Highland High graduate headed to Capitol Hill this week

2012-07-20 15:44:54 by Holly Pupino, Media Relations Specialist, as posted on the inside.akronchildrens.org blog.

At first glance, Tyler Froats seems like the typical 19-year-old boy, with one foot still in his teen years and the other foot stepping timidly into adulthood.

A 2010 graduate of Highland High School, Tyler is taking online college courses and loves to write songs and play his guitar. He works at Dick’s Sporting Goods and has an older sister and younger brother.

But Tyler has had anything but a typical, carefree childhood due to a 13-year battle with cancer.

Having seen more than his fair share of hospital rooms, needles and doctors, Tyler and his parents, Karen and Regis Froats, of Medina, have a unique perspective on the importance of having a tertiary care pediatric hospital in the community.

That means attracting and keeping the best pediatric specialists for the sickest kids and having all the equipment and programs in place when a child receives a diagnosis like cancer.

Tyler will represent Akron Children’s Hospital July 23 and 24 when he travels to Washington, D.C., with his parents and hospital representatives as part of the Children’s Hospital Association’s annual Family Advocacy Day.

As he visits the offices of U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives, he will share first-hand experiences of his battle with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) that began at age 6.

“Patients and families from all across the country will be coming to Washington for Family Advocacy Day and we are honored to have Tyler represent Akron Children’s Hospital,” said Heather Wuensch, director of community benefits, advocacy and outreach. “Caring for patients like Tyler is our mission and it's important to communicate with lawmakers that issues like expanding access to care and maintaining funding for Medicaid have a direct impact on our patients and their families.”

ALL is a fast-growing cancer of the bone marrow and blood that often results in immune deficiency and pain in the bones and joints.

After his first diagnosis, Tyler underwent chemotherapy (at a children’s hospital in San Diego) for two years. The cancer went into remission, but Tyler relapsed again at age 12 (while living in Pittsburgh) and then again at age 17.

At the time of his third diagnosis in 2009, he was living in Medina and in March 2010, he received a bone marrow transplant at Akron Children’s with his older sister, Chelsea, serving as a perfect match.

Things went well until this past February when he developed serious graft-versus-host complications in his lungs, requiring the care of Akron Children’s pediatric pulmonologists in addition to his oncology team.

He is doing much better these days but continues treatment twice a week and has  weekly visits with his pediatric oncologists. Life is getting back to normal with school, work, music and friends.

With his bone marrow transplant alone costing $300,000, Tyler and his family have worried about mounting medical bills and Tyler has been thinking about his future.

“I am a little concerned about moving into adulthood and being able to get insurance with my medical history,” Tyler said. “It will be a great opportunity to meet with legislators and talk about the importance of having a strong network of children’s hospitals and improving access to insurance.  Kids don’t ask for things like cancer, diabetes, asthma and other serious problems but we get them anyway and we need all the support we can get.”

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