Music thumped in the locker room. Wearing a hat declaring the Seahawks NFC West champs after crushing the Rams last December, Tyler Lockett asked to record a video.
Lockett knew I’d been working on a story about a family in California whose 2-month-old son had, even before he was born, faced an onslaught of health problems. The baby was on dialysis and would soon need a kidney transplant. Lockett had never met the family, but had good reason to feel an unlikely connection with them: After reading a story about Tyler last summer, they had named their son Lockett.
As Tyler slid on his socks and shoes, he looked up.
“What’s up, Baby Lockett?” he said. “This is Tyler Lockett. We just won the NFC West. It was a great game. I heard you watched me when I scored that touchdown. Maybe you can teach me how to do some dance moves. I gotta learn, I gotta get better. But hope everything is going (well) with you. Continue to keep fighting. Do your thing.
“And if you’re going to be a Lockett, you gotta keep fighting, you gotta embrace the opportunity and you gotta win. Win the fight, baby. All right, see you, Baby Lockett.”
Josh and Tara Schwerdt almost skipped the level two sonogram. It was such a routine part of their first pregnancy two years earlier that they questioned its necessity.
The couple lived in Redding, Calif., and decided to make the 2½-hour drive to Sacramento because their insurance covered it. Another box checked.
By chance, the same doctor who delivered the results of the level two sonogram for their first child, Atticus, also delivered the results this time. It was June 14, 2016.
Right away, they knew something was wrong. Where once the doctor had been light and playful, she was now all business.
She explained that the baby’s kidneys weren’t functioning properly and detailed the challenges the baby would face. She even mentioned terminating the pregnancy.
Josh and Tara made the first of many silent drives home.
It was supposed to be a routine exam, another part of the NFL’s draft process. Tyler Lockett arrived at the combine in 2015 closer than ever to the NFL and went through the usual tests.
“Literally at the doorstep of his dream,” his father, Kevin, said.
Tyler had grown up around football. Kevin played in the NFL and had set receiving records at Kansas State. Tyler’s uncle, Aaron, also owned school records. Tyler followed them to K-State, and initially students nicknamed him Baby Lockett. But after his 4-year career, he had smashed his dad and uncle’s records and was a coveted NFL prospect.
While undergoing medical checks at the combine, a doctor noticed Tyler’s aorta was on the right side of his heart. Immediately Tyler focused on the worst-case scenario: That he wouldn’t be able to play in the NFL. Eventually Tyler learned his condition was benign, but the threat of losing football registered.
In August 2016, ESPN.com wrote a story about Lockett’s combine scare. The Schwerdts were in the process of picking names. Josh had thrown out Lockett; he was a huge Seahawks fan and liked the way it looked in stories. Tara thought it was cheesy. But when Josh sent her the ESPN story, she changed her mind.
“I just felt like the name was so appropriate,” she said. “Just because Lockett’s kidneys don’t work doesn’t mean he’s not going to do something amazing and great in this world.”
On Oct. 9, Josh opened birthday presents in Tara’s room at the Stanford Children’s Hospital: a Seahawks sweatshirt, Seahawks shirt and Seahawks slippers. He and Tara ate cupcakes from their favorite bakery with Josh’s parents. It was the kind of morning that made Tara optimistic.
Just three days earlier, the couple had given birth to Lockett. Lockett’s health in those first few days was stable, and the Schwerdts thought they might be able to return home soon.
But later that day the hospital’s nephrology doctors informed Tara that Lockett would need dialysis and, eventually, a kidney transplant. He would undergo a vesicostomy and surgery to insert his catheter.
Tara asked Josh to stay with her in her twin bed at the hospital. He tried to comfort her while she sobbed.
“We’re at the best place to have this,” he told her. “Lockett is lucky because we’re equipped to do this.”
Just because Lockett’s kidneys don’t work doesn’t mean he’s not going to do something amazing and great in this world.” – Tara …
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