Eric Hayes 2006
Great Comebacks® Award Recipient - United States
Eric Hayes of Carlsbad, California was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 27. Although he suspected something was wrong for more than three years, his condition took a sudden turn for the worse in February 1987 and he would lose more than 60 pounds in less than two months, leaving him a frail 135 pounds.
In 1984, working as a deputy sheriff for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Hayes was discouraged from continuing in his chosen career due to the stigma that surrounded IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a collective term for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). At first, he too accepted this opinion, which took an added emotional toll during what was already a difficult physical recovery.
In 1987, after an extensive hospital stay and three blood transfusions, Hayes’ body no longer responded to IV treatments and he was rushed into emergency surgery. He woke up six hours later with an ileostomy.
After surgery in 1987, at a time when few emotional resources were available to patients, Hayes’ brother Edward contacted Rolf Benirschke, Chairman of the Great Comebacks® Program and former San Diego Chargers place-kicker, and arranged for a bedside meeting between the two. Their conversation would help motivate Hayes to view his surgery as a second chance.
Unable to find an example of other individuals in his field who had returned to active duty from ostomy surgery, Hayes knew he had an uphill challenge ahead of him.
In 1993, he not only passed every physical test mandated by his department, but has since fulfilled his lifelong dream of continuing to serve the community as a deputy in the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. In January of this year, he formally retired as a Lieutenant.
His aspiration to always serve his community came to a reality in March of this year when he left retirement after two months and returned to law enforcement in the City of Carlsbad as the Reserve Commander.
During his recovery from 1987 to present, Hayes was also reacquainted with his childhood sweetheart, Terry, whom he soon married and today credits as the most influential person in making his Great Comeback possible.
Hayes considers his honor from the Great Comebacks®Program “a vehicle to share his story with others so they have a ray of light to guide them to a return to a happy and fulfilling life.”
He changed much of his lifestyle starting in September 2005 when he decided to lose weight (on his terms, not the disease) and get back into playing competitive tennis. He also works out six days a week in the gym which he credits for a healthy body and healthy mind.
As if this were not enough career accomplishment, Hayes also pursued a second career and rose to the title of Vice President for a security technology company based in Houston, Texas. He oversees all sales and market development for North America for General Solutions, Ltd. He has held this dual career since 1993.
Today, Hayes considers his honor from the Great Comebacks® Program “a vehicle to share his story with others so they have a ray of light to guide them to a return to a happy and fulfilling life.”
He enjoys scuba diving, skiing, surfing and playing tennis, activities he had never thought possible following his initial surgery. Hayes recently competed in the 2007 World Police and Fire Olympics in Adelaide, Australia, reaching the semifinals in the men’s tennis competition.
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