Community rallies around injured teen

IDLEWILD — Following a fire, a local teenager is recovering in the hospital with burns and the Lake County community is doing all they can to aid him and his family.

Seventeen-year-old Tyler Liske was working at People's Choice Auto Repair when he was severely burned from an oil fire that resulted in the destruction of the business. He was airlifted to the hospital after the incident.

Liske is currently recovering at the Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. He was brought into the hospital with burns covering 25 percent of his body.

"He had second degree burns on his face, but it should heal with a few scars," said his mother Cinda Heighton. "They're not sure how bad the scarring will be on his chest or whether he'll need skin grafts. His hands are what got it really bad. He has burns from his fingers to his shoulder on his left arm, and burns from his fingers to his elbow on his right arm."

Liske had surgery on Dec. 26 to place skin grafts and minimize damage on his hands and underwent similar procedures on Wednesday, Dec. 31. His mother reported doctors believe he is progressing as well as a patient in his condition could be expected.

Following surgery, Liske is expected to spend another two weeks in the intensive care unit, and then will be transferred to the Mary Free Bed rehabilitation hospital in Grand Rapids barring any negative developments in the meantime.

"Therapy will last several months, so he won't be home for a while," said Heighton.

Liske's family, although reasonably shaken, is holding strong and keeping a positive attitude, both for their own sake as well as Liske's.

"We're hanging in there," said Heighton. "He's got a good support system. We're all here for him and doing what we can. His siblings are okay and so is his girlfriend, but she's worried about having to answer a lot of questions."

Heighton went on to say she places no blame on the employees of People's Choice Auto Repair or its owner Mike Coleman.

"Personally, I don't blame anybody," explained Heighton. "I don't think anyone should blame Mike. I think he saved my son's life and did everything he could to get his workers to safety. I don't think anyone should blame anyone."

Many in the Lake County area are showing their support for Liske. His grandmother, Kay Darknell, being first among them. An avid crafter, Darknell has been making and selling items such as scrap tables and blankets to sell to raise money for Liske's future expenses.

"He's going to need all the emotional, all the medical and all the financial support he can get," said Darknell. "I'm very into crafts and I thought any way I might be able to help Tyler was worth trying."

Additionally the Baldwin Congregational Church, of which Liske and Heighton are both active members, has been taking in donations as part of their new "Tyler Fund" to help the family with their medical expenses.

"We're currently accepting funds at the church and at the Lake Osceola State Bank in Baldwin," said Pastor Bruce Whitney. "We're keeping Tyler and his family in our prayers, and we're trying to keep everyone's spirits up during what's going to be a long road to recovery."

The church's fund has already taken in more than $2,000 and will be meeting on Thursday, Jan. 8, to discuss further action.

Those wishing to buy products from Liske's grandmother Kay Darknell to benefit Liske can call (231) 745-6023. Those wishing to contribute to Baldwin Congregational Church's efforts can contact the church at (231) 898-4466.