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MILLERSBURG -- When Dylan Allison came into the world 24 years ago he appeared perfect. But, as his skin turned blue and his oxygen levels dipped, it became quite clear the newborn was in distress.
Eleven heart surgeries later, he is a student at Eastern Michigan University dreaming of a future in which he can use music as a therapy for kids like himself.
Growing from an infant who was never supposed to crawl, walk, talk or live a normal life, Dylan has truly established himself as a warrior. And, it is his story that fills the pages of "Dylan the Great Heart Warrior," written by his mother, Ty Allison-VanName.
It is to Dylan, who she calls "God's Warrior," she has dedicated the book. But, the picture book is for everyone. The story of a boy born with a congenital heart defect, the book chronicles his adventures, his challenges and his successes. It's for parents, it's for children and it's for siblings like Dylan's own sister, Keysha, who grew up, often in the care of others, being held to a high standard as "the healthy one."
For many years, Holmes County was home for Ty, a West Holmes graduate, and Dylan, who moved with his mom to New Mexico 10 years ago.
Last Saturday, March 11, both attended a book signing event at Rodhe's IGA Marketplace, located at 2105 Glen Drive, Millersburg. There, they sold and signed copies of the book. But, more importantly, they expressed their thanks to a community that supported them, emotionally and financially, through times of great uncertainty.
This is our way to bring hope and encouragement to all those traveling the CHD road," Ty said before the event. She is eager to meet with those who rallied around Dylan and the family in the days, weeks, months and years following his birth.
The event came just a few days shy of the one-year anniversary of a March 14, 2016, sermon in which she and other parishioners at Copper Pointe Church in Albuquerque, N.M., were reminded "everyone can do anything if they give it 20 minutes a day," she said, noting that out of that little encouragement her dream of writing a book evolved into a reality.
Pulling on her own experiences, on which she took notes over the years, the book is meant to share encouragement, hope and faith, using colorful illustrations, Scripture and ballad-style storytelling.
"As a young parent, I could not imagine the adventures we would have and the life we would live," according to Ty, who details in the book's preface Dylan's various diagnoses and the unexpected challenges they brought.
One in 110 children -- over 40,000 each year -- are born with a congenital heart defect. While CHD has no cure, millions of families beat the odds, and live fulfilling lives full of faith, hope and adventure, according to Ty, who, embracing her own faith, has woven Scripture into the pages of the book, hoping to show others "that you are a miracle from God; that your life is ordained and that you have a purpose."
She hopes other "sick" children can see "even though they have a heart condition, they can do things." For parents, it's a source of hope for the future and encouragement in the midst of a tragic diagnosis, said Ty, adding she always wished for that crystal ball that could show her what Dylan's future would look like."
In a world of scary possibilities and many unknowns, she said, the book offers families like theirs "a light twist on a difficult situation." It's a reminder that "you did nothing wrong," she said, noting parents and children "need to know that it's not a punishment or a curse" and a reminder that life itself is a blessing.
The experience "makes you stronger or tears you apart," said Ty, hoping to give others inspiration to persevere. And, Dylan, who has become his mother's ace supporter, as she worked on the book, truly hopes to use the book and his life as an opportunity to "let kids know they're not alone."
"It showed him he has a purpose. I think he's very proud of it," his mom said.
And, while his own struggles are not entirely in the past, Ty said, "We pray that technology catches up to him. And, every day, he wakes up to find a place to win."
He's come a long way from the baby born with a heart the size of a quarter, which had to be replumbed just to survive. He continues to suffer the effects of his CHD and the traumatic brain injury, the result of oxygen deprivation during the many procedures to repair his heart.
He's now a young man, who, along with his mother, is "honored to be able to come back to a town that rallied around us," Ty said, adding, "They raised thousands of dollars to help us live, get medical treatments and supplies.
"I look at what everyone did for us, all the prayers, and this is my way of giving back. I know everyone suffers from something. I want to be their hope and tell them that God knows and loves you," she said, noting, for that reason, it only makes sense to officially launch the book's release "in our hometown."
"They were a tremendous amount of support, which is unique to the area," said Ty, who, similarly looks forward to returning to Millersburg, especially knowing many "didn't know he was that sick."
And, at the end of the day, she said, she really just wants folks to realize, "every step of your journey is taking you to your purpose. Sometimes you just don't know where it will take you."
All proceeds from the sale of the book went to support Dylan, his education and ongoing medical expenses, said Ty, thankful also for the support of Rodhe's in helping to make Saturday's event a reality.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.