Lyndon Baty and the Robot That Saved Him

In tiny Knox City, a sick boy and his robot sidekick keep beating the odds.

This is where Lyndon works when he doesn't want to sit at the kitchen table, on a desk set up at the foot of his bed. Working on a computer screen frees Lyndon to multitask. He's on Twitter a lot: "Watching LeBron play basketball is like watching the sunset. So beautiful." It also helps when he needs to Google the answers to things that aren't technically cheating, like when Mrs. Martinez, his English teacher, is giving them riddles. Other times it makes things that might be technically cheating a little harder, like in algebra one day, when the girl next to him tapped loudly on the microphone.

"Lyndon."

"What?"

"I need your help."

"Then give me the answer to number six."

His math teacher was in the back of the room, but Lyndon's volume carried. "I can hear you, Lyndon," she told him.


Lyndon woke up on a helicopter.

It was the middle of the night in July 2012, and the last thing he remembered was going to sleep at home. Now he was en route to Children's in Dallas. His parents had found him walking around the house in the middle of the night, talking to himself as if he was sleepwalking. But he wouldn't wake up. Panicked, they rushed to the local emergency room, where they put him on the chopper to Children's.

At first the doctors in Dallas agreed: sleepwalking. But then it started happening more often. The spells, as the Batys call them, came intermittently for a few months. Lyndon would go a bit loopy, then snap out of it after a few hours, never long enough for them to rush Lyndon to Dallas. He always came to on the ride to the hospital or 10 minutes after walking into the lobby. But as time went on the spells got more severe and started to last longer, sometimes a day or more.

One time, 16-year-old Lyndon rationalized that he was 12. Surely, he thought, he was younger than his 14-year-old brother Sheldon. And he was certainly older than 11-year-old Chase. But he must be closer to Chase than Sheldon. So that would make 12 and not 13.

Another time he just looked up at Sheri and said, "Mom, you're the smartest person in the world."

"I knew something was wrong," Sheri says. "That's just not something a 17-year-old says."

In December he got violent. He didn't recognize anyone in his family, and when Louis and Sheri called an ambulance it took all four of them — his parents and the massive EMTs — to restrain him and carry him to the ambulance. The immediate aftermath: a missing shoe for Lyndon, and broken glasses and bruised jaw for Louis. Even a small body can do a lot of damage when you're not present enough to hold anything back.

"I thank God Chance was sleeping," Lyndon says, "because I would have tried to fight him."

They put him in the ICU, and this time Lyndon didn't resurface for three days. Louis had gone with him, and when Sheri arrived, Lyndon, in his daze, had a present for her.

"He handed me a drawing and said, 'It's a cat.' He had just taken a pencil and done a long scribble from one corner to another."

The doctors pinpointed the immediate cause: ammonia. A normal ammonia level is anything in the range of 15-45 micrograms per deciliter. At his worst Lyndon was hitting levels of almost 200. Since he had liver problems, the doctors thought it was hepatic encephalopathy, a condition caused when the liver can no longer remove toxins from the blood. The chronic form is untreatable, and its prognosis is irreversible coma, and death.

"This is just how he'll be from now on," they told Sheri.

Sheri was prepared to deal with whatever problems Lyndon had. She believed that God didn't do anything without a reason, that every hardship came fully equipped with a life lesson. She learned how to work oxygen tanks and feeding tubes and was an expert on Lyndon's medical records, a catalog of one challenge after another.

It's not surprising, then, that it was Sheri who finally asked a doctor whether the problem could be hormonal. "Lyndon never went through puberty," she said. "Isn't there a chance that there's something wrong with his hormones?"

It did make sense, the doctor thought. All it took was one more blood test to find the culprit: the thyroid.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis occurs when the body's immune system starts attacking its own thyroid gland. It can happen to anyone at any age, but it mostly happens to middle-aged women. It's the most common kind of "hypothyroidism," when the gland isn't producing enough thyroid hormone for the body. Hashimoto's encephalopathy is a much rarer associated condition. Its symptoms include disorientation, delusion and aggression.

The doctors gave him new medication to counteract the lack of thyroid hormone and overnight the spells vanished. Lyndon woke up the next morning and looked around.

"Why am I in the hospital?"


A clown marches through the lobby at Children's, yelling hellos to everyone in proximity, pulling another behind in a wagon while she plays a ukulele. Lyndon is on a laptop, pulling up the controls for his bot.

