6-year-old with epilepsy and his family get surprise visit from NBA all-star Kobe Bryant
The Thompsons were on "The View" to discuss their work with Jack's Helping Hand.
Bryson Thompson's mother, Sarah, said that before November 2015, he was a "happy, healthy 4-year-old little boy" and "would run around and jump and play and do everything the other kids were doing." Then, everything changed.
One day, Bryson was playing with his brother, Brock, in the family's backyard in San Luis Obispo, California, while Sarah Thompson was making dinner in the kitchen.
"Brock came running in and said, 'Bryson fell and he's not getting up,'" said Sarah Thompson, 38. "I could see that Bryson was facedown and wasn't moving. ... I thought at that point we had already lost him. He had a 15-minute-long seizure."
"My phone starts buzzing. It was Sarah. ... She called 911," said Bryson's father, Aristotle Thompson, 39. "Everything on me ... tears [were] coming out, mouth shaking. The only thing I could do was call my mom. I asked her to pray for him because [I] thought that was it."
But Bryson pulled through and he was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy, which is caused by abnormal activity in the brain and causes unpredictable seizures.
Almost three years later, after that episode, dealing with Bryson's symptoms is still difficult for his family.
"From a mom's point of view, when you're seeing your baby having a seizure -- where their body is just tense and jerking and shaking, and their eyes are rolling back in their head -- it's just the most horrific thing that you can imagine," Sarah Thompson said.
However, the family said they credited Jack's Helping Hand organization with helping them treat Bryson's condition.
"They're a foundation close to us," Sarah said today. "Any time we need something, whether it's a Fitbit watch to help monitor his heart rate while he's sleeping, or money for gas and food to get to doctor's appointments that are far away, they just make it so simple and so easy and they're so caring about it."
Brock, 8, came up with the idea to collect helmets and other signed memorabilia from professional athletes to be auctioned off to benefit Jack's Helping Hand, as a fundraising initiative called Helmets4Helmets.
"Jack's Helping Hand bought Bryson's helmet [for him] and we just decided to give," Brock said of Helmets4Helmets. "The reason ... is to be kind back."
During the family's appearance on the show today, "The View" surprised the Thompsons with more memorabilia to be auctioned, all signed by the biggest athletes in the world including Drew Brees, Rob Gronkowski, Peyton Manning, James Harden and the entire Golden State Warriors team.
And, as a surprise, five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant also appeared from backstage with a jersey each for Bryson and Brock and another to auction.
Bryant, one of Brock's heroes, also met with the Thompson family.
"We all have a ... responsibility to each other, to help one another," Bryant said. "If you have the opportunity to do that, it's our responsibility as people to help one another. ... It's [as] simple as that."
Bryant and the other athletes' contributions will help others in the San Luis Obispo community, the family said. Before they learned how to navigate Bryson's condition, the Thompsons said, the situation was terrifying for everyone involved.
"He was having 100 seizures a day and they were just back to back," Sarah Thompson said. "He would come out in between them and he would smile and he would try to talk to me and he would go right back into it."
"These seizures can take him from you," Sarah said. "They can kill him."
Bryson was able to receive Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) therapy, which works by implanting a device that can help prevent or lessen seizures by sending electric energy to the vagus nerve, which is connected directly to the brain. The device is commonly referred to as a "pacemaker for the brain."
The family keeps magnets that can manually trigger the device if it doesn't kick in.
"We always have these on us. We'll swipe it across his chest and it will stop the seizure," Aristotle Thompson said. "We used to not know when they would stop. Now, we know this at least will stop it. ... You're always on guard and you feel like you let him down if you're not there to catch him."
The Thompsons also said that Bryson's seizures lessened if he left school and took midday naps.
Despite their struggles, Sarah Thompson said it was not hard for the family to find the strength to persevere.
"This epilepsy does not have control over him (Bryson)," she said. "I dare anybody to tell him he can't do [something] 'cause that kid is gonna do it!"
"He's a fighter, a guy who's gonna take it in stride no matter what comes his way," Aristotle Thompson said. "I told him, 'Don't ever give up. You always fight. Set your dreams high and go.' Most importantly, I love him. I always will."
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