Feb 27, 2019
‘Lucky’ to be alive: Nicklaus Children’s patient has new lease on life
By Doug Milne, Jr.
Courtesy of PGATOUR.COM
Janie and Greg DeTray were 43 when their child was born. They considered themselves incredibly lucky. So much so, they named their baby boy just that:
Born five weeks premature, it wasn’t long before Janie and Greg took notice of something which seemed awry with Lucky’s development.
“We knew there was a deformity of some sort, but we weren’t sure what it was,” Janie said. “He had a hump on his back by about age two. His pediatrician told us that if we were going to go anywhere, we needed to go to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.”
Now 11, Lucky and his family have been a part of Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation – the primary beneficiary of this week’s Honda Classic on the PGA TOUR – since shortly after he was born.
From birth, Lucky’s spine was pitched forward. In the ensuing years, he would undergo five surgeries through the care of the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to treat severe congenital scoliosis. His most recent surgery, and most successful, came in October of 2017. Following that fifth surgery, Lucky would wear a metal halo for eight weeks.
Reports after that surgery and therapy are everything is holding the way it’s supposed to be. Lucky now has fusions from the c5 to the t12. In other words, rods and screws run the length of his spine, virtually to the lumbar. But, he’s now gaining strength and getting muscles he never previously had. With the aid of physical therapy a few times a week, his neck also continues to straighten.
But, even at its most critical state, Lucky never lost his zest for life.
“He is a total inspiration,” Janie said. “I call him my ‘Happy-Go-Lucky.’ He never complains. He always laughs. He realizes how blessed and fortunate he is. He just never missed a beat.”
“He doesn’t know anything else, so he doesn’t complain,” said Greg. “He knows what he needs to do, and he does it. He really is a big inspiration to everyone from us to everyone who meets him.”
Those Lucky inspires extend far beyond his own family.
“He had a halo for eight weeks and never lost the smile on his face,” said Barbara Nicklaus, co-founder, with husband Jack, of the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. “He’s always so upbeat and everyone who meets him just falls in love with him.”
“He was pretty hunched over with a severe deformity, but he never knew he was any different,” added Janie. “He’s learning to water ski, he loves snorkeling and diving. He is a water kid.”
And, on Tuesday of this week, Lucky and his family also loved being at The Honda Classic, where he was reunited with Barbara. The Nicklaus’ had developed a relationship with Lucky and his family previously.
“Because he was born premature, he was in the ICU for several weeks,” said Barbara. “So, that resulted in some developmental delays. At about two, he was diagnosed with a severe deformity of the thoracic spine. He’s had five surgeries and when Jack and I met him, we just fell in love with him.”
“We would not be here today without the help of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital,” Janie said. “Everyone from the entire staff, the support group, Jack and Barbara…everyone gave him a new lease on life.”
Part of the experience Tuesday at PGA National was to walk the range and meet several of the TOUR’s greatest players.
“What a great experience for all of us, really, but especially for Lucky to be able to come out and meet these guys,” said Greg. “And, he was really excited to come out and meet Barbara again. She and Jack have truly changed his life. So, it’s so neat that she’s here and he has had a chance to meet all these professional golfers.”
“When Jack found out he couldn’t have any more surgeries, he said he was going to get Lucky with the therapist who he had been working with for 30 years,” said Barbara. “He is now doing so much better. Lucky feels so much better about it and is just doing great. …When you have a foundation, it’s just so nice to see the success stories. One of our goals has been to be where the children are. So, even though he had his last surgery in Miami, we have outpatient centers here, so he can do all his follow up close to home.”
Lucky, Janie and Greg’s visit to The Honda Classic also included a visit to the Media Center and pressroom. On his way the Media Center, Lucky and his family walked along a wall where large photographs of golf’s most legendary players hung. Lucky stopped to study the images.
When asked who the greatest golfer of all time was, Lucky proved that he wasn’t just resilient.
He’s smart, too.
“Jack Nicklaus,” he exclaimed.
“Now that Jack’s not playing as much, he has really gotten into joining me with all the hospital and foundation work,” Barbara said. “He has really been a great partner. I tease him by telling him I’ve had to raise his salary three times this year. He laughed and said ‘Yeah, from zero to double zero to triple zero.’ But, he has just been great and is loving it.
“And, it has been so wonderful to see someone like Lucky, who went from really not having a chance to being someone who is doing so remarkable today.”