A mother’s love: ‘This situation made me stronger’

Tyler Matthews and her son, Evan, who has recovered after going into cardiac arrest at school.

by Taryn Brown

Tyler Matthews, mother of 12-year-old Evan Jones, went about her morning routine as usual back in August 2018, not knowing that morning would be different. While at work, Matthews received a phone call from her son’s school telling her she needed to come immediately because her son had been in an accident.

Jones had gone into cardiac arrest during basketball practice due to a hereditary, undiagnosed condition called idiopathic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. After being directed to go to the Emergency Department at Unity Health – White County Medical Center, Matthews could not process what was happening. Her mind was going to the worst-case scenario and she simply wanted to be with her son. 

“Everything went blank,” Matthews said. “My mind wasn’t wrapping around the situation.”

Matthews said the team at Unity Health was amazing at explaining the situation to her, but it all felt almost like a nightmare when they wheeled her son into the trauma room.

“As a mother, there is no worse feeling than to stand at the foot of my child’s bed while everyone else is working, not knowing whether or not he’s going to make it,” Matthews said. “Knowing there was not a single thing I could do to help him or to make it all better and go away.”

Jones was assessed by Emergency Medicine physician, Dr. Martin Carey, and the Emergency department staff at Unity Health. Carey said there was no way for either Matthews or Jones to prevent the episode from happening. He and his team continued to stabilize Jones until he was med-flighted to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. 

“That helicopter ride felt like it took days when in reality we arrived in about 20 minutes,” Matthews said.

The doctors and nurses at Children’s were ready and rushed him to the Intensive Care Unit as soon as they landed. After Jones was brought out of sedation, and Matthews was told he was stable, doctors told her the next 24 hours were critical.

“I was just truly thankful he made it through, but I was also mad at myself for not knowing,” Matthews said. “I do not think there was a single emotion or feeling I did not experience that first night at the hospital. I was worried sick about my baby and wanted to help, but there was nothing I could do except lay next to him, stare at him, cry and wonder how this all happened.”

A defibrillator was implanted to keep a similar reoccurrence from happening, and Matthews and Jones were able to go home shortly after his surgery. Matthews said the support they received from friends, family and hospital staff was like nothing else. She received a flood of phone calls and text messages during their stay in the hospital and after they came home. 

“I was going crazy inside, but it helped knowing everyone was there when we needed them,” Matthews said.

To see Jones today, you would see an energetic, red-headed boy enjoying being around his family and friends. Matthews said she still thinks about the events of that day from time to time and is glad he does not remember any of it. She now lives and views her life a little differently.

“I try my hardest to do more things not only with my kids, but with my whole family,” she said. “This past year has been the hardest of my life with all we went through with Evan and multiple family health-related events. Our lives have changed so much this year and there have been many adjustments and some things we are still learning to deal with. We, as a family, are more aware, understanding and caring of each other now than we were before. Our relationships with each other are stronger.”

She found support from every angle during Jones’ surgery and recovery and a support group on Facebook to help her push through.

“There are plenty out there and I am lucky to have all the wonderful support I do, but not everyone does,” she said. “In my opinion, nobody understands and gives better advice about similar situations the way the parents on support groups can. Do not try to go through something like this alone.”

Matthews is the provider and caretaker in her home and despite all the hardships she and her family have faced and continue to face, she knows they have made her who she is today.

“This situation made me stronger as a mother. Things that once bothered me, I do not even bat an eye at anymore. I tend to roll with the punches more smoothly now. I know there are more serious things that happen in life, because I feel I have experienced some of the worst. I believe it has made me stronger as a parent, a daughter, sister, aunt and as a person all together.”