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We Ride for Kyle

As a firefighter, he worked to save lives. But at age 21, Kyle Clay suffered an inoperable stroke. Motorcyclists from across the county came together to participate in a bike ride to raise funds to help cover his medical expenses.

Timothy Kyle Clay’s life changed dramatically on May 23, 2011. That was the day he suffered a bleed on his brain stem. Two days prior while at home, Kyle started experiencing numbness on the left side of his face and in his right hand. He brushed it off as most 21 year olds would. At work the next day as a firefighter/EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), Kyle was writing down an address he noticed his handwriting was really bad. He finished his shift and went home. The following day his driving was sporadic, so he called his mother.

“I am thinking this is not right,” said Kyle. “Something is wrong and I had better stop driving.”

After Barbara Clay got to her son, she immediately took him to the Gwinnett Clinic in Loganville. From the clinic Kyle was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens. Scans were done on Kyle’s brain. In looking at the results, bleeding mass area was discovered. The next day Kyle was taken to Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

“He never complained and he just has the nicest spirit about everything,” said Barbara Clay choking back tears as she recalls that painfully memorable day.

Upon arrival to Emory, Kyle was put in the Intensive Care Unit, ICU, and stayed there for two weeks. It was determined that Kyle’s particular brain stem bleed was a cavernous malformation. This is a rare condition that only occurs 120 times or less per year in the United States.

The area of this bleed, including Kyle’s case, occurs in what is known as the “high real estate” area of the brain.  Meaning no surgery can be done, making it inoperable, to repair or stop the bleeding. And currently there are no medicines which could be used to resolve this medical condition.  

Kyle lost his ability to walk, suffered hourly bouts of tremors, headaches, loss of short term memory, double vision and loss of speech. Much of Kyle’s abilities have returned, but he still has difficulties walking and remembering. To facilitate movement, Kyle uses a wheelchair to get around.

“My balance is still off, so when I walk I stumble and I get tired very easily and quickly,” said Kyle. “But I am doing much better and I am getting better pretty fast.” Kyle said a major milestone in the healing process is being able to move a pillow, something he could not do for months. From an early age Kyle has had a can-do attitude that has sustain him throughout this entire ordeal.

Kyle is a second generation firefighter/EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). He serves, for two years, with the Rockdale Fire Department, Station #5, West Hightower Trail. His father, Larry Clay, has worked for (Emergency Medical Services) for fifteen years, currently at Station #28 on Rosebud Road. And he also works for Walton County EMS at Station #14 outside of Monroe.  

Therefore, it was only befitting to start the  at Gwinnett’s Fire Station #5 on Cruse Road. Over 130 bikes, some with multiple riders, made the ride from the fire station to the American Legion Post 127 in Buford.

Sponsored by the Fire Dogs Motorcycle Club a non-profit organization started on April 4, 2004 by two firemen. One of Fire Dogs founders, Jim Tedder, who now belongs to the Iron Pigs Motorcyle Club, was a coordinator for the ride. Tedder has worked for the Gwinnett Fire Department for twenty three years.

For the past 12 years this ride has been held to benefit “Craig” a firefighter who is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease, fortunately he was able to get other funding as a source of income freeing up this event for Kyle.

“Usually in a ride for a firefighter, we get 40 percent firemen, 20 to 30 percent paramedics, peace officers, correction officers, military, EMTs, and then you’ll have 30 to 40 percent of citizens who want to participate, help to give back to the firefighters,” said Tedder. “We are going to raise some money, help out a firefighter and do some good.”

Beyond this ride, Tedder said the public can donate via telephone, email and mail. All proceeds collected from the ride’s registration, t-shirt sale and 50/50 Drawing will go to Kyle.

Lisa Ray, another coordinator said that in addition to the bikes, with an estimated 160 riders, there were 40 automobiles that followed the bikers. She said approximately 600 people attended the event, with the majority of the crowd gathering at the finish line at the American Legion.

At the end of the event Kyle, who got up from his wheelchair with assistance, walked and stood on the stage to receive a check in the amount of $6,375. Tedder estimated the amount will increase to about $9,000 total after all money from the ride has been collected and counted.     

“What I have learned in working with this group and volunteering for this event is how close knit these firefighters really are,” said Donna Smith, Kyle’s aunt. “Working on this event for someone that I love has truly been a labor of love.”

Kyle is continuing with rehab and his position is being held. Although doctors are not saying when Kyle will be able to return to his station, if his spirit and motivation is any indicator, it will not be long.

For more information on how to donate, contact Lisa Ray (678) 886-1352 or Jim Tedder at (770) 480-1212

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