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Hunter Tylo opens up about son Mickey's death

06/06/2008 at 09:00 PM ET

Huntertylo_jorda_13337361_maxcbbj_2Actress Hunter Tylo suffered every parent’s worst nightmare last October when her 19-year-old son Mickey passed away after falling into the family pool following a seizure which had left him unconscious. 

Wanting to see something good come from her son’s death, the 45-year-old has joined forces with The American Epilepsy Outreach Foundation.  In a new interview with Soap Opera Digest, Hunter shared how it came about.

Erin Leyden and her husband [Patrick] started this foundation because they have a little boy who has suffered horrific seizures.  They read about what happened to Mickey and called me.  I met with Erin and after talking with her, I knew I wanted to get involved.  Through this I have found a lot of healing.

The first picture on the website is Mickey and he’s adorable.  It really captures his lively spirit, being on the cell phone just like a typical teenager.  You can click on his picture and it tells his story.  Then you make a donation in his memory.  A lot of people were wondering where they can do that and I prefer they go there.

Continue reading to learn how Hunter’s children — Chris, 28, Izabella, 11 and Katya, 10 — are handling their brother’s death, the lawsuit surrounding the tragedy, and more.

How long was Mickey having seizures?

They began in about January of 2005.  It’s very ironic that a seizure disorder, which was really downplayed by his therapist, ended up being more fatal than the cancer his sister [Katya] got.

Is this the therapist in Nevada you filed a malpractice lawsuit against before Mickey’s death?

Yes.  She said stress was basically causing the seizures and if he would just go to counseling, the seizures would go away.  He was told by that therapist not to take medication.  She didn’t believe in any kind of medication and she also told him to get acupuncture to treat it.

Did his condition worsen?

Yes.  What we didn’t realize is that with each seizure, they build upon themselves like a thunderstorm, so each one gets worse.  I wish in the beginning his condition had not been minimalized.  I would’ve done something much more drastic, which is what I ultimately had to do.  But by the time that I got him to California to the right specialists, the seizures were already severe.  That’s my whole point:  If he had been treated at an earlier stage with a much more aggressive approach, the seizures wouldn’t have built upon themselves to the magnitude they did.

The lawsuit has since been upgraded to wrongful death.

These people were so heartless.  They filed a motion the day after Mickey died to take him out of the lawsuit I already had going for malpractice, and I only had 90 days to respond.  We still had to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas and they weren’t willing to get any extensions.  My attorney kept telling them that I was emotional and it was too difficult. 

They were so confident that I wouldn’t be able to make the deadline, they went ahead and put out their own press release on the day of the hearing that the wrongful death part of my lawsuit had been dismissed by the judge.  But I came into court with the answers to my questions notarized along with my affidavit.  They were overruled, Mickey is still very much a part of the lawsuit and I was named the guardian of his estate.  So the judge has granted the lawsuit to move forward, which means I have a case.  We’re in the middle of depositions now.

What changes would you like to see happen because of this lawsuit?

That therapists, especially someone who doesn’t have a MD license, need to make every effort possible to rule out a true medical condition.  A lot of medical conditions, like asthma and allergies, can cause depression and go unaddressed.  A lot of these therapists are keeping you in therapy and racking up the hours.  It took the death of my son for the Nevada Board of Examiners for Social Workers to investigate this therapist and I personally think she should lose her license.

What do you hope your work with The American Epilepsy Outreach Foundation will accomplish?

To dispel a lot of the myths about epilepsy and seizures.  They’re basically the same thing, but everybody seems to think they’re two different variations and a nuisance.  Nobody really understands how serious a condition it is.  It’s underplayed by a lot of doctors, and people have so many different views.

You always rely heavily on your Christian faith.  Are you stronger?

I say in some ways, yes, but I’m realistic.  There’s a part of my heart and soul that can never be replaced or healed.  There are no words for that kind of loss.  I watched him grow up for 19 years and he would’ve been 20 on April 24.  I didn’t know how I was going to get through that month, but I just did.  You have a little bit more strength than you think you have.  I go to Mickey’s grave site a lot and tell him that I’m going to do everything I can to help other people.

