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The coach’s son: Extremely rare disease challenges family

Posted: May 17, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: May 17, 2012 1:30 a.m.

The Moss family, from left, Kendra, Blake, 2, Garrick.

 

It’s been almost two years since Blake Moss’s last hospital stay.

But the memory is still burned into the minds of his parents Garrick and Kendra Moss.

Garrick, a longtime beloved football and baseball coach at Santa Clarita Christian School, still remembers the sleepless nights when he and his wife hoped and prayed their infant son would pull through.

He wondered if Blake would be able to fight a disease so rare, it even left doctors perplexed.

“We think it’s a miracle to take him through this,” Garrick says, “and he opened his eyes, and it was just amazing.”

Blake, who turned 2 last November, is now in stable condition. He still requires day-to-day medication and needs special equipment to treat his condition, which is a genetic disorder that combines diabetes and epilepsy.

On Friday, the Chick-fil-A restaurant on Magic Mountain Parkway in Valencia is hosting a charity event to help offset some of the medical costs associated with Blake’s treatment.

The event takes place from 6-9 p.m., and will include games, music, food and raffles. A portion of the restaurant’s sales will be donated to the Moss family.

“It’s really cool just to see how many families the Moss’ have really impacted because so many people are just donating,” says Leticia Pena, a former SCCS athlete and close friend of the Moss family.

She was one of several people who jumped at the opportunity to help out the Moss family when she heard Blake’s story.

The diagnosis
Blake Moss was born Nov. 21, 2009, the fourth of Garrick and Kendra’s kids.

By the time Blake was four months old, problems started emerging.

First, it was just slow physical development and off-the-charts high blood sugar.

The initial diagnosis was Type 1 diabetes — nearly unheard of for a child his age.

But as doctors conducted more tests, it became apparent that Blake was suffering from something more severe.

The first of the hospital visits occurred in April and May, right in the middle of baseball season for Garrick.

It was a constant balance between the two.

“If there was ever a question, he wouldn’t go (to games),” Kendra says of her husband. “If (Blake) was fine, I didn’t see a need for us both to be home when he could be out there coaching. I even think that for (Garrick), to have a little bit of time was good.”

As the summer came, Blake’s condition worsened. He was having seizures and spasms that doctors couldn’t explain.

In late June, he was diagnosed with Developmental Delay, Epilepsy and Neonatal Diabetes.
Doctors at UCLA Medical Center told Garrick and Kendra it was one of seven documented cases of the disease.

It all took a turn for the worse one night when Blake had an episode so bad, it left him unable to breath.

“By this point, Kendra was freaking out,” Garrick says. “Immediately, I started doing everything I was taught in CPR. In all the training I’d had coaching sports, I did all the CPR I knew.”

Part of a community
Since 1997, when Garrick first arrived at SCCS, he’s served as a coach, a teacher an athletic director and, for a short time, a bus driver for school field trips and team road trips.

He was athletic director from 1998-2005. He’s been head football coach since 2003 and baseball coach since the program’s inaugural season in 2000.

During that time, Garrick guided the football teams to two 8-man CIF championships in 2008 and 2009 while also leading the baseball team to a CIF title in 2004 — one of only two CIF baseball championships in this valley’s storied history in the sport.

Over the years, Garrick has become much more than an athletic leader on campus. He’s a face, a role model and a mainstay at SCCS and around the community.

“There’s a big difference between having a coach and having a program when you have the emphasis on people,” says SCCS Principal Derek Swales. “The players are not only developing themselves as athletes, but being developed for life skills.”

In all his years of guiding young men and women through the trials and triumphs of athletics, nothing could have prepared Garrick for what he went through with his son that summer.

“As a coach, you’re always trying to get your kids equipped and trained for the next season and just really trying to get the kids ready,” Garrick says. “And now, I just really see this as another challenge.”

Late-night alarm
It was late at night when Garrick and Kendra made the 911 call. Blake still wasn’t breathing and he had fallen unconscious.

He was airlifted from Sierra Vista Junior High to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at UCLA.

Blake was treated for pneumonia and given various steroids and breathing treatments before being sent home a few days later.

The seizures continued for the weeks to follow, finally building to the most frightening seven days for Garrick and Kendra.

After another severe incident, Blake was taken back to the intensive care unit in July, when he spent a week in a coma-like state.

As the days slowly went by and doctors scrambled to find answers, Garrick and Kendra hardly ever left their son’s side.

Fellow SCCS families volunteered to take care of their three older kids Jacob, Kaleigh and Chase and they helped clean the house and bought groceries.

“We’re just humbled to know that many people want to help,” Garrick says. “We just love the guy. He’s just such a blessing. We just can’t wait to see how God is going to use the guy for his purpose.”

The long week in July mercifully ended. Blake opened his eyes.

Though he was awake, Blake had to remain in the hospital for what turned out to be 39 days.

He was released in late August, just in time for the start of football season.

It was his last stay since, and his last serious incident.

Road to recovery
Right now, Blake is physically and mentally at the stage of about a 6-month old.

It’s a long road ahead to recovery.

Due to the rarity of the disorder, doctors aren’t certain what the future holds for Blake.

Garrick and Kendra still have to give him daily insulin shots to regulate his blood sugar and he receives frequent breathing treatments and physical therapy.

“I see them in the day to day and how they act in public is how they act at home,” says Pena, who recently earned her degree in physical therapy. “It can be overwhelming at times, but they just always keep going.”

Pena played volleyball, basketball and soccer at SCCS and she was named Female Athlete of the Year her senior year in 2003.

Her younger brother Orlando played football for Garrick.

The two of them were among a long list of athletes before and after to pass through SCCS and feel the positive influence of coach Moss.

He also teaches PE classes, a bible class and he serves as the youth director at the church affiliated with the school.

“He’s really developed a culture and program where kids love Santa Clarita Christian School and Garrick Moss after football season is over and after graduation,” Swales says.

The sphere of influence has grown to massive proportions in the past decade and a half.

In one way or another, Garrick Moss has helped improve the lives of countless athletes, students and colleagues.

This week, at Blake’s charity event, it’s finally a chance for all those people to give something back.

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