I do think it’s obvious how powerful humanity can be when it uses its heart and soul for the purpose of love and kindness, rather than harm and hate.”
All the support, gifts, love and prayers were much appreciated and it made the week a lot easier but it was time for surgery. The surgery was expected to take upwards of 15 hours but after approximately 8 hours the doctors came out of the Operating room. The doctors told the family that it was not a tumor. They said they had never seen anything like this before and just referred to it as a mass. The mass was not able to be removed and further planning was necessary to determine the next course of action. The surgery brought on more questions than answers. Bryson’s mom posted this after surgery. “Bryson is out of surgery and resting. The good news is the mass in his brain is not a tumor and there were no complications during surgery. The not so good news is that the doctors are not yet sure what the mass is exactly. The plan is to let Bryson heal from today’s surgery then put a shunt in to drain the CSF from his brain down to his stomach (the stomach can handle it and dispose of it). That way, we can get rid of the EVD (the external drain tube). Once we are all healed and have our internal shunt, we should be able to go home and get back to a somewhat normal schedule. In the meantime, the surgeons here will meet to discuss what they found today, do they’re research, and try to determine what our next steps will be. Keep the thoughts and prayers coming for a speedy recovery!”
On Saturday, Bryson rested but Card Nation didn’t forget about him even though it was GameDay.
Bryson is recovering from surgery and getting stronger everyday. He is just now getting strong enough for visitors. Even though he wasn’t feeling good enough to shoot hoops, Brandon Radcliff stopped in to see him Wednesday.
Just when they thought they would be headed home soon, the doctors came in with some new information. The doctors said late last night that it may still be a tumor. The family now has to make the decision on whether to put in a shunt and monitor it, or do a scope so they can get a view and possible biopsy from the front angle. So the road ahead is undetermined and we fear what we don’t know. I pray for Bryson and his family and I ask you to do the same.
Bryson’s health is the most important thing but after they beat this and Bryson is back to school, playing sports and cheering on the Cards, his family will be sorting through mounds of medical bills. The Ascension community has set up a GoFundMe page. If you can help I would appreciate it. If you can’t please just keep the whole family in your thoughts and prayers. Here is the link to his page ….. https://www.gofundme.com/2fcrvctw
As Always, GO CARDS!