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From the May 24 issue of The Community News
By Jennifer Retter/The Community News
Like any boy in Aledo, Dylan Hancock loved playing football. Bearcat stadium on a Friday night beckoned to him, and at the start of eighth grade, Dylan could not wait to get on the field with his teammates.
But just six weeks into eighth grade, Dylan could no longer play. At football practice, he had been running short of breath often. He found that he could not keep up with the other boys. Something was terribly wrong.
When retired stockbroker Rob Helms decided to get involved in Aledo ISD’s mentoring program, he thought he would work with elementary students. The day AISD administrator Denise Dugger told Helms he was to work with a seventh grader, Helms said he was “scared to death.”
That seventh grader, however, turned out to be Dylan Hancock, a bright young boy with a knack for English studies and a deep admiration for Marines. The two met every week for lunch throughout the end of the seventh grade.
“Dylan is extremely courageous and deeply committed,” Helms said. “”He was ready for eighth grade. He was ready to get out on the field.”
The dreadful day six weeks into eighth grade when Dylan could no longer play football proved only the start of a long, costly battle.
In doctors’ terms, Dylan suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that caused damage to his heart, preventing it from pumping blood like a normal, healthy heart. In Dylan’s terms, this means his football dream is gone forever.
“Dylan is a great athlete, so when they told him his football games were done, it was a pretty significant blow,” Helms said.
Despite the diagnosis, Dylan remained committed to school.
“Even after he got sick, he would never give up on his classwork,” said Kathy Evetts, Dylan’s English teacher. “He always gave me 100 percent.”
In January, Dylan’s doctors shared the news that would change Dylan’s life: He would need a heart transplant.
Dylan’s health would only get worse before getting better. In March, Dylan spent two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit at Cook Children’s Hospital as his condition worsened. Air ambulance took him to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston on April 2.
On April 11, surgeons installed a Left Ventricle Assist Device (LVAD).
“Usually, you have to wait 90 days after an LVAD to be eligible for a heart transplant,” Helms said. “In a case like Dylan’s, 90 days is not a hard and fast rule. He’s gone from being a very sick young man to someone who’s ready to be released.”
Dylan’s pending release does not mean the end of the road. He will stay near Houston once he recovers from the LVAD surgery, praying for a new heart to become available.
How to help
In Aledo, a community team led by Helms, Rhonda Evers and Amy Turman and assisted by multiple community members of all ages works to raise funds for Dylan’s family. The group, called the Hearts of Hope for Dylan Hancock, partnered with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) to set a $40,000 fundraising goal.
Dylan’s health insurance will cover the transplant, but will need funds to help him and his family through his recovery period. Dylan’s mother, Mondee, who Helms calls a “rock” for her unwavering support of her son, remains in Houston with Dylan. His two-year-old sister, Elizabeth, lives temporarily with Helms.
To raise funds, Hearts of Hope for Dylan Hancock members took to city streets to share Dylan’s story. Aledo Young Life blanketed the city in teal ribbons during Monday morning’s “Tealout” to raise awareness for Hearts of Hope for Dylan Hancock. A volunteer group is working on upcoming events to serve as fundraisers. And the word of Aledo’s support for its eighth grader got back to Dylan himself last week.
Helms took his fourth trip to Houston last week to visit Dylan and shared the news of support from Aledo.
“Dylan is overwhelmed by what’s going on at home and the support from people he has never met,” Helms said.
Though Dylan will remain in Houston until doctors can secure a heart for him, Helms said that even living in a hospital hours away, he hasn’t lost his passion for Aledo sports.
“I haven’t checked with his doctors on this,” Helms said. “But I’m pretty sure when they cut him, he bleeds Bearcat orange.”