The family of a local hockey player who died from meningitis a year and a half ago is endorsing a study into a vaccine which could save lives.
"We knew real early on with Tyler. He started skating at 18 months old," said Lindsay Putnam.
Lindsay says he couldn't get his son off the ice. Not that he wanted to.
"His love was pretty much hockey from the beginning."
Tyler Putnam's dedication to the sport is evident in the mountains of trophies and pictures that fill the family basement. He came up through the youth ranks, played for his high school team, and went on to excel in juniors.
Father and family were always there. Lindsay coached Tyler from a young age.
"We knew early on we had something special there."
In the summer of 2011, Tyler, age 16, wasn't feeling well. A low grade fever rose to over 105 degrees.
So Lindsay took his son to the hospital, where doctors delivered news about his son, until then perfectly healthy, that he never could have imagined.
"We are going to do everything we can to save your son's life, but you have to be prepared. He is probably not going to survive."
Doctors said Tyler had a blood infection caused by a form of meningitis. At the age of 16, Tyler passed away.
"I know that if there was a vaccine out there when Tyler got sick, he'd be alive today."
"I don't want anybody to forget about Tyler. He's so important to me and I don't want anybody to forget about him," said Shannon Putnam, his sister.
After Tyler's passing, Lindsay couldn't bring himself to continue coaching hockey. He says he can count on one hand the number of times he'd been to a rink without his son.
Meantime, last fall, as the high school soccer season was approaching, Shannon was having doubts of her own. The soccer games were played on the same field where Tyler once played high school lacrosse.
"It was so hard to get out there and do something. Like, for a lot of people not having him here motivated them. For me, it did the opposite; it kind of like scared me off."
"Here I am trying to explain to her why she should be playing and she's like 'dad, don't ask me to do something you won't even do yourself.'"
After his passing, Lindsay and Shannon had already started a foundation in Tyler's name. Dad figured he owed it to his son's memory to return to coaching.
And the Putnams are doing something else in Tyler's name. They were contacted by Rochester Clinical Research, which is conducting a clinical study in a vaccine for meningitis B, the type that killed Tyler.
RCR will match donations made to the Tyler Putnam Foundation, which helps youth hockey families cover registration costs, and also offers a scholarship to student athletes who play hockey and keep their grades up.
"I can't even put it into words how it makes me feel because I know that having Tyler's name attached to something as important as this, it does put you in a little better place," Lindsay said.
"He's always been like my hero. He's my best friend and him not being here, it's hard. But the more I do to keep his memory alive, then the more people are to be like him," Shannon said.
"This is Ty's room. Which is basically how we left it."
The final stage of the Rochester study will help determine whether the vaccine wins FDA approval. For the Putnams, doing it in Ty's name brings a sense of pride, while helping to ease a wound they know will never fully heal.
"He's our angel. Yeah, he is."
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