With A Name Like Ace, Putting Others First Comes Naturally

December 22, 2016 - Park Cities News

SMU grad’s family shares story on “Christmas is for Children” Radiothon

Even at age 7 Ace Shelton had a strong tendency to think of others.

“That’s always been his thing,” Ace’s father, Tony Shelton, said. “If he saw someone, such as a homeless person or someone whose car was stalled he would say, ‘You gotta pull over and help them.’ ”

So Mr. Shelton was moved to tears to see his son thinking of others even when he was seriously ill with pneumonia. He woke up on Christmas morning and didn’t want to open his gifts. His parents knew something was seriously wrong and rushed him to the Children’s Medical Center emergency room.

During one of the worst moment of his weeks-long sickness, doctors at Children’s Medical Center Dallas were trying to put an oxygen mask on Ace’s face, but Ace was deathly afraid of it. A group of doctors and nurses stood over him trying to put the oxygen mask in place when he suddenly stopped struggling and said, “I don’t want to do it, but I want to make you guys happy.”

“It hit me the hardest. Even through all of that commotion he was trying to make people happy,” said Mr. Shelton, who graduated from Southern Methodist University with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1996.

Ace and his father were one of more than two dozen families who shared their stories at the Christmas is for Children Radiothon Dec. 8 and 9. This year’s Radiothon set a new record, raising more than $1.26 million for Children’s Health.

Ace Shelton with his father, Tony, at the Radiothon.

In partnership with Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals, CBS Radio DFW broadcast live from Children’s Medical Center Dallas on 98.7 KLUV, La GRANDE 107.5 FM and NewsRadio 1080 KRLD.

Ace’s grueling fight with pneumonia ended in generosity for others. In addition to helping with the Radiothon, the family led a toy drive and eventually brought more than 500 toys and iTunes gift cards to Children’s Health.

When Ace was hospitalized, he needed eight different types of drugs, a peripherally inserted central catheter, a tube going into his mouth, a tracheostomy tube and three punctures in his rib cage to drain fluids.

Doctors hooked him up to different machines to improve his breathing until having to try the last machine of last resort, an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation machine that takes over the work of the lungs.

Mr. Shelton said it was unsettling to watch the machine make his son’s chest plunge and heave, but it seemed to help a little.

“He was progressing, but it was so slow that it seemed it could easily dip back,” he said.

The medical team decided to step it up a bit, to make the machine work harder for Ace and pump fluid out of his lungs.

“The next day he started making bigger gains,” Mr. Shelton said.

Ace, now a third grader, said he could remember very little of this ordeal.

“I did see the funny clowns,” he said, recalling one of the few memories of his hospitalization. “They brought a balloon in, and that’s all I remember except for poofy hair that was colorful, a red nose and big-size boots.”

As he recovered, Ace said he could remember more, watching TV and playing video games. His mother could not be at the hospital very often because she was pregnant, but his father was always there. One day, toward the end of his hospital stay, his father told him not all parents were lucky to have a job like his, a job that would let him leave for long periods of time to be with his son at the hospital.

It sank in that some children are sometimes alone at the hospital. He said to his father, “Well, what can we do? Can we give them toys to play with? Can we give them things to do? Because that helped me out a lot. I want to give them toys. I want to give them games.”

When the time came to leave he struggled to walk again.

“I had to walk,” Ace said. “I didn’t want to, but I did it.”

He struggled with each step, but only cried when he looked up and saw his dad crying.

Next Ace was back to school. By this time he was eager, even insistent, that he get out of the wheelchair that doctors said was necessary for at least a week.

Soon his lungs and legs were pumping as strong as ever – and so was his tendency to think of others. He remembered his wish to get toys and games for other patients at Children’s, and soon they had collected more than 500 toys.

“For him to come here and do what he wanted to do to help other kids out that were in similar situations was a proud moment; it was a very proud moment,” Mr. Shelton said. “He’s not just thinking of himself. He wants everyone to be happy.”


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