Say a prayer for Eric Dolch and his family
The son of Palm Beach Post golf writer Craig Dolch is still in a coma. Emily Minor wrote a column about Eric earlier this week. This was the first update I had gotten on the boy since a brief email exchange I had with Craig last December. Last August I blogged about Craig and Eric here. Pray for this family, I can only imagine what they are going through now.
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By Emily J. Minor
Palm Beach Post Columnist
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
It took a wrong turn on a Sunday, Father's Day of all days, the day Eric Dolch got really sick.
He'd been complaining of a headache all week, and that Friday he'd gone to the doctor.
Antibiotics, the doctor said.
The kid had a little something.
But by Sunday the fever was up again and by Monday he was delirious and his mom, Ava Van de Water, a former co-worker of mine, called the doctor.
Emergency room, the doctor stated succinctly.
And that's how a 14-year-old boy ends up in a coma for four months.
It's just that easy.
There's a lot the medical teams don't know about Eric Dolch. If he'll get better. If the seizures will stop. If, if, if.
But this they know:
The smiling kid with swell manners and a tender heart had encephalitis last summer. Some virus inched its way into this child's brain, although the experts aren't sure how it started. Eric tested negative for the mosquito-bite kind.
"We'll probably never know," says his mom.
Her son's supposed to be a high school freshman, and instead he's slept since June.
Van de Water, a local girl who grew up in Palm Beach and went to school here, is married to Craig Dolch, who happens to be the newspaper's golf writer. They circulate in not-so-shabby circles, from friends on the island to friends from the golf world. Barbara Nicklaus has kept in touch through all this.
Encephalitis isn't common, maybe 2,000 cases reported to the CDC each year. But after the coma, which they medically induced to control the seizures, they moved Eric from Miami Children's Hospital to a Boston rehab center.
He's still heavily sedated, mostly immobile, although the number of seizures is down dramatically.
Readjusting expectations of ordinary
Things like this tend to change life and its many definitions: Marriage. Debt. Happiness. A good day. When Craig Dolch wrote about Eric a few months back, he used a great line.
"And I thought talking to Curtis Strange after a double-bogey on the 18th hole was tough," he said.
Now, a Curtis Strange anger management situation would be a walk in the park.
They've got Eric on a special diet, and it's fed to him through a tube into his intestine. The diet's supposed to help stop the seizures. Craig Dolch is in Boston. Van de Water and their daughter, Alexandra, 16, fly to Boston as often as they can. Alexandra will graduate from high school this spring, a year early, and she's second in her class.
Apparently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
"Life is tough," Van de Water says now. "But it's life."
When our boys were little, Van de Water and I sat cubicle-to-cubicle in the feature sections of this paper. Our sons, her Eric and my Ian, are the same age. And while the children never played, we did — she and I — in those early-morning work hours.
We'd entertain each other with lovely anecdotes of our sweet boys. Work and home and guilt was almost always the subtext.
After talking to my former colleague one recent day, I took a breath, wiped my eyes, called my son, who was home sick with a bug.
He answered on the millionth ring, which annoyed me, and mumbled into the telephone, which annoyed me. And when our lovely conversation was over, he hung up without even saying goodbye — which annoyed me.
What this family wouldn't give for some of that.