How are your kids doing?

His sisters miss him terribly and they want to emulate him right now.  Katya has chosen to wear her hair over one side of her face as her brother did.  I don’t think Chris will ever be the same because he was the one who unfortunately found his brother at the bottom of the pool.  But he’s finally at that place where he wants to talk and open up a little bit more about how he feels.

How is your ex-husband [actor Michael Tylo]?

I think emotionally, he is still really shattered.  He’s pretty quiet, so I don’t know what he’s going through.  For him, Mickey was his namesake and I can’t imagine how he’s dealing with that.  Men tend to shut down when they’re emotional and I think that’s where Michael is right now, at least with us.

No one would’ve blamed you if you had taken a leave from Bold and the Beautiful, but you soldiered on.  Did going back to work help you emotionally?

In some ways, yes.  Working was an escape, but I was going through my real emotions, which a lot of people saw onscreen.  I had a line in the courtroom where Taylor said, ‘It’s not fair!’ and I meant it.  All I could do, and I know it was what Mickey would want me to do, is the best job when I’m acting and use my real emotions.  So that was in honor of Mickey.

Source: Soap Opera Digest, June 17th issue; Photo by Jordan Strauss/WireImage.com

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Showing 23 comments

memyselfandi on

Just read this article in SOD.

I can’t imagine what she is going through or how difficult things have been. No parent should lose a child!

Asthma and Allergies cause depression? I do understand being unable to do some activies because of this OR having depression as a result of medicines taken for those conditions…but I don’t know if I agree with that statement.

Stef on

memyselfandi–Any health condition that impedes your daily life and causes discomfort can lead to depression due to the strain it causes. I believe that’s what she’s trying to say.

Beware any doctor who belittles a condition like epilpsey and Rx’s acupunction in lieu of all other treatment. That would have sent a red flag up for me right away.

Candace on

I really feel for this family, as for someone who has Epilepsy I know it’s serious condition and without medications, I have no doubt one seizure could kill me, ( I have mine in my sleep, all seizures/Epilepsy are different. I have partial, long as I’m on medication, I’m fine but like I said without it could be deadly.

I do know that some people who have one seizure & never have one again but it’s always good to see a neurologist & have EEG and MRI done.

My prayers are with Hunter and her family, I am glad she is getting involved for The American Epilepsy Outreach Foundation.

Melly on

I lost my beautiful, funny, talented son when he was only 26 years old. Even though we knew he had health problems off and on since he was a child, the physicians never agreed on what was going on. We went to every kind of specialist that you could imagine (including an oncologist) and we were told he might have everything from mono to Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He would be very ill, then have periods of good health. At one point he was down to 130 pounds at 6 feet 1 inch tall! I watched helplessly as he suffered through all of this. I suspected an autoimmune disorder because they run in our family and his family physician was just beginning to consider that as a possibility. Then, at 26, when his blood pressure started to climb and he started having heart complications, he was put on blood pressure medication…at only 26 years old! But, they STILL did not aggressively pursue the CAUSE, but treated the symptoms, instead. When my daughter-in-law got a call from him that he was having problems breathing, she rushed home and found him unresponsive. EMTs worked on him for over an hour, but he left us that day to be with the Lord. The doctors IMMEDIATELY started covering their butts and my DIL could not get any answers. She was so devastated and distraught that she just didn’t have the strength for a court battle or to even do battle with the doctors for his records. I couldn’t even have a copy of his death certificate or access to his medical records because, even though I was his mother, his wife was “next of kin.” Although my faith brought me through some very, very dark days, the anguish of his senseless death will never leave me and I have a hole in my heart that will be there until the day I die. My heart goes out to Hunter Tylo and her family. The loss of a child is truly every mother and father’s worst nightmare…and the nightmare never seems to end because that precious child is gone. I could NOT have survived this kind of loss and had the will to go on without my faith. I pray that she and her family will continue to find comfort in their faith.

