Tyler Sparkes

Tyler Sparkes

Rick reminds us to turn the obstacles we face into something good

Tyler, from Fredericton New Brunswick, was a keen sportsman, playing hockey, soccer, volleyball and basketball.

In September 2009 he was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia and spent 3 long months in the children’s hospital in Halifax, 500km away from home. Doctors told him it was too risky to play sports and he felt like his life was over.
Today Tyler is doing well, back in school and playing sport again. Just like Rick Hansen, he has shown many people in his community that sometimes we are faced with roadblocks, but that with determination and courage we can get over the hurdles that life gives us. Tyler is an inspiration to friends, family, team mates and his community, and was nominated as a medal bearer for the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay in recognition of his determination and courage.

While under treatment Tyler had many reactions to medication. He has since volunteered to give his DNA to research so that young people in the future will not have to have the same reactions.

We talk to Tyler about his experiences and how he has learnt never to let things get him down.

You've met Rick Hansen a couple of times. What do you think of his story?

When I read about Rick I thought "Wow, he is pretty amazing to overcome his injury and turn it around and do so much for other people." His story made me realize that good can come from anything.

Rick is still very relevant to young people today.  His story reminds me a bit of my own because when I was lying in hospital I too thought my life was over and that I wouldn't be able to do all the things I loved to do. Rick took a tragic event in his life and turned it around so that life could be better for other people. I know that I also have to take the obstacles I have faced and turn them into something good.

When I met Rick in person he was very kind and caring. He is an amazing role model.

How did you feel taking part in the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay?

Taking part in the Relay was an amazing experience of a life time, which I will never forget. Wearing the medal that was being carried from coast to coast by so many Canadians with their own unique stories made me feel pretty special and reinforced to me thatI need to take my illness and turn it into something good.

Who particularly supported, motivated and inspired you when you were ill and recovering?

My mom and my sport coaches motivated me to keep trying no matter what, to get up and get back into sports, and to put everything behind me and move on with life.

How did you overcome the obstacles that you faced along the way?

My biggest obstacles came when I first got sick. I was a die-hard hockey player and I was so upset that I might never get to play hockey ever again. This news bothered me more than being sick because the doctors told me my blood counts might never come back to safe levels for contact sports.

After two rounds of chemotherapy my bone marrow responded, my counts were safe and I was healthy enough to go back to hockey.

That year I made my AA hockey team and went on to receive an award for perseverance and dedication to hockey.

What has been the biggest lesson you have learnt from your experiences?

The biggest lesson I learned is to never let something get you down because everything could always be worse than it is.

What advice would you give to other young people in your position?

Live your life to the fullest, and never take stuff for granted because everything can be taken away in a matter of seconds.

These big things are just small bumps in your life that will make you a better person in the long run.

What are you doing now and what do you want to do in the future? Have your experiences influenced those choices?

I am still in high school as I missed a full year of studies when I was sick. I am back in sports again playing volleyball on my high school team. I am also helping coach the middle school boys' volleyball team.

I believe I am a different person because of my experiences and probably look at the world much differently than I would have if I had not gone through my illness.

I am undecided on my future plans, but know now that I like to work with others and make them feel better about themselves. There are so many kind and generous people who helped me and I would like to do the same for others in whatever career I choose.

We congratulate Tyler on overcoming challenges with courage and determination, and hope his story inspires others to turn the obstacles in their lives into something good.

The Rick Hansen Difference Maker Program empowers young people to make positive change in their communities.

Click here to find out more about the Program.

Read more stories of inspirational young Difference Makers here.