By GAIL WHITE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
WELVE DAYS BEFORE DUSTIN KERYAN, a 21-year-old from Hubbard, was going to propose to his girlfriend of four years, he woke up and stumbled down the stairs from his bedroom, holding the walls on both sides.
He had been being treated for a sinus infection since December but the symptoms only seemed to be getting worse. For a week he had awakened every morning, dizzy and vomiting.
This morning, his mother, Debbie, found him staggering down the stairs and determined her son needed immediate medical attention. She took him to the emergency room. It was Monday, May 31, 2004 -- Memorial Day.
Doctors did a CAT scan of Dustin's brain and found a mass.
"That didn't alarm me," Debbie remembered. "I just thought it was something that would be taken care of."
June 1, an MRI was done on Dustin.
"They told us he had a brain tumor," Debbie said, tears filling her eyes as she remembers the moment.
June 2, Dustin had brain surgery at The Cleveland Clinic. Bleeding and swelling hindered his recovery. He suffered a brain stroke from a blood clot that had formed.
"We never left his side," Debbie said in explaining the constant vigil she, her husband and two other children kept. "I couldn't leave him."
June 12, the day Dustin had planned on proposing to his girlfriend, he had still not awoken from his surgery.
The following week, the doctor told the Keryan family that he didn't think Dustin would wake up.
July 5, Dustin died from complications from his surgery.
From her loss, a mission
"I want to keep his name alive, find a continuing purpose for his life and hopefully find a cure for these terrible, terrible brain tumors," Debbie said in sharing the ache in her heart that has become a life-mission.
"I chose a couple of different shirts that represented special moments spent with Dustin and created a bear from each," Debbie said. She calls her creations Memory Bears.
An avid Cleveland Browns fan, Debbie turned Dustin's favorite team fleece jacket into a bear. An outfit he wore as a baby was made into a shiny, blue bear. A shirt Dustin wore for his graduation picture became a bear.
"I found two matching shirts in his room," Debbie recalls. "Dustin and his girlfriend were going to wear them when they got engaged."
Debbie gave Dustin's future fianc & eacute;e her shirt and made her a bear out of Dustin's shirt.
Seeing the comfort each bear brought to the members of her family, Debbie began making bears for others who had suffered a loss.
Today, DK designs Memory Bears that are being shipped across the country.
"Every story is different," Debbie said, as she flips through a photo album of the Memory Bears she has created. She takes a picture of every one.
Reaching out to others
For Debbie, the comfort her creations bring to others helps her grieving heart, but her Memory Bears are also helping to ensure that other parents don't have to endure her heartache.
"After Dustin died, I tried to find out as much as I could about this tumor that took his life," she said.
Her information led her to Duke University.
"The Brain Tumor Center [at Duke] conducts more groundbreaking research and provides more innovative treatment than any other center in the world," Debbie said.
A fund has been set up in Dustin's name and a portion of the proceeds from every Memory Bear goes to the Brain Tumor Center at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.
XFor more information about Memory Bears, go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (330) 534-6150.