Inspired by Zack Lystedt | Editorial
By KRIS HILL
Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor
June 20, 2012 · Updated 11:06 AM
Little more than a year ago I wrote a column, a first-person perspective if you will, on Tahoma High’s graduation ceremony in which I particularly highlighted Zackery Lystedt’s walk across the stage to accept his diploma.
Not long after that I got an email from Zack’s father, Victor, offering some kind feedback on their reaction to the column.
I saved the email with the idea that at some point I would want to get in touch with the Lystedts to follow up on Zack’s story.
On June 6 the opportunity to meet with Zack and his parents arrived.
When I was talking on the phone with Mercedes Lystedt, Zack’s mom, she asked me how long I thought the interview might take.
“Well, unless Zack gets chatty, it will probably take at most an hour,” I said.
Mercedes asked because her son has a busy schedule. She said Zack probably wouldn’t be terribly chatty but her husband Victor may have a lot to say.
She was right. I ended up spending two hours at the Lystedt’s home in unincorporated Maple Valley that afternoon.
I left there with more information than I ever could have included in the article I wrote for the June 15 edition of the Covington-Maple Valley-Black Diamond Reporter.
When I first arrived Mercedes was busy in the kitchen. We chatted about our kids — my daughter is 2 and loves Jessie from the Toy Story film franchise but also has this tendency to watch “Teletubbies” on YouTube on our iPad which I hate, while Zack’s favorite as a small child was “Blue’s Clues” — so when Zack rolled out in his wheel chair I told him we were just talking about favorite TV shows for little kids.
Shortly after that Victor arrived. I’m not sure Mercedes said much once I started talking with Victor and Zack. I must have gotten distracted by her son’s sense of humor or the story Victor told me about how Zack got to see Eminem and Jay-Z for his first concert experience in September 2010.
Thinking back on it, I hope I didn’t sound patronizing, but I couldn’t help but tell Zack repeatedly how jealous I was that he got to see that show in New York City. Yes, I love Eminem and Jay-Z. Me. Have all of their albums. I even have “Watch the Throne,” a Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration.
Zack, who is not a big fan of Kanye, said he didn’t have that one. I can understand that. You either like Kanye or you don’t.
I asked Zack who some of his other favorite artists were and he said, “No one’s ever asked me that.”
For a moment, though, when Zack said “Music is my life,” I totally understood that sentiment. Victor filled in the gaps, though, when he said Zack likes Drake — seriously, the kid who used to be on “Degrassi: The Next Generation?” Now I feel like an old creeper, but, I didn’t say that out loud — and B.O.B among others.
Mostly, I’m still super jealous Zack got to see Eminem and Jay-Z, because much of Eminem’s work really resonates with me. I admire him as a lyricist and relate to his upbringing. Jay-Z is just simply awesome. I also admire his ability to write compelling lyrics and his style is uniquely pleasurable to listen to.
To me, though, the famous people Zack has met have been more than just a blessing, a silver lining in an extremely dark cloud. Meeting those people who have a dramatic influence on our country’s culture — from rappers to professional athletes to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — means that his message about concussion safety as well as taking precautions with youth athletes who may have suffered a concussion can spread further and faster.
That makes my envy evaporate. Zack’s message, which he said gets stronger as he gets stronger, is of the utmost importance. I’ve seen student-athletes after they’ve had their bells rung. And having followed Zack’s story since he initially suffered the injury that changed his life in October 2006 coupled with what I’ve experienced up close in the past year has provided me with a whole new understanding of how critical his quest to raise awareness is now.
What was cool is that Zack was able to show me around his end of the house, which was built specifically with his needs in mind, so I could see his movie room complete with snacks, a popcorn maker and a drop down theater screen along with cushy seats as well as the memorabilia room.
Shortly after that, Christian Behrens arrived at the front door with a basketball signed by his teammates from the University of California, and at that point Zack hung out with Behrens like any other teenage guy would do with a buddy he hasn’t seen in a while.
From there, Victor and I chatted some more while he showed me the set up of the home, which has two wings which are mirror images of each other. Zack’s end of the house also includes a therapy room which has a pool where he can swim laps or run on a built-in treadmill along with other workout equipment. There’s also a guest room where friends can stay or maybe a in-home care provider.
The plan someday, Victor said, is for he and his wife to move out when Zack is at a point where he doesn’t need them anymore. Given how rapidly the 19-year-old has progressed since the family moved into the house in September that day may come much sooner than anyone anticipated.
At one point during the tour, I asked Victor if Zack re-learning to walk was at all analogous to when his son learned as a toddler.
“No, it’s nothing like that. You expect your kids to walk,” he said.
Due to the extent of trauma Zack’s brain suffered, Victor said, the pathways in his brain were broken. In order for his son to walk, talk, feed and dress himself again after he had done all those things effortlessly for years required the building of new pathways.
As those things were built anew, those goals of simple tasks gave way again to the kinds of goals all parents have for their kids: a career, a spouse, grandchildren someday and ultimately independence.
Since speaking with the Lystedts, I sent each of them friend requests on Facebook — they all accepted.
While I was trying to come up with a headline for the story, I posted on Zack’s wall asking what his favorite Eminem or Jay-Z song might be, searching for inspiration. I had Googled “Eminem never give up” before that but wasn’t sure I had found the right song.
Turns out I had. I was thinking about using a lyric from the song “Till I Collapse” off Eminem’s 2002 album “The Eminem Show.” Which was the song Zack suggested.
Hopefully he likes the headline I wrote. I feel lucky I had the opportunity to spend time with the Lystedts. What Zack has accomplished is amazing. Personally, I think I would be impressed with him even if he had not suffered his injury and gone through the lengthy ordeal he’s had to conquer thus far.
I am glad the column I wrote last year wasn’t the last time I wrote about something amazing Zackery Lystedt did. And I suspect this column won’t be the last.
Contact Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor Kris Hill at email@example.com or (425) 432-1209, ext. 5054.