Lindy Hydrick was looking forward to a rare lazy Sunday, a chance to recharge, when she got the call every parent fears.
“My mom called,” Hydrick recounted. “She said, ‘Get in the car. Get to Birmingham. Ty’s been in a crash, and they’re taking him there in a helicopter now.’”
Her 14-year-old son, Ty, was in a car that crashed into a tree near their hometown of Berry, a community more than an hour out of Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city. Both legs were broken, and Ty’s ankles were crushed. The injuries were devastating for anyone, but especially for Ty, a budding three-sport high school athlete.
Just weeks earlier, Lindy had lost her grandmother. Now, she was afraid she’d lose her youngest son. Ty had to be airlifted to Children’s of Alabama, one of the nation’s leading pediatric hospitals, for emergency surgery.
Forty-eight hours later, after 12 hours of surgery, Lindy had a chance to catch her breath. But only for a moment. Ty had two visitors who wanted to meet him: Former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy and ESPN/SEC Network personality Laura Rutledge.
For Ty, a University of Alabama fan, meeting the duo became an instant highlight. McElroy led Alabama to the 2009 national title, and Rutledge is a fixture across ESPN platforms, including hosting the Saturday pregame show, SEC Nation.
Rutledge, a University of Florida graduate, wasted no time talking Crimson Tide football with young Ty and seeing his eyes light up.
For both Rutledge and McElroy, the visit to Children’s of Alabama is an annual rite of passage leading into the Regions Tradition. Children’s is the major benefactor for the tournament on the PGA TOUR Champions schedule.
“This is incredibly important to me,” Rutledge said of the opportunity to visit patients and families. “Every time you leave here, you feel they’ve given you far more than you can ever give them in return.”
Before Sunday, the Hydricks knew little about Children’s of Alabama. Now, Lindy couldn’t imagine life without the doctors, nurses and personnel.
“The care here is unbelievable,” she said. “The love is felt throughout this hospital.”
And the best news of all? Doctors believe Ty has already begun to mend. “They told us he’ll be walking in two months,” Lindy added. “That’s a miracle.”
Ty’s recovery took an immediate upturn with Tuesday’s visit, Lindy said.
“Ty’s always been a huge Alabama fan, so meeting Greg is really big. He’s a role model to my child. And, being a mom, I’m especially appreciative that they give of their time like this.”
Of course, Ty wanted to talk football. McElroy, who has a show on the SEC Network and serves ESPN as a college football analyst, was happy to talk back.
“He started talking about the Clemson game,” McElroy said, referring to Alabama’s painful National Championship loss. “So I said, ‘Let’s change the subject. Let’s talk about how the team looks this year.’”
McElroy also gave him advice, telling him the accident would not define him.
“There are people outside this hospital, outside of Birmingham, who care about you,” McElroy said. “I’d never met Ty, but I care, Laura cares. And everyone at Children’s cares.
“Just do what you’re told, tackle rehab, and you’ll be back faster than you realized. Attitude is the biggest thing.”