Coach Meyer works to find balance between daughter’s illness and job

By Mari Pothier |

Teddy Meyer wakes up every morning at 6:30 a.m. and relieves the nurse who has been watching his daughter, Palin, during the night.

The nurse gives Palin her medicine and Meyer proceeds to get her ready for the day. At 7 a.m. he gives her a bottle that contains carnitine to help her stay alert and awake during the day.

Then he heads to work.

Meyer is head coach of the women’s soccer team at Flagler College and a new father. On Feb. 28, 2011, he and his wife, Heather, had their second child, Palin.

But three days after she was born they were at the neonatal intensive care unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville and staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Meyer had to take off most of the month of March from coaching while he and his wife waited for a diagnosis on what was wrong with their daughter. The doctors discovered Palin had Prader-Willi syndrome.

I probably took the coach’s mentality and said ‘look let’s just figure this out,'” Meyer said.

He was determined to find out what they needed to do and who they needed to see in order to help his little girl.

Prader-Willi is a complex syndrome that affects everything from appetite and growth to cognitive function and behavior. Typically kids begin developing symptoms around three-to-five years old including insatiable appetites that cannot learn to be controlled, rapid weight gain on very few calories due to a malfunctioning metabolic system or even no interest in eating and difficulty breathing and swallowing.

In order to take proper care of Palin and their son Quinn, Meyer’s wife took the year off from teaching to be a full time stay-at-home mom. Meyer knows this is a huge sacrifice for her.

“I just do my best to be there as much as I can to help her as much as I can,” he said.

As a coach, Meyer has long work days, which he said is the most difficult part. His days include office hours, practice, games, travel and weekends.

“It’s very difficult to leave her [his wife] because I mean, I’m here and I’m making money for our family and working and doing my job, and she basically is relied on to maintain our two kids. That can be difficult to take sometimes,” he said. “You feel like you’re doing the wrong thing.”

Separating work from home is not too hard for Meyer, but knowing he is away from his ill daughter is always in the back of his mind. He has pictures of both Palin and Quinn decorating his office desk and shelves.

“It depends sometimes on how I left the house and how they were,” he said about going to work. “If Quinn’s being really bad I’m thinking, ‘how is she going to manage him crying and feeding Palin?'”

But Meyer loves his job, which helps him stay focused as a coach. He has a good group of girls who have great team chemistry and work hard on and off the field.

This season, Meyer and his team have a 4-2 record which is one of their strongest starts.

During the month of March that Meyer had to take off after Palin was born, the team learned they had to do things on their own and that their coach was going through a tough time.

“I don’t use Palin as an excuse,” Meyer said in regards to coaching. “Bottom line is you know I’m here to win. We’re here to do well on the field and off the field.”

Jud Damon, the athletic director for Flagler, said Meyer is doing a great job this season with his team and is happy with the results.

“Ted is a very responsible person and he’ll do what he needs to do with his job and as the man of the family,” Damon said regarding Meyer’s home and work life.

A part of the job that will be tough for Meyer this fall is traveling for games.

Since Palin has been born he has not been out of town for more than two days. When the team starts going on road trips they will generally leave at 9 a.m. and not get back until 10 or 11 p.m. Other times, when they are traveling to North Carolina and South Carolina, they will be on three-day trips.

“[Road trips] will probably be really hard because I’m talking to [Heather] and no matter what’s happening at home, I can’t just get in my car and come back,” he said.

Luckily, his family has a great support system full of friends, family and neighbors who are willing to help in any way.

During a typical work day, Meyer will sometimes go home at lunch or before practice to help out his wife.

“It kind of alleviates things and while I’m not there long, it’s a bit of a break up,” Meyer said. “I can see Palin and Quinn.”

Because the team’s practice schedule is pretty set in stone, it is hard sometimes for Meyer to move things around in case of an emergency. But John Lynch, the head coach of the men’s soccer team, and Ned Hunt, the assistant coach of the men’s soccer team, will help cover practices and do whatever they can to help Meyer and his family.

“It can be difficult to know when to be where,” Meyer said.

After work, Meyer will do things around his house or just take the time to sit with Palin because he was gone all day. Around 9 p.m., he and his wife give Palin her growth hormone injection and put her into bed.

During the spring, Meyer and his team are going to do fundraisers at the Ronald McDonald House because of what they did for him and his family. He wants to show his players that people can be helped, not only by raising money, but also by cooking meals for families and doing arts and crafts with sick children.

His players helped his family by running events at the Carnival for a Cause fundraiser they held Aug. 20. They ran the popcorn and cotton candy machines as well as registration.

“They went above and beyond,” Meyer said about his players. “They were fantastic representations of our team and what we stand for.”

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