C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
No words ring more true for two young men at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
Bryce Sauser lives in League City; he’s 31-years-old and an account representative for an international oil field services company.
A married father to a one-year-old girl, Bryce has a quiet strength about him; he’s warm, genuine and steady. His wife Katie describes him as a very hard worker, “he never misses a phone call for work,” she says. While Bryce enjoys work, he loves his family. Just the mention of his wife or daughter Tegan can get you a smile as big as Texas.
Mayten Lumpkin is an energetic, 17-year-old high school senior at Texas High School in Texarkana, Texas. He’s charismatic, confident and proudly sports a big, bushy head of hair that matches the youthful, care-free spirit inside his big 6’6” frame. Like many boys his age, he likes to hang out with his friends, play sports and listen to rap music.
While the two share little in common personally, the journey each has experienced during the past six months has helped to forge an unlikely friendship.
On July 3, 2016, Bryce was enjoying the Fourth of July holiday at his family’s lake house on Lake Limestone, about 60 miles east of Waco. He was jumping into the lake – a lake he’d jumped into since he was a young boy – but this time he dove in and hit the bottom. At the moment of impact, Bryce was knocked unconscious and unable to move, remaining underwater for several minutes before family members were able to pull him to the surface. Bryce’s younger brother performed CPR for 13 minutes before paramedics arrived on scene and a helicopter flew him to the nearest trauma center. The dive he’d performed since he was a little boy took a tragic turn on that fateful day. Bryce suffered a broken C4 and C5 vertebrae and significant damage to his lungs. Unable to walk and with limited movement in his arms, the next stop in his journey to recovery led him to TIRR Memorial Hermann.
On September 17, 2016, Mayten was at a friend’s house swimming. He was running to take a dive into the pool like he’d done dozens of times before except this time it was different. “I dove in and hit my head on the bottom of the pool,” says Mayten. “I realized almost immediately that I was totally numb, I couldn’t feel a thing. I held my breath because I knew that would help me float to the top.”
Once Mayten surfaced he called his friends for help. “When I hit the bottom of the pool I bit my lip so when I came to the surface I was bleeding from my mouth,” says Mayten. “When my friends heard me call for help and saw the blood they knew I was in trouble.” Two friends jumped in the pool to hold his body and head in place while a third grabbed a float to put underneath his body to keep it steady until help could arrive.
Paramedics later said the quick action of his friends to stabilize his body and keep him calm prevented any further damage to his spine and may have even saved his life. Mayten had shattered his C5 and C6 vertebrae and was left paralyzed from the waist down with only limited movement in his arms and upper body. After 18 days of recovery it was time to think about rehabilitation. “We wanted to give our boy the best chance to regain as much movement as possible,” says Missy Lumpkin, Mayten’s mother. “We read that TIRR Memorial Hermann was a top rehabilitation hospital in the country and we thought ‘what’s a five-hour drive?’ so we brought him to Houston.”
Mayten and Bryce-A Friendship is Forged
Just 12 days after Mayten arrived in Houston, Bryce was entering his second phase of rehabilitation at TIRR Memorial Hermann. The two were on the same floor at the hospital and it didn’t take long for them to bump into each other. Once each started to share his story the similarities jumped out and the two patients and families began to bond.
“It’s really great to have the opportunity to build relationships with people here and get to know others who have experienced some of the same things that you have,” says Bryce. “I didn’t know anyone with a spinal cord injury before my accident; Mayten dove into the water and hit the bottom just like I did.”
Mayten felt the same way.
“This is all new to us and there’s a new challenge almost every day that we hadn’t considered before the accident,” says Missy. “It’s been great for our son to have someone to talk to who understands, who’s going through the same thing.”
Mayten’s mom Missy and Bryce’s wife Katie have also forged a bond. “It’s therapy in itself to have someone to talk to about what you’re going through and what you’re facing,” says Katie. “Not just for the guys but also for me and Missy. I know we’ll stay in touch after we go home.”
And speaking of going home, that’s another similarity the two share as both will be home with family and friends for Thanksgiving.
Mayten and Bryce; Missy and Katie; two friendships forged that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’