Upcoming Events
  • Have a great summer, Coppell! Publishing resumes Aug. 14
The official student news site of Coppell High School

Coppell Student Media

The official student news site of Coppell High School

Coppell Student Media

The official student news site of Coppell High School

Coppell Student Media

Business Spectacle: Lilys Hair Studio (video)
Business Spectacle: Lily's Hair Studio (video)
October 26, 2023

    Stiff recovers from rare illness

    Photo by Regan Sullivan.

    By Christina Burke
    Managing Editor

    On July 7, senior Trevor Stiff brushed off his fatigue and headed off to his job waiting tables at St. Joseph’s Retirement Village, as usual. Approximately 24 hours later, Stiff’s summer was put on hold as he was engulfed by an critical case of encephalitis.

    Encephalitis is a swelling of the brain that does not always trigger with explanation. According to Trevor’s doctors, 70 percent of kids who come into the hospital with encephalitis never find out the true cause. Trevor now lives as a part of that statistic.

    “I had encephalitis, which is basically a fancy word for brain infection, but it was the highest level of it,” Stiff said. “Originally, they thought that this was caused by [West Nile Virus]. A week after getting out of the hospital, they discovered that it wasn’t West Nile, and even today they are still trying to figure out what happened.”

    Left to right: Trevor, Taylor, Roma and Paul Stiff reflect upon Trevor's experience with Encephalitis. Photo by Regan Sullivan.
    Left to right: Trevor, Taylor, Roma and Paul Stiff reflect upon Trevor’s experience with Encephalitis. Photo by Regan Sullivan.

    An escalating 104 degree fever overtook Stiff on July 8. The same day he would suffer a grand mal seizure, the most severe kind, in his parent’s bedroom. His sister, sophomore Taylor Stiff, comforted him while the seizure rode out. Trevor woke up three days later in the Intensive Care Unit of Children’s Hospital Dallas. The last thing he remembered was attending a doctor’s appointment the morning of his seizure.

    “It’s pretty funny, at the time the main thing I was concerned about was what happened, and was I still going on the mission trip next week,” Trevor said. “At that point, I had already accepted that I was there and that I needed to recover.”

    While Trevor, now conscious, faced his situation with a positive attitude, his parents Roma and Paul Stiff had been experiencing more heart-wrenching emotions leading up to the moment he opened his eyes and said “hi”.

    “The first two days were very, very difficult, given that Trevor was unresponsive,” Paul said. “He was incapacitated in a way in which we could not communicate with him. There was nothing we could do other than comfort him, listen to the doctors’ advice and take every moment of the day one by one.”

    Every moment Trevor spent unresponsive was another his parents spent worrying about his recovery. Doctors ran tests, but there was no way to tell how the encephalitis had impacted him until he woke up.

    “We didn’t know whether Trevor was really still with us all emotionally, physically, intellectually, we didn’t know whether Trevor was going to be Trevor because we didn’t know the trauma of the brain injury that occurred from the encephalitis,” Paul said.

    As parents, Roma and Paul were overwhelmed by the fact that Trevor’s healing was out of their hands. All they could do was wait and hope for the best.

    “For me, one of the biggest emotions was getting home and knowing this is bigger than you can handle as a parent,” Roma said. “You just have to give it to the doctors and give it to the nurses. You have to realize that you’re not in control. That’s when I reached out to the youth group.”

    Faith, family and friends played a big part in not only Trevor’s comeback, but also the Stiffs emotional healing as a family. Extended family flew in to look after Taylor, friends showed up to support Trevor at the hospital and the power of prayer proved itself worthy through Trevor’s remarkable recovery.

    “Basically, my story is a miracle story,” Trevor said. “I’m just incredibly lucky that everything turned out the way it did. It really was the best situation coming out of something like that. I’m very blessed when it comes to that.”

    CT scans and spinal taps were returned with good results. Trevor was on his way to a miraculous healing from a heinous infection with no visible long term damage to his memory or vital bodily functions.

    After spending seven days at the hospital recovering, Trevor was released to the comfort of his own home. Since then, his journey has been about rebuilding strength and making sure he would have a completely normal senior year. However, medical dilemmas such as encephalitis do not come without consequence.

    Trevor must prove to remain seizure free for six months before he is allowed to drive again, a major setback in the freedom of being a teenager. Besides that, he has start from scratch with cross country because his brain is hypersensitive as a result of the seizure. He hopes to build up enough stamina to compete in the last meet of the season.

    Up until about a week after his return home, Trevor’s doctors justified that his encephalitis was caused by a case of West Nile Virus. However, the Stiffs received an unexpected phone call from the hospital that contradicted their original findings.

    Although it appears that Trevor did in fact have West Nile in his system, it did not cause the encephalitis, and the investigation returned back to square one. Despite unanswered questions, the Stiffs plan to move on with their family and their healthy son.

    “We’d love to know what triggered the response, but I don’t spend a lot of time today worrying about that,” Paul said. “I spend my energy moving towards the more positive sides. He is with us today and acting like the Trevor we knew.”

    There is a possibility Trevor will find out what happened to him someday, but it will require a series of medical breakthroughs about the illness. Nonetheless, Trevor and his family are not giving up just yet.

    “Back in the early 2000s, [scientists] didn’t know anything about West Nile, they couldn’t explain it,” Trevor said. “So this illness that I got can be this new discovered illness that hopefully someday in the future we will know everything about. I probably won’t know what happened until later on in my life.”

    Trevor knows he has overcome a lot, but has decided not to dwell too heavily on his experience with encephalitis. Instead, he looks forward to a great senior year, as planned.

    “It’s always good to hang onto the story for memories sake, to know that you’ve been down one dark alley, but your back to where you were,” Trevor said. “But my goal is to go on like it never even happened.”

    View Comments (1)
    More to Discover

    Comments (1)

    All Coppell Student Media Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *