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Morgantown High School has parade for senior year student

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Article by: Jim Bissett, The Dominion Post

In life, you have to take what you get.

Which is often what you don’t want.

Accidents.

Illness.

Calamities of varying degree.

If you’re lucky, though — and it never feels that way, at first — you just might find a blessing bestowed in that basket of things you’d rather do without.

Because what you have to take, and what you choose to give, can be quite opposite in the proceedings.

Zyaire Woods happily found that out Wednesday morning at the stoop of his house in Star City, right in front of the wheelchair ramp his dad had built earlier.

A parade, a literal parade, was part of the proceedings on this day.

It was a caravan of 15 cars, with a police escort, no less — and it was all for the Morgantown High senior everybody knows as, “Zy.”

Horns blatted, the siren did its thing and Steve Blinco, the MHS civics teacher and track coach, most definitely did not use his inside voice to rise above the tumult.

“Hey, Zy!” he sang out.

“We love you, buddy! Way to go, Class of 2020! Mohigans!’

“That kid,” he said later.

“Everybody loves him. Everybody.”

‘Something’s going on with Zy’

Before the pandemic shut it all down, Zy was a fixture in the hallways and classrooms of the red-bricked school on Wilson Avenue.

He never missed Blinco’s Forensic and Legal Psychology class, custom-created by its teacher to demystify the legal process.

Nothing could demystify the actions of Zy’s classmates who chronically weren’t there for roll, the teacher said, opposed to the student and parade guest of honor who was.

“Never absent,” Blinco said.

“Zy was the one who could have had a million excuses, but he wanted to be there.”

Jerome Taylor knew where he needed to be when he got that frantic call four years ago.

Taylor, who is Zy’s father, was into his shift at Cracker Barrel in University Town Centre, where he works as a server.

A buddy had dropped by to water the plants and keep an eye out — Taylor’s a single dad — when it happened.

“You need to be home. Something’s going on with Zy.”

Taylor got there in minutes, but by then, Zy’s arm was numb and his garbled, slurred words were fading like a sunset.

“Zy was trying to talk to us,” his father remembered, “but he couldn’t get the words out.”

Then came the ambulance ride to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Then came the hushed wait in the ER.

Then came the surgery to reduce the swelling on the brain and the 30-day, medically induced coma that followed.

Then came Zy’s awakening into a world spilling over with harsh, “You have to take what you get,” realities.

His left leg and arm were paralyzed and his speech was gone.

So was his short-term memory.

Zy, who is now 19, suffered an ischemic stroke in his house that afternoon four years ago.

Meet the new kid

Kids can get hit with strokes too.

It’s rare, the American Stroke Association says, but it happens.

Even in newborns.

Between four and six of every 100,000 children from birth to 18 will be felled by such trauma, the association said.

“I had to get to know Zy all over again,” Taylor said.

“And we had to go from there.”

That means an ongoing regimin of therapies for motor and cognitive development, he said.
SteppingStones, the Chaplin Road facility that caters to children and adults with disabilities, is part of the future plan once COVID-19 clears.

There was no “future,” four years ago, Zy’s dad said.

There was only, “right now.”

Well, that and high school.

I know … right?’

Which, for young Zyaire Woods, was Morgantown High.

He worked hard at MHS with the help of teachers including Blinco and Kim McCarty.

McCarty was the chief organizer of Wednesday’s parade past his house.

Zy was a Mohigan with a computer set-up that helped him communicate.

He basically created, then refined, an adept, one-handed sign language vocabulary that pushed his personality out there even more.

Example: A finger-point to the chest, then the head, then an arm-sweep in a definite direction for the standard teen response: “I know, right?”

His trademark, klieg light smile required no introduction.

“Zy is bright and engaged,” McCarty said.

“He’s still in there. And that smile? Oh, boy.”

Of Snoop Dogg, cowboy hats and fishing trips

Bonnie Haught, an MHS aide who works with students who have all-encompassing circumstances such as Zy, was newly hired this school year.

She was immediately charmed by Zy’s smile, and his kind, gentle nature.

Haught quickly educated herself.

She learned about the stroke and where Zy had been.

The aide learned about all the measures required for his day-to-day, and that his food must be pureed.

She learned that she liked him, even if she wasn’t necessarily a fan of his music, she chuckled.

Taylor couldn’t help but laugh there, too.

“I can’t repeat the titles of a lot of what he listens to,” his father said, “but really he’s Old School at his heart. Snoop Dogg and Eazy-E.”

Zy may add some country music to the playlist after Haught takes him on that long-promised fishing trip this summer.

“I’m getting him a cowboy hat, too.”

She tried to wear a video director’s hat for the parade, but that was too much of an emotional challenge.

The idea was to put together a video collage of Zy’s senior year, but everytime she started it, the tears took over.

Maybe for the fishing excursion, she said.

“I’d meet him every day at the bus,” she remembered.

“I’d say, ‘Well, good morning, gorgeous. Did you miss me?’ Of course, he would shake his head no, but he’d be smiling the whole time.”

I know, right?

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