When the doctor’s advice went against God’s advice, John and Shanna Kelly chose to go with God.
If they hadn't, this story would end right here.
In early 1998, several months before the birth of their son, Tyler, the Decatur couple was aware something was amiss. They visited multiple physicians in an attempt to understand the observable abnormalities in Shanna Kelly's womb. Ultimately, Tyler was diagnosed with Nager Syndrome, an extremely rare condition that affects development of the hands, arms and face.
One doctor in Columbus advised the Kellys to abort the child. "We're Christians," Shanna Kelly said. "That was never a consideration." The doctor pressed, stating, "He's not going to be viable," adding that most newborns with this syndrome do not survive at birth.
Dejected, the Kellys moved on and found a neo-natal specialist at Cabell Huntington Hospital named Dr. Howard. This doctor had a totally different outlook than the doctor in Columbus. "He was so kind and helpful," Shanna Kelly said. "He said, 'Let's see what happens.'"
On May 25, 1998, Tyler was born via C-section. "As soon as they cut the umbilical cord, he stopped breathing," John Kelly said. A surgical nurse frantically attempted to insert a breathing tube into Tyler's esophagus, but due to a severely malformed jawline, she couldn't find his air passage. "She was about to give up," John Kelly said. "But then she noticed an air bubble and was able to follow it with a flexible tube to get air to his lungs."
The Kellys recalled the warnings of the doctor in Columbus, who told them about just such a scenario. "He almost died," John Kelly said.
But "almost" simply means Tyler made a very memorable entrance into the world.
He's been doing memorable things ever since.
Nager Syndrome has malformed Tyler's arms and left him without thumbs on either hand. He wears a bone conduction hearing aid behind his left ear, has two tracheotomies under his belt, a cleft palate, a plethora of surgeries (and is still facing more once his body fully develops), and has endured pins in his face in an attempt to stabilize his jaw bone.
But his comprehension and intelligence are intact. Nager Syndrome does not affect the mind.
"What you see on the outside is different, but he enjoys the same things as kids his age," Shanna Kelly said.
Tyler, a junior at Rock Hill High School, attends regular classes and is considering moving on to college to earn a business degree. "But he's 17," John Kelly laughed. "So, you never know."
Despite being dealt multiple challenges by life, Tyler is able to do most of the same things as boys his age. He shoots basketball at home, can swing a baseball bat and loves playing video games.
His love of video games likely helped Tyler hone the skills necessary to compete in Remote Control Racing at the Turn 4 Raceway inside the Kyova Mall.
"We were trying to find him a Christmas present in December, 2014," John Kelly said, noting they purchased a remote control car and began taking Tyler to compete in the races at the mall. "We knew nothing about racing. I had to learn how to work on the cars. He had to learn how to drive them."
And learn Tyler did. In March of this year, he turned the passion gained from his 2014 Christmas gift into a 4-wheel-drive division championship, albeit with a different car.
"Some people actually do this for a living," John Kelly said incredulously, while describing competitors who haul trailers to races containing all of their RCR vehicles. "That's not going to be us," Shanna Kelly laughed, adding, "Sometimes I have to remind them this isn't NASCAR."
John Kelly agreed with his wife, but wondered aloud about the possibilities if Tyler, like some of the other drivers, had sponsors. "This is just like real racing, but on a smaller scale," he laughed. "It's expensive."
The expense, however, is offset by the joy the Kellys see in their son nearly every Saturday afternoon. "He's really competitive and always wanted to play sports," Shanna Kelly said. "Racing allows him to do that."
When asked about the frustration of being fully cognizant while dealing with physical challenges, Tyler nodded. But he doesn't feel sorry for himself. He just adapts and overcomes. "He can figure out pretty much anything on his own," Shanna Kelly said, adding he plans to be a productive member of society.
Tyler paid for the car he used to win the championship with his own money, earned by doing odd jobs such as mowing grass at his church, Wayside Chapel.
Judging by their son's success, it appears as though the Kellys Saturday schedule will read "Turn 4 Raceway" for the foreseeable future.
To visit Tyler's Facebook page, type "Tyler's R/C Racing Page" into the search bar. If you like what you see, let him know about it.
"We've had a lot of people tell us he's a blessing," Shanna Kelly said.
"We consider him a miracle," John Kelly added. "I tell him all the time God has big plans for him."