6-Year-Old Who Had 51 Brain Surgeries Throws Touchdown Pass at Buffalo Bills’ Stadium
Davey Reid spent his sixth birthday this year in a medically-induced coma. He had no idea why he was in that coma, and there’s no telling what he dreamt that day. A little more than seven months later, he got to do something he could once only dream of doing.
Last Sunday at his first-ever Buffalo Bills game, Reid threw a touchdown pass to his older brother on the field of an NFL stadium.
It was quite an accomplishment for a child who’s already had 51 brain surgeries, 60 CT scans and nearly 50 MRIs before he even turns 7. Davey had the time of his life that day as a Bills fan. The family trip to the game had been more than a year in the making, and Davey’s journey with his own battle has trudged on for five years.
Davey was born a healthy child with normal features. When his parents took him for his 1-year checkup, the doctor noticed something. Davey’s head was already getting to be the size of an adult’s.
“He was normal when he was born. But at that checkup, they said his head size was off the charts,” said Davey’s mom, Jacey Reid.
The doctor ordered an ultrasound of Davey’s brain, which didn’t actually happen until he was 14 months old. A cyst was found on his brain, and an emergency surgery was immediately scheduled.
Davey was only a toddler who didn’t know what was happening. Doctors said Davey had a somewhat rare condition called hydrocephalus, which is caused by the buildup of fluid in the brain. It typically happens to infants and adults who are age 60 and older, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Davey had four more surgeries in the next few weeks. The initial diagnosis and subsequent surgeries shocked his parents, David and Jacey Reid.
“It was horrible,” Jacey told Newsweek. “One day everything is fine and the next it wasn’t. It was hard to digest what was happening.”
David said he had a nephew who passed away on the day of Davey’s first surgery, which added more pain to the family.
The Reid family lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, about an hour north of the greater Philadelphia area. Davey gets 95 percent of his treatments and surgeries in Philadelphia. Davey had 31 surgeries prior to this February, and he’s had 20 more surgeries in the last seven months.
The surgeries are to replace a shunt in his brain. The shunt’s purpose is to drain cerebrospinal fluid from the brain and distribute it elsewhere in the body where it can be reabsorbed, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Davey knows a little about his hydrocephalus because of so many surgeries, and a couple of books read to him by his family. His parents call him a little fighter with a big heart and a comical side. One time when he came out of recovery from a surgery, he noticed the medical staff standing around.
“Why are you all standing around and not helping me,” he said in humorous fashion.
Then there’s his compassionate side. One time Jacey told her son she wished that she could swap places with him.
“No,” Davey told her. “I don’t want you to feel like this.”
Then there’s older brother, Noah, who is 10. Noah understands Davey’s condition, and he’s more than just a brother or best friend to Davey. He’s a guardian.
Noah will often times shun playing in the neighborhood with his friends so he can stay inside with Davey. And when Davey has trouble doing something, Noah will step in and help him. Jacey called Noah “the best brother on the planet.”
“Noah is 10 going on 60,” David said.
The love is reciprocated as well; Davey wants to be just like Noah. One example is whenever Noah became a Bills football fan, he became a huge fan of quarterback Josh Allen. As Davey started understanding football, he became a Josh Allen fan like his brother.
David, a longtime Bills fan, began taking Noah to one Bills game a season when Noah was 6. The three guys in the family have their own “man cave” with game day rituals and their own chairs to sit in while the Bills play. They were on schedule to take Davey to his first-ever Bills game a year ago. David bought tickets ahead of time for a “boys trip” up north to watch their team. However, COVID-19 swept the country, and many NFL teams played in empty stadiums during the 2020 season, including the Buffalo Bills.
They bought tickets several months ago for this year’s home game against the Houston Texans, which was last Sunday. Things were different from when dad bought the tickets until they got to game day.
In February this year, Davey wasn’t feeling great, his mom said. His headaches got worse and an infection got into his spinal fluid. Davey spent the entire month of February in the hospital. He had the first seizure in his life two days before his birthday. He couldn’t maintain his airway from that seizure, and he was put into a medically-induced coma on his birthday so that a breathing tube could be inserted. He was eventually discharged from the hospital, but his time of hopping around and dancing in the house became a new routine of sitting in a chair.
“The last 17 months have been really difficult for him,” Davey’s father said.
David and the boys recently made a trip to Boston so Davey could see a top neurosurgeon who specializes in hydrocephalus, Jacey said.
“There are a lot of areas of Davey’s brain with damage that have never been explained before that visit,” Jacey said. “We’re really hopeful with this new doctor. The doctors in Philadelphia are great, don’t get me wrong. We think now this will help make [Davey’s] headaches stop.”
While the guys were in Boston, the children insisted on wearing their Bills shirts in the land of the hated New England Patriots.
“The boys were adamant about wearing their Bills gear in Boston,” David said.
Then, they got to go to the game last Sunday. David had bought his tickets for the “boys trip” before Davey’s condition began getting worse. David told the staff at Highmark Stadium entrance he would pay extra to have his family sit in an area designated for handicap.
The Bills put them there—at no extra charge.
During the fourth quarter of Buffalo’s 40-0 blowout win over the Houston Texans, it began raining hard. David got Davey under an area inside the stadium so they wouldn’t get wet, but where they could also watch the game on a nearby monitor. Noah powered through the rainstorm to watch his team.
When the game ended, and the rain had stopped, the Reid family was allowed to make their way onto the field.
“Davey’s face lit up when he came through that tunnel and onto the field,” David said.
The guys took pictures on the field and tossed a football around the yard. But when it came down to crunch time, Davey took control. Holding the ball around the 9-yard line, Davey grabbed the football with his right hand and fired a pass to Noah, who caught it and darted across the goal line.
For another Bills touchdown.
While on the field and once again inside the stadium’s innards, Bills center Mitch Morse came out to greet Davey and the family. It meant so much to the family not just because of the player’s gesture, but because of the offensive lineman’s own family background. Morse’s brother, Robbie, in 1996 sustained a traumatic brain injury during an incident in which a babysitter violently shook Robbie.
“That meant so much. Not for just any player to come see us, but being Mitch Morse made it even more special,” David said. The dad said Morse went beyond that and gave Davey a watch.
As a photograph of Davey at the game began circulating around Buffalo Bills fans’ social media sites, Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders retweeted his appreciation.
Davey’s had another “out-of-this-world” experience when the Make-a-Wish Foundation granted his wish to go to Disney World, which happened in 2018.
Now it’s back to the daily grind, where Davey has entered kindergarten—he skipped last year because of the pandemic. He only goes two hours a day for now, and that’s expected to increase in segments of 20 minutes until he can last an entire day.
There are probably more surgeries and more scars in his journey. But sometimes, scars can be a thing of beauty, his dad says.
“He has so many scars, but they are so beautiful,” David said of Davey.
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