A Bettendorf boy who survived a stroke will be celebrated for his amazing recovery, at the River Bandits game Friday, Aug. 12, at the end of the 1st inning.

The game at Modern Woodmen Park starts at 6:30 p.m., and Bryce Arquilla, 8, of Bettendorf, will be honored during an on-the-field ceremony by players from both teams. In addition, a video about Bryce will play on the video board during the event.

Bryce was born prematurely, and at first, his parents, Leslie and Ryan, thought their most significant hurdle was getting him strong enough to come home after spending a month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, according to a Genesis Health System release Tuesday.

After a few months, they noticed he wasn’t turning his head to the right. So they consulted with their pediatrician, a physical therapist, and a neuromuscular specialist who ordered an MRI.

“At this point, he was seven months old. Following the MRI, we discovered that he had a stroke in utero that devastated the left hemisphere of his brain,” his mother Leslie said in the release. “They weren’t sure how he would progress in the future, but we had hope, and he was seemingly very healthy otherwise.”

At that point, the young couple vowed to get their firstborn son “every single therapy” they could to help Bryce overcome his weak right side.

“That’s when we started going to Genesis Outpatient Pediatric Physical Therapy Center (GOPEDS), and he has received services there from the kindest, most amazing people. We are going on eight years now, and he has made such amazing strides working with all the therapists at GOPEDS,” Leslie said.

Life-threatening seizures

In 2014, he and his family faced another serious challenge when Bryce started to experience life-threatening seizures. 

Genesis GOPEDs patient Bryce Arquilla, 8, of Bettendorf, plays baseball with his mom, Leslie Arquilla, following a recent GOPEDs speech therapy appointment.

“When most people have a seizure, they come out of it – basically, they are self-limiting, and Bryce’s weren’t,” Leslie said. “So if he had a seizure, we would have to give him rescue medication to get him out of it. If we didn’t do it almost immediately, usually within one minute, he would go into status epilepticus (a condition in which repeated epileptic seizures occur without the patient gaining consciousness between them. If untreated for a prolonged period, it can lead to long-term disability or death).”

Over three years, Bryce was airlifted five different times to save his life. “We almost lost him,” Leslie said.

“It came to a point where he needed brain surgery. Doctors in Chicago recommended Bryce have a hemispherectomy. That means disconnecting the entire left hemisphere of his brain,” Leslie said.

“And from there, we got a second opinion in Boston. They did test after test, mapping out his brain to determine the source of the seizures. Finally, in 2017, Boston Children’s Hospital ended up doing a modified hemispherectomy. We saved some of his left hemisphere that was still affected by stroke but wasn’t seizing.”

Learning to do everything over

Bryce had to learn how to do everything over again after his surgery, Genesis said. But the one thing he didn’t do before the surgery was talk – he was completely nonverbal. During the surgery, they disconnected his left temporal lobe, where speech resides in the brain.

“They couldn’t tell us 100 percent if he would ever talk, but they felt that he would since the seizures were under control. So even though they disconnected that language center, they believed the language had transferred to the other side. Sure enough, three months later, he started saying words, and he hasn’t stopped ever since,” Leslie said.

Genesis GOPEDs patient Bryce Arquilla, 8, of Bettendorf, will be honored Friday, Aug. 12, at the end of the 1st inning of the River Bandits game. He has overcome many medical challenges, including being born premature, having a stroke in utero, and having brain surgery.

Leslie and Ryan credit the hard work of Bryce’s therapists at GOPEDS for being instrumental in his remarkable progress over the last five years.

Genesis Physical Therapist Kimberly Nielsen has worked with Bryce since 2015 and praised his progress.

“His determination, perseverance, and fun-loving attitude have allowed him to overcome so many obstacles. He wasn’t walking and had significant right-sided neglect when we started working with him. He can now run, jump, bowl, kick, ride a bike, and do so many activities with his right arm. He also gives the best hugs,” said Nielsen.

Speech therapist recovered herself

When his speech therapist MaryBeth Myers was recovering from her own brain surgery, she got a special visit from Bryce.

Bryce Arquilla, 8, of Bettendorf, works with his speech therapist MaryBeth Meyers during a recent appointment.

“Bryce serves as an inspiration to many of us here at GOPEDS. He came to visit me when I got home last summer from my surgery at Mayo Clinic,” Myers said. “He came in with a balloon, a little basket, and some goodies. He jumped up and gave me the biggest bear hug I think I’ve ever had. It probably lasted 10 minutes. He just kept squeezing me, saying, ‘I love you. I love you. I love you.’ And I just kept telling him I loved him back.”

Bryce loves going to school, learning, talking, and playing with his younger brother Brant. He is also known for loving to be the center of attention. Leslie jokes that he is “such a show-off.”

If you are lucky enough to be at Modern Woodmen Park on Friday night when Bryce is on the field, expect him to put on a show.

“Home Runs for Life is just up his alley. He loves sports, especially bowling, but he could throw a ball before he could walk, and he’s got aim. We can’t wait to see him out on the field,” Leslie said.

“It’s been an emotionally wild ride. But we feel like we’re on the other side of it. And now we’re just watching Bryce learn and grow in amazement daily.”

For more information on the Genesis LIFT Program (which deals with neurological issues like stroke or traumatic brain injury), click HERE.