Five-year-old Layton Stroud of Lake Charles died in February from complications with a brain tumor. But the twists and turns of this story are something you really have to hear and see to believe, as the blind child left behind a legacy of sight.
The video playlist on Lindsey Stroud's phone is full of recorded singing sessions with her godchild and nephew, Layton. The bubbly five-year-old loved to sing and goof off with his aunt.
Stroud says she always knew Layton was special. "He had the greatest personality. He was so funny, so loving," she said.
Life for Layton was seemingly normal until he was 18 months old. "He started digressing in his walking, mobility and his talking and he started getting sick with what the doctors thought was a common cold," said Stroud.
In August 2009, an MRI revealed Layton had craniopharyngioma, a tumor in the center of his brain. Surgeons removed all that they could and Layton's life immediately changed course. "His life really depended upon his medication," said Stroud, "but it was something that we felt fairly optimistic about and the doctors felt fairly optimistic about."
Layton took eight medications a day and also adjusted to life without sight, because of the tumor's damage to his optic nerve. Those obstacles did not stop him, though, from enrolling in pre-K at Nelson Elementary. "He became just like all the other kids," says Stroud, "he was able to communicate, talk, play."
A weakened immune system made it tough for Layton to fight sicknesses. He started running a slight fever the week of his birthday, so the family scaled back the party plans to something more intimate. "It was a beautiful, sunny warm day. He was so excited. It was the first year that he actually opened his own gifts," said Stroud.
That Saturday, Feb. 2, Layton turned five years old. Just four days later, Layton's body gave out while sleeping. "Our family misses him dearly and we're trying to heal and move one day at a time," said Stroud.
Knowing that Layton might have needed an organ donation someday himself, his family made the decision to donate his organs. But a recent infection limited what could be harvested, solely to his eyes - an unexpected gift from a child with blindness. "Layton was unable to use his eyes, yet out of all of the organs that he could've been able to donate, the one organ that they felt the strongest that he would be able to donate was his eyes," said Stroud.
Ophthalmologist Dr. Jon Yokubaitis with The Eye Clinic says age and disease do not affect most eye donations. "You can have certain types of eye diseases and still have excellent corneas and be an excellent corneal donor," he said.
Layton's eyes matched with someone on the donor list. "We would love to know, is it a child? Is it an adult? And how has it impacted their life and we would love to be able to share in their experience," said Stroud.
They want to share the story of just who it was behind those eyes, that lived such a big life in the five years he was given.
A donor family and recipient family must both agree to share their information to find out who is at each end of the transplant. The Strouds are hoping that the recipient family agrees.
*This story is just one piece of a three part series this week in Healthcast. Tuesday night, I will introduce you to a three-year-old boy, saved by his cousin's organ donation and Wednesday night, a Sulphur mom shares her story about waiting on her fifth life-saving transplant.