BY TOM BUSSELBERG
KAYSVILLE – Talk about making lemonade out of lemons.
Or, as Nate Davis likes to say, cocoa beans out of cocoa.
That doesn’t even give the tiniest clue as to why the Layton man reeived the top state recognition of “Beating the Odds” at the Utah Head Start Associations’ state awards ceremony Friday, Nov. 8.
The award recognizes the parent of Head Start students who “made tremendous gains despite extreme hardship.”
You start to feel bad for him when he tells you he used to work as a salesman for Hostess. Yes, he lost his job, but not because he was laid off like so many others.
As related in the award application, the now 35-year-old’s life was “turned upside down” starting in April of 2011.
“I had been having several recurring illnesses that we could not get under control. My doctor decided to do a biopsy of my kidney because it had begun to fail,” he wrote.
It was determined he had Lupus, an auto-immune disease where your immune system begins to attack your organs, affecting every one of the body’s organs, Nate wrote.
Back on the job only two hours, he started to feel a twinge of pain in his back and light-headed.
“The color went from my face, I started writhing and felt like I was going to faint,” he said. At the time, he was servicing a convenience store in downtown Ogden.
Nate was taken by ambulance to a hospital where they found he had severe internal bleeding on his kidney, as quoted in the application.’
“My blood platelet levels dropped drastically and I had to have transfusion after transfusion to maintain some sort of integrity to my blood,” he wrote.
Physicians decided on chemotherapy to shock his system into naturally producing platelets, but “that compromised by immune system further,” Nate wrote.
After being transferred to another hospital and ending up at the University of Utah hospital he contracted Bacterial Meningitis, he wrote.
“I had to now battle for my life with meningitis. I was placed in an induced coma for a week, and when I emerged I found I could no longer walk, talk or read.”
Following other complications and three months in the hospital, “I was slowly able to regain my speech and reading abilities,” Nate wrote.
In July of 2011 he went home, “bound to a wheelchair and walker,” beginning home rehabilitation, Nate wrote in the application.
He hoped to return to Hostess, but that was dashed by hearing loss, plus balancing difficulties and inability to tell where sounds came, among other problems, the now 35-year-old wrote.
“Ultimately I decided I needed to shift careers,”he said.
Rather than calling the need to change careers a hindrance, Nate considers it a blessing.
He firmly believes that because of his health condition, eligibility for disability made it possible for him to receive physical and vocational rehabilitation therapy. Financial help was made available to pursue a new career, he said.
Nate is completing training as a pharmacy technician at the Davis Applied Technology College.
“This is making it possible for me to be a productive member of society,” he said.
Nate’s wife, the former Emily Turner, a Bountiful High graduate, is able to pursue a degree in early childhood education at Weber State University.
That all ties back to Head Start, which Nate believes never would have entered the family’s sights for his two daughters, Marleigh, 5, and Sophie, 3.
“I’m an alumnus of Head Start. I was a Head Start child,” when he was growing up as a 4-year-old elsewhere, he said.
It was a family services worker who introduced the Davis family to Davis County’s full-time Head Start program, a relatively new option in Davis County, but an option now needed by the family, Nate said.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened for my girls. It’s awesome,” he said.
Head Start is a federally-funded program started in the 1960s. It initially involved 4-year-olds, and was intended to give those children from low and moderate-income households a ‘head start’ to prepare them for kindergarten, which usually is offered for 5-year-olds across the country.
Early Head Start now provides places for children up to age 4. The full-time program enables placement of children up to age 5, as is the case with the Davis’.
Parents are asked to help in their childs’ classroom, which Nate does. He also serves on parent advisory committees.
“Helping members of the community be productive, contributing members is what Head Start is all about. It’s the mission of Head Start,” said Judy Jackson, Davis County Head Start Director.
“His interaction with his children is outstanding. We’ve helped him and he’s helping us by helping his children in class,” she said.
“You can tell they (Nate and Emily), spend a lot of time with them. They are very advanced for their ages,” said Whitney Brewer, the girls’ Head Start teacher.
“Nate makes a lot happen that’s good in our classroom,” she added.
“It was a trial but kind’ve a blessing in disguise,” Nate said of his physical ordeal. “There are two ways you can take such a situation; with all the bitterness or sweetness Р like cocoa beans on a tree, or pick them and make chocolate out of them.”