We all catch a cold or a flu bug now and then, but at the end of February of this year, 15-year-old Wyatt Black of Thurmont caught a very serious infection: bacterial meningitis.
Wyatt is an active, fun, farm-grown teenager. He plays sports, loves baseball, trains, and fire trucks, and is quick with a joke to brighten your day.
His extended family is well-known in the area as the proprietors of Catoctin Mountain Orchard. For generations, members of the Black family have proven themselves to be valuable members of the community and stewards of the land. That tradition continues today, with the youngest generation of Blacks, including Wyatt and his younger brothers, Nathan and Eaves, contributing to the orchard operation.
His parents, Christopher and Kiona Black, often show up to community functions with fresh fruit, a pie, or some other orchard-grown offering of good will. You could say, they’ve “got your back” regarding your sweet tooth. As of late, the entire Catoctin Community now has “got their back,” too!
When Wyatt began his fight against meningitis, he was taken to Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he received exceptional care. From the beginning of his battle, his parents took to social media to give updates about Wyatt’s condition.
What they didn’t foresee was that those updates, via social media, would spread to thousands of people. The updates served to “rally the troops,” so to speak, for community members and friends to join together and flood the cosmos with prayers, community good-will, community spirit, and energy—all directed towards Wyatt’s battle against the infection.
The volume of action people have taken for Wyatt is astounding. People chanted “Wyatt! Wyatt! Wyatt!” at a fundraiser at the Furnace Bar & Grill in Thurmont; local students sent him drawings for his birthday; “Wyatt Strong” t-shirts are being sold; a “Fill the Boot” fundraiser was held; “Wings for Wyatt” is on-going on Wednesdays at Bollinger’s Restaurant in Thurmont; “Wioters Unite!” wristbands are being sold; and Catoctin High School Baseball is “Team Wyatt.” Catoctin FFA sponsored “Miles for Meningitis,” where participants were able to “beat” meningitis by taking a sledge hammer to a vehicle; a TES Talent Show featured Erin Bollinger, Hayley Bollinger, and Austin Ridenour “Whippin For Wyatt”; Kountry Kitchen Restaurant and Cousins ACE Hardware in Thurmont and Harrington & Sons in Emmitsburg posted messages for Wyatt on their marquis or store windows; a parade was held; raffles, auctions, and ribbon drives have been held; signs and banners state support; cookies were sold for Wyatt; lemonade was sold for Wyatt; food and gifts have been donated; and let’s not forget the many families, individuals, churches, and communities who continue praying for Wyatt.
We are sure we have missed naming many additional wonderful efforts and people here. Two upcoming events that we’ve learned about include “Wheels for Wyatt Car Show” at the Thurmont Carnival Grounds on April 9, 2016, and an All-You-Can-Eat Benefit Breakfast for Wyatt Black at Trinity United Church of Christ in Thurmont on April 16, 2016.
If a community can unite to heal a person, Catoctin’s community is doing it!
Meningitis is an infection of the membranes that protect the spinal cord and brain. When these protective membranes become inflamed, it has a harmful impact on every part of the body. At times our bodies can combat the bacteria and move on as if it were a common bug; yet, sometimes, it is a serious infection that sometimes leads to impairment or fatality.
In mid-March, after successfully breathing on his own and having his intubation tube removed, Wyatt was transferred to Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital, also located in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Since arriving there, rehabilitation therapies have shown that he is able to write to communicate, but some skills need further development. Chris gave an update on Monday, March 28, “Today makes one week at rehab, they are anticipating another 3-5 weeks till he comes home. He receives speech, physical and occupational therapy daily. He needs to work on walking. He is getting better every day with swallowing. They are saying that he cannot open his eyes yet because the infection is still present in that part of his brain.”
Every day, our community has stood by Wyatt and his family, and continues to do so. The social loop on the internet has provided a fluent portal to communicate support and prayers.
While the medical doctors have not given a clear answer as to the magnitude or speed of Wyatt’s recovery, the Blacks have been assured by former patients that, “Wyatt will be just fine. It just takes time.” But, the fight is not won yet. It is a long recovery process for meningitis.
One friend on Facebook posted, “Thank you to all that have been praying. He’s been making great improvements and will continue to get back to the old Wyatt with all of your prayers, positive thoughts, and energy. This kid is truly a class act. We need more Wyatts in this world!!”
On March 24, Kiona posted, “Every day I am thinking of new ways to help Wyatt recover. Today he showed signs that he has both retrograde and anterograde amnesia when it comes to certain topics… Please post a favorite funny story that I can share with Wy and his brothers to help him rebuild his memory bank and to create an activity that the Brothers Three can do together. Having the Middle and Little involved in the story telling should help all of them start to move forward…together.”
The Blacks graciously thank everyone for their generous donations. There are not words to express gratitude for all of the support and caring that the Catoctin Community has shown!
About Wyatt, Chris and Kiona expressed, “We know in our hearts that he will make a full recovery. He has shown so much fight since day one.”
See Kiona’s (Wyatt’s mom) “Love Letter to my Sons” on page 31.