(WJBK) - A young man named Tyler has faced many challenges, including almost dying, but because of his family, his doctors, his teachers and his community he's thriving.
His verbal communication is limited, but those who are close to Tyler Krueger understand him perfectly.
Spend 5 minutes with Tyler at his Lake Orion School and you can't help but see that he brings out the best in people.
He's part of the adult transition program for students with developmental disabilities.
What you don't notice is the heart pump that is keeping him alive.
"He had so many scares in the hospital that we were afraid we were gonna lose him," Lake Orion teacher Lisa Oja said.
Born with the genetic condition Down syndrome, Tyler's family knew there would be struggles, but he thrived.
As a boy, he was unstoppable on the track in Special Olympics, and his family watched him blossom.
"He's at my side almost all the time, whether it's working in the yard or hunting. He really loves to stay active, both in church and with the family, with his job, in school. You know -- he's a very people person," said his father, Buster Krueger.
About a year ago, that all changed.
Suddenly Tyler was very sick.
"We thought it was the flu for the longest time, and so we went to one hospital and they referred us to Henry Ford, thinking that it was his liver, but turned out it was his heart," Buster said.
His heart was failing, and the prognosis was grim.
"It was probably a virus that affected his heart and it got so weak that it couldn't pump the blood out to the body any more like it should be," said Dr. Christina Tita, a cardiologist at Henry Ford Hospital.
"He really had low quality of life at that point because his symptoms were so extreme," said Dr. Jennifer Blake of DMC Children's Hospital of Michigan.
Helping Tyler meant two hospitals coming together -- the Children's Hospital of Michigan, where pediatric doctors have a better grasp of dealing with Down Syndrome, and the cardiologists at Henry Ford Hospital, who understand advanced heart failure.
It was quickly determined Tyler's heart was so weak, only a pump called the lvad could keep him alive.
"He actually had five surgeries at the time, five open heart surgeries ... He was very weak at first when he got the lvad , but if he didn't get it, he wouldn't be here," Buster said.
And now, Tyler is back, after a conspicuous absence.
"When he was gone, we all missed him" said his friend Jackie.
What's remarkable is how so many people are working to make sure Tyler's heart is pumping.
You might spot him on the job at the Home Goods in Lake Orion or Costco in Auburn Hills.
If so, say hi to Tyler, and guaranteed, he'll make you smile.