More than ten years ago, Army medic Bill Kohler had a tough time adjusting to life after returning home from Iraq in 2006 after having been hit by a roadside bomb.
Kohler spent 17 years in the military and had a drinking problem upon returning.
Everything changed for Kohler when his son, Ayden, was born on February 13, 2007.
“He saved me,” Kohler told People. “One night he was lying on my chest, his tongue kinda clucking, and I just felt his warmth.”
“In the corner there was this light shining and it was dark in the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit],” he added. “I felt this warmth and this light and I thought, ‘This is like people from the war that didn’t make it telling me I gotta do something.’ I just felt like this weight lifted off of me.”
In August 2016, everything changed for Bill Kohler and his son.
In the middle of football practice, Ayden collapsed. He was taken to the hospital and was told that he had a concussion. However, after some verbal and motor skills began to deteriorate, doctors found two tumors in his brain – one in his cerebellum and the other in his brain stem.
Doctors told Bill that Ayden only had eight months to a year to live.
For the next several months, his family focused on finding a clinical trial at beating diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) as well as getting him traditional treatment at Johns Hopkins University.
“I was a medic in the war, you know, and you fix things,” Kohler told the Associated Press. “And this was something I couldn’t even touch.”
After being told there was nothing that could be done, Bill focused on helping Ayden enjoy the time he has left.
“Whatever he wants, we just do,” Kohler told People. “I’m trying to fit a lifetime of memories into whatever time he has left.”
The community rallied behind Kohler to help create special memories for Ayden.
The “Ayden’s Army” website and “4Ayden Strong” Facebook page was set up to help chronicle everything that has happened in the past several months to Ayden. A GoFundMe account for Ayden has raised nearly $115,000 as of Wednesday.
Ayden’s social worker helped him create a wish book, which has guided Bill in finding out what his son dreams of having.
Ayden has gone on a fishing trip to Florida and has been a special guest of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Penn State basketball team. He also talked with chef Guy Fieri.
In March, they have plans to see WWE matches in Hershey and a Wizards basketball game. Ayden will get to see C-130 transport aircraft at a nearby Army base this week and hold a bear cub.
“Everybody’s doing so much for us across the nation,” Kohler said. “It’s been overwhelming and I couldn’t reach out to everybody but I just want to say how grateful I am to everyone for all the support.”
After returning home from archery practice one day, Ayden asked his father, “What if I don’t get better and die?” Kohler told the Associated Press.
“No matter how this turns out, son, I will be by your side,” Kohler said. “The whole way.”