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Community rallies around Berks teen fighting for the life he used to have

By Jamie Stover, Reporter, JStover@wfmz.com
Published On: May 11 2014 05:40:30 AM CDT
Updated On: May 12 2014 05:32:21 AM CDT

"Redcay Strong"

MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. -

A Berks County family recently got a heartbreaking diagnosis for their teenage son.

Derrick Redcay is fighting for the life he used to have, after suffering from a rare spinal stroke.

Derrick went to the school nurse at Muhlenberg High School about two weeks ago, after having a tingling sensation and complete loss of sensation in his arm.

Brian Redcay said he picked up his son, thinking it must have been a pinched nerve. He soon learned it was much worse.

"His right side and leg gave out a bit. We put him down on the bed in the nurse's office and we called 911 and got the ambulance," said Brian Redcay, Derrick's father.

After going to the hospital, doctors told the Redcays test results indicated that the 18-year-old had suffered a spinal stroke.

"Doctors are baffled how this could happen to an athletic kid who just the day before went to school, was helping fight the fire at Klein's Motel, and then went to a baseball game," said Deb Redcay, Derrick's mother.

Derrick volunteered as a firefighter for the Goodwill Fire Department since age 14. The teen also played on his high school's varsity baseball team and carried a 3.5 GPA.

"We like going to his ball games, calls together. I started thinking right away, I won't be able to do that stuff anymore," said Brian Redcay.

The teenager had plans to attend the University of New Haven this fall to major in fire science.

Derrick no longer has feeling below his neck, he relies on a feeding tube, and he is also having trouble talking. But his parents say he is a fighter and making significant improvements.

"He's in good spirits, he's smiling, he laughs," said Deb Redcay.

Doctors aren't sure how much, if any, recovery Derrick will have, but his parents are hopeful.

The Redcays said overwhelming support from the community is helping.

Signs, T-shirts, and armbands with the slogan "Redcay Strong," have quickly caught on in Berks County and beyond.

A Facebook Group called "Derrick Redcay Strong," now has more than 5,300 members.

The page features updates on Derrick's condition and allows members to post well-wishes and photos.

Family members said Derrick is well aware of the support.

"He shakes his head yes or closes his eye, and goes like 'I can't believe that.' He even mouths 'thank you, tell them thank you," said Brian Redcay.

Redcay recently got a surprise visit from Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg.

Volunteers have organized fundraising events to help cover medical expenses.

For more information on Derrick, visit Facebook.

To donate, click here.