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Thankful for a new heart (scroll down for article)

MUCH IMPROVED — Kyler Bebber, age 7 of the Ellendale Community, is a recent recipient of a heart transplant. His family is most thankful this holiday that he is doing well, and is back home to share Thanksgiving with relatives and friends.

MEETING A FOOTBALL STAR — Heart transplant recipient Kyler Bebber, age 7 of the Ellendale Community, was able to meet Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (left) following his surgery at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. Olsen’s son, T.J., also battles heart issues.

A BIG WELCOME — Many family and friends turned out to cheer on Kyler as he returned to Taylorsville in late October following his heart transplant.
(Updated Nov. 25, 3 pm)

Thankful for a new heart


Of all their blessings this Thanksgiving, Ellendale Community residents Shaun and Alisha Bebber are perhaps most thankful for having their children home, safe and sound. 

Just a few weeks earlier, with their son’s medical condition uncertain, the family wasn’t sure if they would be together for the holidays.

Their son, Kyler, age 7, has battled a serious heart condition for about two years. He had to see a cardiologist at age 5 because an x-ray showed he had an enlarged heart. 

The diagnosis sounded grim: little Kyler had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

According to the National Institute of Health, HCM is a condition in which the heart muscle becomes thick. In many cases, only one part of the heart is thicker than the other parts.  This thickening can make it harder for blood to leave the heart, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood. It also can make it harder for the heart to relax and fill with blood. It is an inherited condition. Younger people are likely to have a more severe form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. However, the condition is seen in people of all ages.

“They told us he would need a heart transplant,” Alisha told The Times in a phone interview. “Doctors said it might be possible for him to pass out when he began school.”

In places Kyler was likely to go, people volunteered to be trained in CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation). For instance, Ellendale Schools staff and church members at Three Forks Baptist Church were trained to have CPR training and to operate an automatic external defibrillator (AED) device.

It was a good thing, too. Sure enough, that August, when Kyler was a new student at Ellendale Elementary, he “coded” at school (had a cardiac emergency).

Thankfully, teacher Leah Robinson at Ellendale School knew how to operate the AED device that administrators had placed at the school. She rushed to Kyler’s aid and is credited with saving his life.

Doctors decided to put a pacemaker/defibrillator device inside Kyler’s body to help his heart keep going until a donor heart became available.

Kyler eventually coded twice at school and, a few months after receiving his pacemaker, he also coded at church.

The little boy from Ellendale -- one who loved the outdoors, football, and dirtbikes -- badly needed a new heart.

The call

On Saturday, October 10, 2015, at about 6 p.m., Alisha said the family got a call -- a donor heart was available.

“It was a relief. It was like a weight had been lifted off my chest,” Alisha said.

The call was also bittersweet. She knew the call meant that another child, the donor, had died. The sadness for another family would bring about Kyler’s chance to have a new heart.

Kyler’s family dropped everything and rushed to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. By 1:45 a.m. that night, medical staff took Kyler to the operating room. It would be dinner time Sunday before surgeons would complete the complicated transplant procedure.

For another 11 days, Kyler would stay at Levine Children’s Hospital. While there, Kyler had a very special visitor. He was able to meet Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen.

Olsen has a son who battles heart issues, too.

The Times asked Olsen what it means to him to get the opportunity to spend time with youngsters like Kyler Bebber who are dealing with heart and health issues.

“I think the biggest thing is just to let them know that they’re not alone in this fight. That they’re not the only ones that have gone through it, that there are other people that have gone through it. Hopefully they can draw a little hope and a little inspiration from another family that’s been down a similar path. We know a lot of families that were that for us when we were going through it and now we’re kind of trying to return the favor,” Olsen related.

When asked what he would tell Kyler as the youngster prepares for life after his recent heart transplant, Olsen said, “Just try the best you can to keep things normal. Try to live your life as normal as you can. That’s been our approach with T.J. He’s not different than anybody else. We don’t want him to feel any different, we don’t want him to act any different. That approach so far has taken well.”

On the road to recovery, Kyler was able to go home in late October.

One of the many positive things about Kyler’s hospital stay was his new destination. While at the hospital, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.

“He’s a special boy,” Alisha related.

It was a triumphant entry back into Alexander County when local folks learned of his return trip. The Alexander County Sheriff’s Office provided a patrol car escort for Kyler’s family as they crossed the county line. A cheering crowd waving banners met the family for a brief stop in Taylorsville to wave at other family members and friends and make photos. Sheriff Chris Bowman and Chief Deputy Tod Jones met Kyler and welcomed him back to the county. Then it was home, at last, for some quiet recuperation.

HCM has a genetic basis

Alisha said that because HCM can run in families, doctors tested Kyler’s relatives for the condition using a blood test. 

Shaun, 33, and Alisha, 35, also have a daughter, Adalyn, age 3. She has also been diagnosed with HCM.  Doctors are monitoring Adalyn for any symptoms of HCM. Alisha said they believe Adalyn is doing well right now. However, doctors believe she may have to have a pacemaker device in the future.

Kyler’s grandparents all reside in Ellendale. They include paternal grandparents Ricky and Linda Bebber and maternal grandparents Mike and Kim Payne.

Alisha and her husband were found to have the gene for HCM, but not the disease.

A thankful family

“My family would like to extend a thank you to everyone that has helped our family during this time in our life. From donations made to The Kyler Bebber Fund, those that held fundraisers, sent gas and food money for our travels back and forth to the hospital, all the meals that were prepared so we could spend more time together, the gifts that Kyler received at the hospital and at home, all the calls, texts, cards, and most of all, the prayers. We would also like to say a BIG thank you to the EMS, fire department and police department for the escort home and the welcome home gathering given for Kyler. That was something special that we will never forget. My family has been truly blessed by the outpouring of generosity from this town. I am so glad to be part of this town and raise my family where there is so much love and support. We couldn’t have done this without you. Please continue to pray for Kyler and our family as we embark on this new journey and pray for the family that lost their loved one so Kyler could live a better life. We love you all and can’t thank you all enough for what you have done,” said Alisha Bebber.

The family was relieved, last Tuesday, to leave the house for a short time. However, Kyler can only make short trips away from home as he recovers, and he must wear a mask to filter out germs when he’s out in public.

In early January, it is hoped that Kyler can return to school and to some of the normal activities that 7-year old boys long to do.


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