Clutching his black, battered Santa Cruz long board, Tyler Galloway strikes a Superman pose, one arm extending to the sky, poised for takeoff.
He flashes a cheeky grin, his chin just above the splintered wood of where the board’s missing a pair of wheels. The signature pose of the DC Comic character is fitting for 13-year-old Tyler, a bit of a super-kid himself, sans blue spandex and red cape.
Six months ago, on June 8, Tyler was given up for dead after crashing head first into a car while long-boarding down hilly McClure Drive on a Saturday afternoon.
He had bought the longboard with his own money a week before he crashed.
Tyler and two of his friends had wandered out of their Albion neighbourhood to test their mettle on one of the steepest slopes in Maple Ridge.
“They promised me they would never go down a hill without someone at the bottom,” says Gail Marsden, his mom.
“But nobody wanted to sit at the bottom,” Tyler chimes in matter of factly.
“Everyone wanted to go down a hill, already!”
Simon and Tyler headed downhill together, Tyler navigating the slope on his belly, headfirst.
Simon abandoned the trip mid-way after his laces got caught in his board.
Tyler, meanwhile, picked up momentum, cruising to the speed of a car until it was too late to stop.
Police estimate Tyler was travelling at 42 km/hr when he slammed head first into the plastic portion of a car’s bumper near Kimola Drive.
He broke his left orbital bone and collar bone but his helmet likely saved his life.
Just a few blocks away, Gail got a call from Simon telling her Tyler was hurt. She first thought Simon was kidding until a stranger got on the phone to reveal it was real.
She raced uphill to find Tyler on the road, unconscious.
He wouldn’t wake up for two months.
“I got to have a nice rest. But then when I got up, I got tired. I got tired fast,” says Tyler, who hasn’t lost an ounce of his quirky personality. “So it wasn’t really worth it.”
From the beginning, the doctors weren’t optimistic. They made it clear that Tyler, wrapped in tubes, would never be the same – he would never walk, never talk, perhaps never open his eyes again.
On the fourth day in B.C. Children’s Hospital’s ICU, the doctors wanted to show Gail that her son couldn’t, and would never breath on his own.
They told Gail they were going to remove his ventilator for a few seconds. When Gail walked back into his room, there was Tyler pumping his lungs all by himself.
“The doctors would always tell me, he’ll never be the same. Nobody is 100 per cent,” said Gail, adding she refused to believe Tyler would be anything less than 99.9 per cent.
“That’s why they kept him longer at Sunny Hill because he had the potential.”
At the Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children, a renowned rehabilitation facility, repeated level of consciousness tests found Tyler was responding to little. Still, Gail, Tyler’s sister Hailey, and the rest of his family and friends refused to give up hope.
Tyler has always been a fighter. The previous year, he flipped over the hood of a car while biking down his street and bounced back with little more than a scratch.
“They say it’s positivity around him. His friends were always positive. I think it makes a difference,” says Gail.
When the doctors brought bad news, Gail made sure they delivered it outside Tyler’s room.
Sometime at the end of July, Gail remembers sitting through yet another level of consciousness test for her son. The nurse dropped a chair behind Tyler, nothing registered. She was going through the last routine on her check list and asked Tyler to move his arm, expecting little response.
“He moved his arm and we all just screamed,” says Gail.
From then on, Tyler continued to improve. He still couldn’t speak, had yet to open his eyes but a few days later, he managed to scribble down the names of all the friends who had visited him.
He eventually woke up and tried to speak. The first sounds out of him sounded like a cat “meowing.”
“It was really high-pitched noise,” Gail remembers.
Once he started to talk, he wanted to eat real food. He began with mushed-up food he hated but progressed quickly to solids. Most of all, Tyler hated the feeding tube that was stuck in his throat.
I would pull out the tube and try to suck the food out, reveals Tyler, with his signature grin.
“I really wanted McDonalds.”
Tyler’s first real meal was a McDouble.
His time at Sunny Hill was anything but easy. From the time he woke up to when he left for good on Christmas Eve, Tyler spent hours working on his motor skills, his speech and was even tasked with going to school.
As he transitioned to spending more time at home, Gail would ferry him daily for five-hour sessions at Sunny Hill.
“It was all worth it,” says Gail, who documented his progress via video and photos.
Though Tyler is still the resident comic and cheeky monkey he’s always been, things have changed.
Tyler knows he won’t be able to play soccer or ball hockey again. He can’t ride his bike or his scooter. He can’t roam the woods with his friends, jump off ramps or practice flips and ollies at the skate park.
“He was like the leader of the pack with his friends and he can’t do that any more,” says Gail.
Though he missed his elementary school graduation, which took place June 24 on his 13th birthday, Tyler is slowly settling into high school.
He spent an hour at Samuel Robertson Technical for three Wednesdays just before Christmas and plans to return there next week for an hour daily.
“I’ve been hit by a car so high school isn’t that scary,” says Tyler, once again flashing his grin, bravely.
“I just don’t want people to treat me differently.”
By Grade 9, Gail hopes Tyler can start school full-time. In fact, she’s positive he will.
“Every time he’s made a goal. He’s achieved it.”
Tyler however will gauge his progress when he beats his “ding-dong ditching” record.
“It’s when you go to someone’s house, ring their doorbell and run,” he explains for the ding-dong ditching novice.
“We got 40 something houses in one night, that’s our record.”