Scott Viands wanted to stay by his 8-year-old son’s side. He’d signed up for the NCR Marathon in Baltimore to accompany Nate during his first marathon.
But they went out much faster than anticipated. Too fast. The sub-eight-minute clip took its toll quickly and Viands found himself in trouble soon after they started.
Nate, however, looked strong. His stride fluid, his mind in the zone. He knew his dad, a seasoned ultra runner, was struggling to chase after him, but he couldn’t help but want to move, farther, faster than either of them anticipated.
Viands watched his son’s heels motoring forward with the “why did I sign up for this” blues ringing in his head.
Nate’s mom, Danielle, would not be happy if the two separated, but that was essentially what was happening by mile eight. Nate would run ahead of his dad, meet his mom at the aid station to refuel, and when dad caught up, keep going. The gap increased with every aid station.
Eventually, Viands made a decision. With his father’s blessing, Nate left his dad in the dust.
“He just took off,” Viands says. “Every once in a while at an aid station, I’d ask, ‘Did you see a little guy come through?’” and they’d be like, ‘yeah, he’s 10 minutes ahead of you.’”
Even though dad was out of sight, his mother still stopped him at every aid station to fuel. She knows he didn’t want to stop long, but she worried.
“I was slowing him down at aid stations, telling him to pace himself and wait for my husband,” Danielle says. “Honestly, he probably could have gone even faster.”
Nate’s parents never wanted to slow him down, not in any part of his life. This was a decision they made three-and-half years earlier at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. At the time, Nate wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on. His parents had a difficult time understanding themselves. All they knew was they would make sure Nate lived life as a normal kid.
The call came when the Viands were on vacation. Nate, a month shy of turning four, was left in his grandmother’s care. Scott remembers his mother’s voice shaking when she got them on the line. “Something’s wrong,” she said. “Nate’s not well.”
Nate had symptoms prior to the vacation, but they had shown up gradually, so the family thought little of it. But grandma hadn’t seen Nate in a while, so when she saw Nate’s symptoms of dark circles under his eyes, paleness, bruising, fatigue, nosebleeds and low-grade fevers, it was a dramatic change. They returned home, went to the emergency room, and relayed the gradual progression of his apparent illnesses.
Viands thinks Nate’s doctor had suspicions of Nate’s prognosis from the beginning. Tests were ordered directly, and the results came back the same day. With those in the medical experts’ hands, the doctors advised the Viands to head to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as soon as possible.