Friday, October 18, 2013

Zack Spoke Louder

The macho dads standing next to me yelled out “Shake it off!  Be a man!  You’re ok!”

 The boy is now a teenager, but many years ago he was a small 9 year old soccer player lying flat on his back, motionless, in the middle of a muddy field.  It wasn’t immediate, but he did eventually rise and with help walked to the side of the field.   I looked into the boy’s eyes.  I’m not sure he looked back.  I asked him a question.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t give the right answer.  The macho dads spoke to him, “Get some water and get back out there, buddy!  We need you!”

But Zack Lystedt spoke louder.  He is the reason the boy and I left that game and went to the hospital. He is the reason I knew those macho dads were very, very wrong. 

It was the kind of news that causes you to draw in your breath quickly. Your hand involuntarily moves to cover your open mouth.  Somehow you mutter, “I can’t even imagine.”

It was the kind of horrible situation where the only good news was the fact that he was still alive.

7 days on life support.  9 months without speaking.   13 months until his left arm moved.  2 years with a feeding tube.  4 years until he could move his leg on purpose.

 It was a lot for a 13 year old Zack Lystedt to overcome.

Zack received a concussion in a junior high football game and his life was never the same.  Reality for Zack and his parents, Victor and Mercedes, was a horrific nightmare that came to life.  They have been through hell.  Yet somehow, they have not only survived, they have become an inspiration.   Zack, Victor and Mercedes personify all that is good and right about this world.
 (I encourage you to learn more of Zack’s story from this 2012 ESPN story.

Over the years Zack has spoken louder than one would have thought possible.  He has the ear of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  He’s been profiled by Dan Rather. Nearly every major media outlet in America has done a story on him.  Google his name and you could spend all afternoon sifting through the results.  For years now, Zack and his parents have continued to proactively do what is necessary to make sure no one else will live through the nightmare they did.  They are the reason that today, in 47 states, the Zackery Lystedt Law and concussion education are integral parts of all youth sports.      (You can learn more about the Zackery Lystedt Law in this March 2013 video from

When Zack Lystedt’s name was announced a hush came over the gym.  It was the kind of moment that causes you to draw in your breath quickly. My hand involuntarily moved to cover my open mouth.  As Zack’s father watched him cautiously walk to the podium, I thought to myself, “I can’t even imagine.”  I could feel my eyes start to tear up.  I know I wasn’t alone in my uneasy silence.

 It was the senior awards ceremony for the graduating class of 2013.  Zack was there to present the “Zackery Lystedt Scholarship Award” to a student who had overcome significant life challenges.   Zack’s dad Victor helped announce the award. 

When Edwin was called to the stage his peers erupted in boisterous cheering.  It was clear he was well liked.   Edwin was a big, strong and very talented wrestler who had overcome significant challenges in his life.  It was true he wanted to go to college.  And it was true he needed help paying for it. When Zack announced that Edwin was the winner of the Zackery Lystedt Scholarship Edwin cried.   When Zack’s dad announced that this scholarship would take care of the first two years of his college education, Edwin bent over in utter disbelief, obviously moved.  It was clear that Zack Lystedt had just changed Edwin’s life.

Zack Lystedt has spoken louder than his tragedy.  Zack told me to get my kid off that soccer field.  Zack convinced politicians in 47 states to agree on something.  Zack told Edwin he has a future. 

I’d be surprised if there was a dry eye or a hardened heart in the gym that evening.  It was the kind of impactful moment you remember for a long time.  It was the kind of poignant moment that touches people deep on the inside.  It began so many years earlier with a tragedy you can’t even imagine. It began with the kind of life changing event you are convinced you don’t have the strength to survive. It began with the kind of situation that could consume you forever. 

 But Zack spoke louder than all of that.

For at that moment, in that gym, there was only good.

Check This Out!

The teenage boy and the husband have gifted themselves with a new mouse. It is the R. A. T.  5 gaming mouse. According to the box it has 5600 dpi and is a 'truly groundbreaking mouse'.  (Please don’t tell me how much they paid for it.  I would prefer stay uninformed.)  They claim that it is awesome and if you like PC gaming and being awesome, they highly recommend this mouse.  I am convinced, however,  that it will soon transform itself into the sidekick of Optimus Prime.


savannahoo said...

Wow. What a story. Good one.

Anonymous said...

I know him and he has worked so hard. His family is wonderful. Nice story.

Rebecca Molinara said...

This is such an important topic that has hit home quite a few times at my kids' high school in Ohio. Finally, the coaches, parents and kids are starting to become educated. Thank you Zack! Your efforts have saved lives.

hazyjune said...

Melissa, no one can tell a story like you, always your own special spin! "YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT MY BOOTS" cracked me up, my feet even felt the pain. May your feet always live in a state of euphoria. :-)