NORWALK, Conn. – After splattered grease from a kitchen accident ripped flesh from his legs and left hand and arm, Marvin Tyler was determined to return to teaching tennis. The owner of Norwalk-based Slammer Tennis World credits that positive outlook for helping him get back on the court sooner than doctors ever expected.
“I didn’t know if I’d be able to use my left hand again or not,’’ Tyler said. “I knew I’d find a way to teach tennis again. I told everyone, 'I’m down, but I’m not out.'”
Doctors from Yale-New Haven Hospital who work at the Bridgeport Hospital Burn unit, where Tyler was rushed after the July 2 accident, were impressed by his determination and upbeat attitude.
The accident occurred when Tyler was cooking a late night snack while wearing shorts. He noticed smoke and grabbed the pot handle, without realizing how hot it had gotten. He dropped it quickly, and grease splattered on his legs and left hand and arm, which he used reflexively to cover his face.
Paramedics rushed him to Norwalk Hospital and then to the Bridgeport Hospital Burn unit. He stayed at Bridgeport for two weeks. After he was discharged, he made regular visits to the Bridgeport Wound Care Center. He had a skin graft on his left arm with flesh from his left leg.
Tyler had to learn how to walk again because of the severity of the burns on both of his legs. Despite intense pain, Tyler followed doctors' orders and walked every night on his own.
Norwalk Recreation and Parks Director Mike Mocciae was the first person to visit him at the Bridgeport Hospital Burn unit. “I’ll never forget that,’’ Tyler said. “He’s helped me a lot with my programs in Norwalk. The whole support from the Norwalk community was special."
His wife and children assisted in his recovery. Friends and family from Emporia, Va., his native town, offered support along with members of the tennis community as he spent the rest of the summer recuperating inside his Norwalk home.
“I had my employees run the camps and the evening and Saturday tennis programs,’’ said Tyler, a certified teaching professional who also runs camps in Stamford and New Canaan. “I got back on the court in September, but in a real limited role. It wasn’t until February of this year that I started to feel like my old self.”
Tyler wears a special sleeve on his left hand and arm to help with healing. He has to wear ultraviolet clothing in the summer and is required to wear long pants for the rest of the year. But he’s back on the court, hitting balls, encouraging kids and teaching the game he loves. When his spring and summer camps open, Tyler will be back on the court with the players.
“I really missed being out in the community, missed teaching tennis to our youth,’’ said Tyler, who is certfied by the Professional Tennis Registry. “I missed making a difference in their lives. I’m thankful and blessed that I healed and bounced back so quickly.”