By CHEA WATERS EVANS
Champlain Valley Union High School junior varsity football player Matt Yandow had a stroke last week – a shocking occurrence for a 15-year-old, especially since he hadn’t been noticeably injured during practice.
His mother, Amy Yandow, said doctors told them that the stroke, which resulted from a blood clot that most likely formed after an imperceptible neck injury, was “a rare-fluke kind of thing.”
Now Matt is recovering at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H., while his parents stay there and his 11-year-old sister is cared for back at their home in Williston by her grandmother and her good friends’ families. “Luckily, she’s got three other sets of parents, so we’re very fortunate,” Amy said.
During a phone conversation early this week, Amy drove with her phone on Bluetooth while her Google Maps app gave directions to a nearby Walmart so she could pick up some t-shirts and shorts for Matt. “I’m getting him a couple things so he can feel like a normal person again,” she said.
The fact that he is even ready to take off his hospital gown and put on street clothes is remarkable. Amy said Matt’s doctor told her that he saw another patient who suffered the same type of stroke at age 46 and did not survive. “We’re very lucky,” she said, “We have youth on our side.”
On Monday, Amy called Matt’s recovery “quite amazing” and looked back on what had been a very long week. “It’s only been eight days, but sometimes it feels like a month. Yesterday he got up and walked, and he’s walked three times so far, not without help, but still…”
Though the doctors can’t predict how long Matt’s recovery will take, or to what extent he will regain his previous abilities, Amy said that her son’s attitude is inspiring. “Matt has been extremely positive,” she said. “He is joking, smiling, and his words are coming back. They come out slow and slurred, but we can understand him.”
Matt’s 16th birthday is today, Nov. 1, and though the celebration with cake might have to wait, Amy said the family appreciates all that their neighbors and community have done for them.
A friend started a GoFundMe page which by Wednesday morning had collected more than $32,000; the page’s original goal was $5,000.
Amy said it is difficult to accept money from people. “To be honest with you, we’re not good at handouts,” she said, but added that the donations have made a huge difference for her family. “It’s definitely going to save me from having to worry about basics,” she said.
The Yandow family owns Sugartree Maple Farm in Williston. They had to stop wood stacking to go to the hospital with Matt, but the Williston Boy Scouts stepped in and finished stacking, ensuring that the Yandows had enough wood to get through next sugaring season.
Amy, who said she also works three other part-time jobs, added that she hopes to return the favor to others someday.
“We can’t even express how much gratitude we have for everyone in the community,” Amy said. “Hopefully, we can help give back when we’re functioning again and repay the community for their support.”
Support is taking other forms, too. Amy said Matt’s football teammates have been visiting him in the hospital nearly two hours away.
“All these kids from Shelburne and Hinesburg and Charlotte, and we’ve had so many kids travel to come see him, and that support right there is better than anything,” she said.
Mike Williams, Matt’s football coach at CVU, said that Matt is very much on his teammates’ minds.
“Every time we break after practice or after a meeting, we always get together and put our hands on – and the mantra has always been family. The boys, they say it, but I am not sure if they know what it really means,” Williams said. “But when something like this happens, they get it.”
Williams said coaches from around the state have contacted him to see what they can do to help, and that the entire football team would be willing to take Matt’s place working at Sugartree Maple Farm. “We will help out Matt and his family any way we can,” he said.
Sports correspondent Lauren Read contributed to this report.