Kyle’s Wish

Cristine recounts how she and her husband simply reached out to help one courageous couple –

As an account manager, I am seldom out in the field.  I’m usually in the office speaking with clients and leads. One day, a local hospice called explaining their ‘Make a Wish’ fund to make patients’ dying wishes come true. They proceeded to tell me about Kyle Burkhart, who was battling brain cancer. Kyle’s last wish was to spend time with his amazing wife, Allison, two bunnies, and two cats (one of which he’s had for thirteen years) in their home.

The hospice finished the story by requesting a ramp rental quote – three folding ramps were necessary to get Kyle home as he was paralyzed and required the use of a wheelchair. I put the hospice on hold and relayed their message to Dave Myers, owner of 101 Mobility® Philadelphia. Mind racing, I volunteered to spend my Sunday delivering the ramps so that we could deliver/pick-up the ramps at no cost. Dave didn’t hesitate to okay the donation.

Sunday arrived and I brought my husband, Darrin, along to deliver the folding ramps. What started as a ‘drop and run’ mission suddenly became much more. The transporting company’s duty was to transport Kyle safely, providing assistance when he needed to be lifted or transferred. The transport company sent one thin and under-powered worker to assist Kyle. Luckily my husband, Darrin, stands at a solid six foot two inches and 260 pounds. Darrin ended up lifting and shuffling Kyle onto each of the three ramps.

We then returned a few hours later thinking that we’d pick up the ramps and be on our way. Instead, we again directed and assisted the transport worker with everything from resituating Kyle in his chair as he was in a great deal of pain to strapping him in for a safe return to the hospice facility. Kyle wears a specially made helmet and was concerned about his head and feet hitting various obstructions during the transfer. Throughout the careful transferring of Kyle, his wife Allison made the most comforting comments every step of the way, “It will be an okay sweetheart.” “Almost there.” You’re okay.”

In between lifting and directing, I learned a great deal about Kyle’s life before brain cancer. Allison, with tears in her eyes, described to me an accomplished concert and sports photographer who faced brain cancer ten years ago and beat it. Throughout his career, he’d produced famous photos of legendary artists such as Courtney Love, Tori Amos, and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam – many of those photos were proudly displayed all over the walls of their home. Just a year ago, cancer returned. Doctors were fairly confident that Kyle was on the road to remission yet again. Their plan was to remove cancer from Kyle’s brain via a robotic arm to deliver a more focused form of radiotherapy than traditional radiation treatments. After several cyberknife surgical procedures, too much scar tissue developed which caused severe inflammation – then paralysis. The most devastating news came when Kyle’s doctors informed him that he had just a few months to live.

At forty-one years young with so much to give to the world, Kyle now sits paralyzed with his ability to speak slowly slipping away. ‘Til this day, one of the things that hurt Kyle most is that he is unable to hold a camera any longer. Kyle’s first bout with cancer left him and his wife unable to have children which is why seeing his animals meant the world to him. From the moment I first heard about Kyle, the unpretentiousness of his last wish is what impressed me most. Out of all of the wishes that the organization could afford him, all he wanted was a ride home so that he could enjoy the company of his wife, two cats, and two bunnies.

Throughout all of these hardships, Allison informed me that Kyle has been in good spirits and is currently planning his own memorial services. I left their home that Sunday with an offer extended that if anytime Kyle needed a lift, Darrin and I would be there. It was not until I left the couple that the depth of Allison’s courage and faithfulness fully set in – all I wanted to do was go back and give her a great big hug as another gesture of my support. And Kyle — He is a remarkably brave man with an amazing legacy that I will always remember.

–       Cristine Johnson