Parents say son's survival nothing short of a miracle

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by SHELLY SLATER

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaashelly

WFAA

Posted on June 30, 2011 at 1:21 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 30 at 2:48 PM

A North Texas teenager flat-lined while hospitalized.

Dylan Cheatham's death was said to be imminent.

But just as the machines that were keeping the 15-year-old alive were pulled, his family says a miracle happened thanks to the power of prayer — and their son's will to live.

"It feels like it was a dream," Dylan said. "It's still hard to believe that it happened."

He spent 38 days in the hospital — eight of them on life support.

Dylan suffered from cardiac arrest while playing catch with his friends.

"When I turned around and saw the chaplain standing behind me when we first got to Children's, I panicked... I had to leave," recalled his mother, Malissa Cheatham.

"They invited us to go back and see the team, to show us they had done everything they could," added dad Dennis Cheatham. "He was flat-lined. We were standing there, and I fell to my knees. And begged them to shock him one more time. And they did... and his heart started back up."

That was the first of many miracles Dylan's parents say they witnessed during this long journey.

"People just stopped their lives and began to pray, and that — I think — is a miracle," his mom said.

Prayer chains began in force between friends and total strangers.

"I truly believe prayer is what got him through... prayer and the grace of God, and Dylan's will to fight," Malissa Cheatham said.

And fight he did.

During his hospital stay at Children's Medical Center of Dallas, there was a small flood on his floor that triggered a power failure. Nurses had to manually pump the machine that was keeping him alive.

"Every time they moved him he crashed," his father said. "They were so afraid to move him even one room."

Dylan's parents had to make decisions quickly. Moving floors meant disconnecting the machine, which could have killed him.

"It's so strange to hear, because I thought I was just a healthy kid," Dylan said. "To hear that people were planning to take my organs out because they thought I was dead?"

But when the machine stopped, something changed.

The Cheathams say Dylan's heart kept going.

"Maybe it was God saying, 'You know what? I am in control of the situation. When you asked to shock him one more time, and I brought him back this far, I'm not going to let him go now. I have a purpose for this boy,'" Dennis Cheatham said.

Dylan feels that deep inside. And at just 15, he knows life has a deeper meaning than most kids his age.

"I have a greater appreciation for life," he said. "I cherish every day that I get to be here, see my mom, and see my dad, and just be alive."

Dylan's parents say he was exposed to salmonella poisoning from recalled peanut butter for months. They still have the recalled jars to this day.

They believe their healthy son developed heart issues because salmonella entered his bloodstream.

According the Mayo Clinic, if that happens, it can infect tissues throughout the body, including the lining of the heart.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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