Thom’s Story

College Senior Loses Life to Myocarditis

Thom’s Family Self-Publishes a Book in Honor of Thom in Hopes of Raising Funds for Research

Thom 023It was the first day of November 2013, and life was so beautiful! My best friend (and son’s godmother) of over 30 years, Jean, was visiting from Colorado with my daughter, Katie, and I in New York for the first time in over two years. She had flown in on Halloween afternoon, and we had a laugh-filled day reminiscing about everything and looking forward to spending the following evening with my 21-year-old amazing son, Thomas Dean, at his college in Fredonia, NY, where he was a senior majoring in English. Thom’s birthday had been exactly one week before on October 25th, and we planned to take him out to dinner. We had the best evening I could have imagined, and Thom looked happier and healthier than I had seen him in a long time. After a difficult start in his freshman year adjusting to dorm life and all of the craziness that went with it (which he never was comfortable with), he was a senior and had an air of confidence and purpose that just filled my heart with joy! Life was good, my kids were doing great, and I was with my best friend; life couldn’t be any better!

I was awakened suddenly at 4 a.m. by a phone call telling me to get to the hospital near my son’s campus that was an hour and a half away. They couldn’t tell me anything on the phone, and Katie, Jean, and I made that long, long drive not knowing what we would be facing but hoping it wasn’t anything too serious, because we had just left him hours before, and he was fine. I was just grateful to have them with me, because if it had been any other night of the year I would have been all alone. When we arrived at the hospital, we were met immediately by campus staff and told that Thom had collapsed in his dorm room while playing a video game and was unable to be revived, and our Thom was gone. To say that it was a shock could not nearly describe our emotions! We had just left him hours before, and he was perfect! How could my son have died and WHY??? That was the question that would plague us for over four months. We were told we would have to wait for the toxicology report, which could take up to six months, but I knew that would show nothing, because I knew my son and knew that he would barely have more than one beer let alone anything else. Finally, over four agonizing months later and after practically begging the coroner’s office, we were told that Thom passed away from myocarditis, something that I had never heard of, even though I work in the medical field. Thus began our education on this sadistic killer and the many lives it has destroyed. I believe it was the efforts of a local family that enabled us to get an actual answer, Amy and Joe Skowronski who lost their 10-year-old son, Luke, just two years before to myocarditis, who have made coroners in our state aware of myocarditis and to look for it in cases of sudden death. I will be eternally grateful to them, for not having a reason or something to fight against now would be unimaginable!

Thom was an amazing young man who touched so many lives in his 21 years. He grew up with a divorced mom and was always so exceptional and mature beyond his years in the way he looked at life and managed to be the male figure in his sister’s life. I could go on for pages and pages about what made him so special, but I will just say that he was a unique young man who loved books, philosophy, acting, gaming, and making us laugh, and he touched the lives of so many people with the extreme wisdom he had for one so young. If he had been a lesser person, he might have been a victim of bullying when he was younger, because he was always a little different than the average kid, but he always managed to find a group of extremely loyal and adoring friends whose lives he impacted so positively and in such a beautiful way that he will never be forgotten! After his death, we were able to self-publish a book with his writings and our memories of him to raise money for his scholarship fund at Fredonia, and to celebrate his life and to hopefully raise some money to fund myocarditis research, we have established a Facebook group in his honor called Team T.H.O.M. – The Heartbreak Of Myocarditis. If anyone would like to learn more about Thom’s inspiring life, please join us in our group!