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Veteran Father Tried To Give His Dying Son A Lifetime Of Memories

Over ten years ago, Bill Kohler, an Army medic, has had it tough adjusting to his life after he returned home in 2006, after serving in Iraq. He was hit by a roadside bomb. Bill spent seventeen years in the Army and, upon returning, he developed a drinking problem. However, with the birth of Ayden, his son, on February 13, 2007, Kohler’s life had changed completely.

“He saved me,” Kohler told to one of the news agency. “One night he was lying on my chest, his tongue kinda clucking, and I just felt his warmth.”

“In the corner, there was this light shining and it was dark in the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit],” he added. “I felt this warmth and this light and I thought, “This is like people from the war that didn’t make it telling me I gotta do something.’ I just felt like this weight lifted off of me.”

The very next day, Kohler got a letter from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs who offered him work in a local hospital.

“All these positive things started happening,” he says. “It was like once my mind got positive, I started getting positive results.”

However, Kohler has spent the last seven months trying to save Ayden, who is now 10 years old and has Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma or the DIPG. He was diagnosed last August after collapsing during a football practice. Two tumors were discovered in Ayden’s brain, one on the cerebellum and the other on the brain stem. Ayden was given eight to twelve months max since to live and since the diagnosis, he is chronicling everything on 4AydenStrong Facebook page and “Ayden’s Army” website. The local community and his football team have all rallied to help and have set up a GoFundMe account for contributions, which have been reportedly pouring in since.

“This has become another war to me,” he says. “We try to have good days the best we can.”

Everything changed since August 2016, for Bill Kohler and Ayden.

Ayden collapsed during his football practice. He was immediately hospitalized and diagnosed with a concussion. However, after his motor and verbal skills began deteriorating, doctors discovered the two brain tumors, one in the brain stem and the other in the cerebellum.

Doctors told Kohler that his son only had eight to twelve months left to live.

For the next couple of months, the family-focused on searching for a DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) clinical trial and getting Ayden traditional treatment at the well-known Johns Hopkins University.

“I was a medic in the war, you know, and you fix things,” Kohler told the Associated Press. “And this was something I couldn’t even touch.”

After they were told that there was no cure for Ayden, the two focused on making the best out of what little time they had left together.

“Whatever he wants, we just do,” Kohler told People. “I’m trying to fit a lifetime of memories into whatever time he has left.”

The community rallied to lend Kohler the support and help needed for Ayden to take the best out of what life he had left. 

The websites where the whole Ayden’s story in the past few months has been chronicled in detail are the “Ayden’s Army” website and the Facebook page “4Ayden Strong”. They have also managed to raise approximately $115K via the GoFundMe account.

With the help of his social worker, Ayden has created a wish book, intended to help Bill find out what his son wishes to do with the time he has left.

Thus far, Ayden was a special guest of the Penn State basketball team and the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. He has talked to Guy Fieri and went down to Florida on a fishing trip.

They also have plans for March, when they are going to attend a Wizards basketball game and some WWE matches in Hershey. Ayden will also get the chance to go to an Army base and see the C-130 transport aircraft, and he will hold a bear cub.

“Everybody’s doing so much for us across the nation,” Kohler said. “It’s been overwhelming and I couldn’t reach out to everybody but I just want to say how grateful I am to everyone for all the support.”

According to Kohler’s Associated Press interview, one day, after returning from archery practice, Ayden asked him: “What if I don’t get better and die?”

“No matter how this turns out, son, I will be by your side,” Kohler said. “The whole way.”

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