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11 comments
MisterMean
MisterMean

I seem to recall a similar concept in the Dallas Morning News comic page Baldo where one student (due to immunological illness) went to school via robot.

aparis1
aparis1

@MisterMean Yes, Baldo did do a number of comic strips featuring a Rayna the robot that looks strikingly like VGo :)

gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers

@MisterMean  That's odd.  I seem to recall a Bob Marley and the Wailers song all about "we gonna chase those crazy baldheads outta the town".  I always seemed to think that had something to do with the skinheads prevalent in Deep Ellum in the 1980s, and if I'm not wrong, nary a peep from the conservatrons at DMN.  The somewhat admirable individual (and Liberal) entrepreneurs, with some help from myself and my friends, are the ones responsible for getting the police involved in getting those early incarnations of the Tea Party out of one of the few organic and independently operated entertainment districts the city of Dallas ever had.  Crazy baldheads is exactly what I'd call those misbegotten extremists, and many Dallas cops would agree with us.  I have a bunch of stories to tell about being blond and blue-eyed and getting the Nazi salute from those idiot-heads. 

Baldo?  Right about robotic.  Mechanized.  Wehrmacht. The notion that Nazis were Liberals is simply another "fictional reality" from the mind of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, the woman who wore black leather jackets but never went to South Central Los Angeles with it. 

MisterMean
MisterMean

@gordonhilgers Let me see if I can reiterate (re state) my original comment:

1) the article talks about the use of robotics (a robot) for Lyndon Baty to be able to attend his school.   Also about the history of why he can not attend school in person due to his health.

2) I mentioned the comic pages in the Dallas Morning News-they appear in the Arts & Life section.   There are 2 and 1/2 pages.   B.C., Blondie, Crankshaft, Curtis, Dilbert etc.  They appear every day.

3) on the 1/2 page of comics is a comic written by Hector Cantu and Carlos Castellanos.   The main character is a teenage male named Baldo.  He lives with his father, his Tia (aunt) and his little sister.   The NAME OF THE STRIP IS BALDO!   Baldo is Hispanic.  He has a friend who he hangs out with who, a few weeks ago, dated a girl who, much like Lyndon Baty, could not attend school due to health reasons.  She too was able to attend school by a robot.  There were several days worth of comic strips dealing with how the young lady and Baldo's friend "dated".  

4)  In my comment it was my intention to draw the parallels between this comic strip and real life of Lyndon Baty.

It must have gone over your head.  I do not know where you came up with your response.  It is really off the wall!

gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers like.author.displayName 1 Like

First the Star Trek communicators.  Now the robots.  And they said us hippies were "just kiddin'".  Apparently, dreams can come true for some people, and my empathy and hope goes out to Lyndon.  As a survivor of a life-threatening illness, I know how it feels to stare death in the face.  Nobody to blame, really, but perhaps Rocky Mountain Arsenal.  But I'm not fighting them.  No way in hell.  I do blame the Soviets.  Lyndon's a good name for a Texan.  Big shoes to fill. 

Good luck, Lyndon.  You have a good day. 

gordonhilgers
gordonhilgers like.author.displayName 1 Like

Of course, we could mention li'l Ricky Perry's big giveaway to his buddy, Harold Simmons, who wants to put a nuclear waste dump in West Texas.  The whole state of Nevada turns-out to stop the Nukie-poo-poo, but li'l Ricky never gave a crap about U-238, because, after all, when we protested with CPLF in 1980, we were all Commies. 

Li'l Ricky:  Sit on that and rotate. 

dfwenigma
dfwenigma

I see huge application to all sorts of things for this robot. I hope they're collecting data from it that they can use to improve the robots and make them even more anthromorphic. The robots need to be able to go where kids would go in a natural way. It's nice to know my iRobot has a cousin and that it had the same parents as this robot. We'll look back on this as the beginning of something great.

wilme2
wilme2

Good story.  Forwarding via e-mail and posting it to Facebook...

jwmplano
jwmplano

Great writing and very inspiring especially when most of what you see in the media are the examples of bad behavior and people's inhumanity. What an attitude Lyndon has. Now if he could only bottle it, many of us could use some now and then.

Robby746
Robby746

Need more stories of this sort.  Very good.

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan like.author.displayName 1 Like

This was really, really good. Nice work, Luke. 

 
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