Kendric and Kenyada Tyler are a couple of faith, something they are leaning a lot more on lately after a teen gunman left Kendric paralyzed from the neck down following a botched robbery attempt during their trip to Puerto Rico.
Kendric is currently at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, a rehabilitation center for people with spinal cord injury and other neuromuscular problems.
In remarkably good spirits despite his injury, he said he never thought that what was supposed to be a joyous outing on April 22 to celebrate his wife’s 32nd birthday and their one-year wedding anniversary would soon turn into a nightmare.
The 34-year-old Denmark native and his wife were enjoying life in Anchorage, Alaska, where she was employed as an event planner and he as a juvenile justice officer and counselor at McLaughlin Youth Center.
They had decided to go on a seven-day cruise before staying in Puerto Rico to enjoy the island’s sights and sounds. The couple were at a San Juan park in May when a 16-year-old walked up on them with a semiautomatic weapon demanding money. During a struggle with the gunman, Kendric was shot.
The couple's lives were forever altered from that point, but all is not lost, Kenyada said. Kendric is surrounded by doctors, nurses and patient care technicians in Atlanta, who have worked to help him regain his mobility. He is tentatively set to be discharged on July 10.
"They've been working with maintaining his flexibility because when he regains any type of movement, him being flexible is going to be very important ... . We've seen some advancement and had little moments of his fingers kind of moving a little bit," she said.
"Something may happen one day, and then it disappears and doesn't happen again. But, we're just faithful and hopeful that those movements are just a sign that one day they will work."
Kendric also remains hopeful that he will have a speedy recovery.
"I’m making it, staying prayed up and depending on the Lord. I’ve got family and friends; my wife, of course; and my brother, Andre,” he said, referring to the good friend he made shortly after moving to Alaska. He said he considers Andre a brother.
“I have my days. That’s the human side about it. It’s new. Just embracing the things that I have to do, the importance of it and how serious it is. As far as emotions, I’m strong with the help of the Lord and those who are surrounding me,” Kendric said.
The son of Nancy Washington and Clayton Tyler of Denmark, Kendric is a graduate of Denmark-Olar High School and Tusculum University in Tennessee. He is also a former corrections officer with the Orangeburg-Calhoun Regional Detention Center and the Barnwell County Detention Center.
He said he enjoys the visits he gets from his high school and college buddies, some of whom remind him of his prowess as a defensive lineman for the D-O High School football team.
“It’s a blessing,” Kendric said.
Kenyada said, “He’s had football coaches and players and all kinds of people from Denmark and South Carolina reach out to him and come visit him. So we’re definitely excited about coming back to South Carolina, if possible. We plan on having a huge bash, where we just invite everybody out ... and enjoy the fact that he’s still alive and here.”
Kendric said his family members in Denmark have also been a source of support.
“It’s been great. They’ve been able to do what they can when they’re able to … . Most have jobs and children but whenever they’re available, they come visit and show support. They call but, most importantly, I have my wife here and my brother, Andre,” he said. "And I’ve been surrounded by a lot of good doctors, nurses, PCTs and individuals ... I’ve worked with many years ago ... "
He said he does not harbor bitterness toward his attacker, who was caught soon after the attack.
“No, I’m not bitter. At times, I just think about how messed up it is. I’m used to doing things for myself, going to work, just getting up. Just simple things like eating, brushing your teeth, I have to wait for someone to do that. I have to say that I’ve grown a lot, and I thank God because I don’t hate the guy,” Kendric said.
“Actually, I pray for the young man and say, ‘Well, Lord, he’s in your hands. Whatever you want, let your will be done.’ I work with teens ... and I work with teens who have committed that exact crime and even more.”
Kenyada said she has gone through a myriad of emotions since the attack, but remains positive despite feeling overwhelmed sometimes.
"It's just devastating. It's really hard because you go from living a normal life and having plans and expectations, and then something like this happens and your whole world is just shaken apart. We have to give up everything,” she said.
"Although we know God can fix this situation, it still hurts … . The difficult thing that we're having right now is trying to find housing,” she added, noting that a handicapped-accessible vehicle is another need they have.
Kenyada said her husband’s “amazing” attitude has been a source of inspiration for her. She added that she plans to secure the best care for him possible because he will need 24-hour, seven-day-a-week care and "could literally get a pressure sore in four hours."
“When I’m discharged, I’ll be continuing the exercises and everything that I’ve learned from my occupational, physical and recreational therapists, along with some training that the nurses and PCTs have also taught and advised,” Kendric said.
Kenyada said her husband does have moments when he becomes overwhelmed.
"He has his moments when he cries and gets frustrated, and I try to not let him know a lot of the struggles that I'm going through because he has already enough on his plate," she said. "But it's just hard because people constantly say that there's resources out here, but I haven't found them."
She said she and her husband hope something good ultimately comes out of their ordeal.
“We’ve had tons of people write us and tell us that we’ve encouraged them to not give up on life, to just be better husbands, better wives. And, so we know that good is coming out of our tragic situation," Kenyada said. "We don’t know in entirety what it did, but we could have saved someone’s life who was thinking about committing suicide. I mean, who knows? We know that God is never going to put more on us than we can bear."
“The joy of the Lord is our strength,” she added.
The couple has set up a GoFundMe page to help with medical and other expenses at the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/the-tylers-medical-travel-expenses?pc=tw_dn_cpgnsharemore_r&rcid=r01-152529295651-d51bd8f7c4624f00.