Collinsville Firefighter Honored for Being “Hero” to 4-year-old Boy
Article & attached photo courtesy of Roger Starkey - Metro Independent
When Captain Dusty Katich received a call this spring to request he give a tour of the Collinsville Fire station, he soon discovered that it was no ordinary request. “They said, ‘there are two things. they are outside right now and the little boy is blind,’” Katich said.
The little boy is 4-year-old Luke McKeon, of St. Charles, Mo. Luke was born without a right eye, a condition known as Anophthalmia, and with Microphthalmia (an abnormally small eye) in his left eye.
Luke’s mom, Collinsville native Eileen McKeon, estimates that he has had 42 surgeries for eye and other conditions. When he was about 3 1/2, the family decided to stop the frequent eye surgeries that had allowed him to see much of his life, but also required him to be under anesthesia frequently. “He has such a sharp mind, we didn’t want to take any chances,” McKeon said.
The family knew that the surgeries were only a short-term fix and Luke would lose vision at some point. “We thought he would miss his vision, but he just adapted. He is a pretty amazing kid,” McKeon said. Luke continues to wear goggles to protect his eye in case another treatment option becomes available in the future.
Katich assumed the role of Captain Stanley during the tour for Luke, his twin sister Katie and their aunt, Kristina Forneris. Captain Stanley is a character McKeon created while telling her son stories of fire departments.
The family came away from the tour impressed with Katich’s verbal descriptions, hands-on touch and interactions. Katich was impressed with how the spirited 4-year-old perceived items from the firehouse.
“One of the neat things he thought about the firehouse was how tall the tires on the fire trucks are. I had never seen a kid do that,” Katich said. “It was neat seeing things the way he saw them.”
After the tour, Katich had been thinking about doing something for Luke, when he saw a news story about Kaitlyn Hall, of Collinsville, who competed in the National Braille Challenge this summer, her second time competing in the event. Katich contacted Hall, who wrote a letter to Luke in Braille.
The letter to Luke was enclosed with a letter to Kristina, explaining that Katich hoped receiving a letter in Braille would help inspire Luke as he learned the writing system. Keeping in character, the letter to Luke was written from Captain Stanley and invited the 4-year-old back to the station to squirt a fire hose.
The letter and Katich’s kindness during the tour touched McKeon, who nominated him for the Paul Miller Business Associate of the Month award, given to someone who provides outstanding service.
“He captures all of that human kindness that you look for every day,” McKeon said of the December Paul Miller Business Associate of the Month award winner.
At the award ceremony on Dec. 12, the McKeon family presented Katich with a fire hat that reads “Luke’s hero, Captain Dusty, also known as Captain Stanley from the Collinsville Fire Department.”
**See more at: http://metroindependent.com/2013/12/17/collinsville-firefighter-honored-for-being-hero-to-4-year-old-boy/2948/#sthash.3PQaoL2K.dpuf