Local teenager was a true hero, always fought the good fight

The one that got away
January 10, 2012
Roy Ivey
January 13, 2012
The one that got away
January 10, 2012
Roy Ivey
January 13, 2012

On a cooler than normal Monday afternoon this past fall, I disappointedly trudged my car across the Bourg-Larose Highway and headed from Houma to the Cut Off Youth Center.

The reason for my unenthusiastic attitude was because I was going to South Lafourche to cover a swim meet n blah, not a preferred sport for this particular sportswriter.

Little did I know at the time that this meet would be anything but subpar.

Little did I know, I was about to meet one of the few true heroes I’ve ever encountered in my now 24-plus-year lifetime.

Before I continue, let me first say that when you’re as deeply entrenched in the world of sports as I am, you hear the word “hero” a lot.

I hear it virtually every time a 3-pointer is made. I hear it every time a touchdown is scored. I hear it every time a goalie makes a save, every time a slugger smashes a home run.

That’s just the way sports work. Fans give iconic athletes the title. We, the media run with it because we know it’s what the people at home want to hear.

So my apologies if I’ve ever misused this word in the past n I’m sure I have. Haven’t we all?

Those other guys n the LeBron James’ of the world, the Cam Newton’s of the world n are just great athletes and in many cases great people.

But there’s a difference and a next level above their greatness and it’s not hero status.

The kid I met at this particular swim meet was at that tier.

South Lafourche High School student Dylan Danos was a hero n in every sense of the word.

I will now tell his story n as best I can n to you, because it’s a story that I believe is worth hearing in today’s difficult world.

Dylan grew up in South Lafourche to parents Troy and Angie Danos.

At just 3 months old, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis n a disease that negatively affects one’s lungs.

Dylan’s entire childhood was spent between home and the hospital. When he was home, his parents tried to give as normal a life as possible for a child without full lung function. He played sports, loved the outdoors and had an unquestioned passion for the water.

When in the hospital, Dylan tried to be positive, saying he dreamed of better days ahead n something he told me helped push him as far as he did in his life.

And man, oh man, did Dylan ever get far in life n he touched the souls of so many people in so many different places throughout his 16-year journey.

I know first-hand.

I was one of those people affected by this teenager’s unbelievable positivity and carefree attitude n both of which you’ll hear more about later.

I encountered Dylan at a big stage in his life. We met at his first swim meet back in the pool after a more than 12 month layoff.

The reason for the layoff was because Dylan’s dreaded condition forced him to undergo a grueling double lung transplant surgery.

Doctors didn’t know if Dylan would survive the surgery at all, much less swim again.

But Dylan had that undesirable love for the water n his biggest source of motivation throughout his entire recovery process. He was not going to be denied n he was going to get back in the pool. He even promised his coach that he would before he left for the transplant.

On this day, that promise would be cashed in and Dylan overcame all odds and swam for his school one final time, swimming in his beloved 50-yard freestyle.

He finished with a modest 40th -place standing and his time wasn’t what he wanted. But imagine any 16-year-old swimming again after such a grueling rehab, much less swimming competitively?

That’s exactly what Dylan did. It was one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever seen. The passion felt by everyone involved is some of the most real I’ve ever witnessed.

His coach, Corey Callais, said it best following the meet n “I told him, ‘Bud, you just won this whole meet just because you got in the water. You hit the water and that’s what this meet was about.’”

Following Dylan’s homecoming meet and in the days following, I was blessed to get to know this hero. I’d like to share today the type of person I encountered.

Despite a life of adversity, a future on potential thin ice and frequent obstacles in his short, but trying life, one would never tell Dylan was sick just by looking at him on one of his “good days.”

When he introduced himself to me, I actually thought he was just a regular student n perhaps Dylan’s teammate.

The way he camouflaged his plight was simple. He always smiled bright. He said simply it took fewer muscles to grin than frown.

He always was enthusiastic. He always thanked God for today, saying no one, sick or healthy, is guaranteed tomorrow.

He never felt sorry for himself, no matter how bad things may get. He justified that logic by explaining that he was no different than anyone else, illness or no illness, adding that he loved to have fun just like any teenager.

And most importantly, Dylan always stayed positive.

That last part resonated with me n his positivity.

If a young man in unsteady health can be positive and content with life and in his faith, why can’t we all?

If he can be happy in the face of adversity, why can’t we all?

If Dylan can win at life when he has every excuse to lose, why can’t we all?

Dylan Danos succumbed to his battle with cystic fibrosis Thursday evening.

But his impact will last forever n his message will imprint the lives of those he touched, myself included.

Very rarely in this job does one get a chance to meet a true hero n I was blessed to get that opportunity.

Dylan was that to me and everyone else in the South Lafourche community.

I know somewhere he’s looking down, fussing at me for saying so many kind things about his strength and plight n he did the same both the first and last times we spoke.

But he was just that n a true to life hero.

Oh, how wrong I was about that swim meet on that cool autumn day!

It’s a day that will resonate in my mind for a lifetime.