Mason Payne is athletic and competitive, charming and sweet. In late August 2017, he was the guest of honor at a pool party with family and friends, an early celebration of his upcoming eighth birthday. He was the picture of youth and health, and the last person his parents and loved ones ever suspected would suffer a stroke.
When he complained of a headache that evening, his mother, Amy Fair, chalked it up to 7 hours of swimming and sun. Even Mason himself said, "That was the longest birthday party ever!" Amy and her boyfriend, Josh Turpin, expected an early bedtime and a good night's sleep would put Mason to rights.
But the next morning, Mason still didn't seem himself. At breakfast out, he was dazed and listless and asked to go home to sleep. About 45 minutes into a nap, he woke up disoriented and crying. He began to slur his words and drool. Amy and Josh decided it was time for an ER visit. In the car, Mason was unable to do for himself. He lay on the seat, his head lolling, and Josh buckled his seatbelt.
"All this while, Mason was mentally cognizant, but could not control his body," Josh says. "He remembers most of this. We could see in his eyes how scared he was."