We present our 2015 Live award to HelpHOPELive client Aaron Loy for inspiration after illness following a double amputation after severe complications from bacterial meningitis.
In 2013, Aaron Loy was a dedicated student and a passionate athlete who enjoyed lacrosse, soccer, surfing and biking. As a freshman at the University of California Santa Barbara, Aaron was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive strain of bacterial meningitis with no U.S.-approved vaccine. The disease progressed rapidly, causing a blood infection and severe internal complications.
Three other university students recovered from the meningitis outbreak with no permanent damage. Aaron’s illness took a different course. Doctors were able to save Aaron and provide antibiotics to eradicate the illness, but only after amputating both of his lower legs.
Watching his own story covered on the news, Aaron recalls lying in the hospital in a state of shock, thinking, “No, I don’t think this is real…I don’t want this to be true.” The catastrophic event shook Aaron and his community to the core. Family members and classmates from Aaron’s hometown and the University of California Santa Barbara community immediately turned to HelpHOPELive to help cover his pressing medical expenses, including co-pays, prosthetics and intensive physical rehabilitation.
Friends planned dozens of fundraisers from percentage of sales nights to bake sales and car washes. In December of 2013, supporters from Aaron’s home lacrosse team organized the Aaron Loy Lacrosse Shootout, an all-ages event that invited 300 players to complete in honor of Aaron. The event raised more than $18,000 towards Aaron’s medical bills.
Discharged after three months in the hospital, Aaron was too weak to maneuver his own wheelchair. But he set his sights on a formidable goal: regaining his independence by literally getting back on his feet. Aaron took his first steps in prosthetic legs in March of 2014. He continued to practice diligently, improving his strength and coordination at prosthetic therapy sessions three to five times each week.
Within a year of his diagnosis, Aaron had fought his way to a fulfilling and independent life that included returning to college 200 miles away from his home community, biking to class and hanging out with his friends. And he’s not done yet: Aaron plans to get back on the lacrosse field, go snowboarding and devote his time to helping others who have experienced catastrophic injuries to defy the odds.
“He gets up every day with a smile on his face, puts his legs on and just carries on,” his mother, Kirsten, told NBC San Diego in 2014. “While his body recovers, his spirits and optimism remain high.”
The Live award will be presented to Aaron at this year’s HelpHOPE-Live it Up! benefit on October 16.
Each year at HelpHOPELive’s annual signature fundraising event, HelpHOPE-Live It Up!, we honor community heroes who prove why our mission matters with the Help, HOPE and Live awards. In 2015, we’re also giving out an Advocacy and Volunteer of the Year award.