At 10, Thrash was put into the foster care system. At 11 he was taken to a center for children with disabilities and not expected to live to see his 13th birthday. And now at 31, Thrash has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer doctors said will kill him in a matter of months.
So when Freddy expressed a desire to ride in a motorcycle, his church family jumped to help him fulfill his dream, a task far easier said than done. That’s because Freddy has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a disorder caused by a mutation in the dystrophin gene, which has resulted in him being wheelchair bound for most of his life.
Shortly after Freddy was diagnosed with cancer, he shared one of his bucket list wishes with Conway Avenue Baptist Church’s youth pastor Jeff Vaughn. It was to ride with the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club, of which he is an honorary member. That was when Vaughn got the ball rolling on an event he named Freddy’s Dream Ride.
“I was talking to Freddy and I asked him what he would like to accomplish in his life before he passes away and he said, ‘I’d like to go riding with my club,’” Vaughn shared. “So I took it upon myself to do what I could to make this happen by finding a bike with a sidecar for Freddy to ride in. We talked about this at church and then I went home to pray about it. I then put a post on Facebook asking for a sidecar for a friend of mine and it just blew up from there with 30–40 people contacting me from all over South Texas.”
Vaughn was amazed at how quickly word spread about an event that began as a simple wish to ride a motorcycle and how people were going out of their way to make this wish come true even though many of them had never even met Freddy.
“It was practically an overnight thing,” Vaughn said. “Before we knew, it we had three chapters of the Blue Knights in addition to other clubs such as La Famila, Los Carnales and Bikers for Christ all commit to participate in the ride.”
In all, 95 bikes and 125 people met at Desperado Harley Davidson in McAllen on a Sunday morning to ride with Freddy to South Padre Island.
“Freddy had a wonderful time,” Vaughn said. “When I got home I received a call from Dianne (Freddy’s mom) and she told me that Freddy told her that it was probably one of the best days of his entire life.”
Freddy finds a home
Born July 3, 1982, in Corpus Christi, Freddy and his four siblings were taken out of a less than ideal home situation and placed into the foster care system by Child Protective Services. After being placed in one foster home after another, CPS placed then 11-year-old Freddy in the Hughen Center for children and adults with physical disabilities in Port Arthur, Texas. That was where, as one of Freddy’s former foster parents Laura Lindley of Mission explained, he was taken to die as he was not expected to live to see his thirteenth birthday.
“We were foster parents and we were approached about taking Freddy when he was 10 years old,” Lindley said. “We kept him for a year and a half before CPS sent him to a home for unwanted and dying children in Port Arthur. At that time he was given a year to live.”
During his stay with the Lindley family, Freddy made quite an impression on most of the members of the congregation at Conway Avenue Baptist Church, the Lindleys’ home church. But there was one woman in particular who took to Freddy in a very special way. A woman who was well aware of the devastating effects DMD has on young boys and their families because she lived through the deaths of two of her husband’s three sons taken by DMD during their teen years.
Mission resident Dianne Thrash started going to church with friend Virginia Gillman, but her husband, Rick, would not go at that time. That’s when she first met Freddy; he was sitting in his wheelchair in the church breezeway.
“I was drawn to him because Rick had lost his three sons to muscular dystrophy at the ages of 14, 15 and 16,” Dianne Thrash said. “As a result I wasn’t sure if I wanted Rick to meet Freddy because I didn’t know what feelings it might bring out in him, but once he met Freddy, he took to him right away too.”
Soon after Freddy was placed in the Hughen Center the Thrashes decided that they wanted to adopt him. The adoption process became complicated when Rick was diagnosed with lung cancer, but he and Dianne were determined to make Freddy their son so they continued filling out the paperwork and taking the classes necessary to complete the two year long process.
The Thrashes took Freddy into their home during those two years not knowing if he would live to see the day that they would become his parents. That was 19 years ago, next month. While Rick did survive his bout with cancer, he did not survive the Lewy Body Dementia that robbed him of his mental capacities over the past few years and led to his passing this April.
Thanks to the excellent care Rick and Diane provided Freddy over the last 19 years, he has long surpassed the average life expectancy of those afflicted with DMD. However, Freddy was recently diagnosed with another medical condition that is life-threatening
“In about mid-June, Freddy started having problems with his teeth, so I took him to the dentist,” Dianne Thrash said. “The dentist referred him to an oral surgeon to have some of his teeth removed. I took him to see Dr. Gary Schwartz, who took 10 of his teeth out. Freddy came through that with flying colors, but Dr. Schwartz saw something that just didn’t look right so he did a biopsy. A week later we got the results back and it was malignant.”
“We were devastated by the news,” expressed Freddy’s mother. “The tumor is on the maxilla (upper jaw) on the right hand side and it’s called Osteosarcoma. It’s a bone disease, which is actually on the bone under his eye. It’s a vicious killer of children and is one of the worst types of cancer.”
Freddy’s tumor was growing so fast that Dianne took him to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas as soon as she received clearance from his doctors. That’s where she and Freddy received the kind of news nobody ever wants to receive.
“The doctors at Baylor gave Freddy four months to live if he doesn’t have surgery,” Thrash said. “If he does have surgery, however, they will have to lay the whole side of his face back, take the tumor out, take the roof of his mouth out, take the bone of his eye out which will cause him to lose his eye because there’s no support for it. He will then have to have grafts taken from his thigh or his stomach into the roof of his mouth, which might not take. Even with all that, they were only giving him an additional eight months to live, so we decided against the surgery and brought him home.”
According to his mom, Freddy will be undergoing radiation treatments five days a week for eight to ten weeks in hopes of shrinking or possibly eliminating the tumor. While she realizes that the odds are against the cancer being eliminated completely, she has seen him beat the odds for the past 19 years.
When it comes to Freddy, she knows that anything is possible.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.