Watauga couple's 4-year-old grandson a 'little hero'

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khelms@starhq.com

   Young Trystan Godsey has been asked to understand a whole lot of grown-up issues in his four short years here on Earth. He doesn't live with his mommy and daddy anymore. He often wonders about it and sometimes feels sad.
   He has an 8-month-old brother that stays at his great-grandma's house most of the day because his papaw works and his mammaw has something wrong with her and sometimes needs a little break.
   When papaw is not there, Trystan is the man of the house, and if anything should happen to mammaw or if she's not feeling well, there's a telephone number he can dial to get help: 9-1-1. He could remember that.
   Two weeks ago, Trystan's mammaw, Robin Clark of Watauga, was walking through the living room when she became ill.
   "I have seizures and they haven't figured out what it is. I'd had a grand mal and he, some way or another, got hold of 911 and stayed on the phone until they got here. I was real proud of him, for him just to be 4 years old. They said it was miraculous what he had done. As a matter of fact, they called back the next morning to brag about him," Clark said.
   Clark's neurologist in Knoxville has said she has a progressive neurological disease, one which doctors have been unable to pinpoint. "I've had seizures now for about three years. They had found a little tumor, but they said that where it was at, that it would be more dangerous to try to take it, so they just keep me on medication trying to keep the seizures down," she said last week.
   She had a seizure when she went to see her doctor on Monday, and one at home a couple of days before that -- the one Trystan saw. A grand mal is characterized by convulsions and loss of consciousness.
   "They just hit. The next thing I knew, I fell back against the chair and that was it. The only thing I could think of when I did sort of come around was, 'Where is Trystan?'
   "I thought, 'He's run away; he's run off to get help. He's run across the road' -- everything went through my mind -- but he was on the porch on the phone. He never left. It did scare him. It scared him to death," she said. "They [911] wanted him to put mamma on the phone, and he would tell them no, that I wouldn't wake up."
   Gayle Ashley, the 911 dispatcher, said that when she took the call, she heard a small voice on the other end of the line. "I kept asking him what the problem was -- we get so many pranks from children. A lot of times they are just playing with the phone and the parents don't know."
   But the tone of Trystan's voice told her there was something seriously wrong. "I understood him to say his mamma was sick, but he was saying his mammaw was sick. I kept him on the phone and kept asking him questions. He cried just a little bit and said he wanted his papaw.
   "I kept asking him questions about where his mammaw was at in the room -- was she in the bedroom, or was she lying on the couch or lying on the bed. He told me she was lying on the couch and she was sick and he couldn't wake her up. I knew there was something wrong because he was really terrified; but he still stuck with it."
   Ashley, who has two nieces, ages 3 and 5, said that while talking to Trystan, she found herself in tears. "I knew he was by himself, and he'd say, 'I want papaw. Get papaw.' That's what was on his mind -- to get help -- and he knew how to get it.
   "I asked him to take the phone over and let me speak to his mamma. But it was his mammaw. She had finally aroused a little bit and said she'd had a seizure. He had unlocked the door so the paramedics could get in. He just did a terrific job for a 4-year-old. I was so proud of him," Ashley said.
   That night, she thought of Trystan. "We get so many calls here, you just have to brush it off when you get home. But I kept thinking about him, and I said, 'When I get to work the next day I'm going to call.' I just wanted him to know that I thought he had done a good job and I wanted his grandmother to know that he had helped her," Ashley said.
   Clark said Trystan is a lot smarter than she would have been at his age. "I don't think that at 4 years old I would have thought to do something like that. I'm just so proud of him. When I talk about it, tears come to my eyes."
   Clark and husband Danny had talked to Trystan before about dialing 911. But that was the first time he'd ever actually done it. "He knew that I had seizures and he's been around me before, but he's never dialed 911. There's always been somebody else to do it," she said.
   "I had passed out. I didn't know really what he had done. I just knew that when I was coming to, everybody was coming in and they were all going, 'I can't believe he did this.' We try to do the best we can as far as explaining things that can be dangerous," Clark said.
   Trystan, who in the past month has had a catheter removed, is not a healthy child himself and "is having a rough time right now," Clark said. He and his little brother had been in state custody before the Clarks adopted them in August 2002.
   "He can't understand why mommy and daddy aren't around, and he gets depressed. So anything we can do for him to make him feel better about himself, that's what we're trying to do," she said.
   "I just sit here sometimes and cry. I think, 'I raised mine. What did I do wrong?' I never thought I'd be doing this again, but I wouldn't take nothing for him, and I don't know what I would have done if he hadn't been here. He was my little hero that day."