Julia A on

Having a chronic medical condition is a major risk factor for developing depression, especially in people with a predisposition for depression. Unfortunately, depressive symptoms often get overlooked as people focus on the physical symptoms. This issue is very personal to me, and I thank her for bringing up the issue. I hope she and her family can find some peace after this tragedy.

Melly on

Well-said, Stef. I have lupus, which caused me to have a stroke at only 22 years old. The brain trauma left me with complex partial seizures. Any condition or brain trauma can affect the area of the brain which controls emotions and cause depression (according to my brilliant neurosurgeon), so I fully understand why someone would seek treatment if their illness or trauma caused depression. On top of that, dealing with a chronic condition of ANY kind (seizures, pain, limited mobility, limited functions etc.) can cause depression from the sheer exhaustion of dealing with those hardships on a day-to-day basis. No one can possibly understand the extent of the burden of dealing with chronic conditions, and how it can affect a person’s emotions, until they have walked in that person’s shoes and dealt with it first-hand.

Summer on

My brother has seizures that he is supposed to take medication for. I say “supposed to” because he is very lax in taking the medication therefore, he sometimes has seizures and doesn’t tell anyone! It’s very frustrating because he is 32 years old, so we can’t force him to be more responsible. I wish that he had access to this story so that he can see how truly tragic this condition can be and take his blasted medication!

carla at somethingaboutbaby.com on

She has such a tragic story played out in the public. I lost a son too and a day does not go by where I think about his struggles. I pray that our boys are together in heaven and not suffering.

Sarita on

Why always this need to sue? Her son had these seizures for years and it was her/his choice not to see a medical profesional but instead go to a therapist.

It is awful what happened and I do feel for her and her family but the sure hapy society in the US really bugs me.

ST on

Why is she referred to as Taylor? That is her name on Bold and the Beautiful….

Gena on

My husband’s older brother died at 29 as the result of a seizure fit, as he choked on his tongue. He was living on his own in London at the time. He began having seizures after he fell and hit his head when he was roughly 19. If someone had been around when it happened, he might have lived. It is a big hole in my in-laws and my husband’s heart. My husband looked up to his big brother. My husband is now older than his brother was when he died. My husband is 33. His brother would have been in his mid 40s today. I never got to meet him. It IS a serious condition, whether it comes up from nowhere or as a result of an accident.

Teena Leanne on

I have Epilepsy, Internal Nerve Damage and Servere Endometriosis

I take medication and still have Seizures
I had 3 in one week and almost Died

I did not realize that would affect the Brain to the point that you would get Depression

I have Depression just cause of the Horrific pain from the Nerve Damage and Endometriosis
and the weight i have put on which is alot

I feel for Hunter You have to watch people like a Hawk with it, if it wasn’t for my Mum i would be Dead I am having them when i Sleep about 7 or 8 in the Morning

tink1217 on

My son has a seizure disorder and has since he was 15 months old. It took 6 months for me to get answers. I was spending every other week at the emergency room. He would have a seizure and it would stop before he would get to the ER and be fine while he was there. They told me he was “breath holding”. At first I took their word. But it didn’t happen when he was upset. He would just all of a sudden go into one. Six months into it he finally had one in front of a nurse in the ER. Know what she said? “Oh my God…he is having a seizure!” Really lady? I didn’t know that! I had been trying to tell them that for weeks. I was afraid they were going to think I had Munchausen or something! They immediately put him on anti seizure meds but it was Phenobarbitol. I was very young and naive and trusted everything doctors said and did. But after being on it for about 3-4 weeks he stopped all language progression, he stopped walking well, and his seizures still weren’t under control. I finally had an appointment with a pediatric neurologist and asked if there was another medication we could use and he said absolutely. He was appalled they had put him on phenobarbitol to begin with. Especially at his age…he was only 20 months at the time. He has had EEG upon EEG, 48 hour EEG at Miami Childrens Hospital, MRI’s…they have never found a cause for his seizures. Luckily they are well controlled on his current medication and have been for over 10 years. I have educated myself and know as much as the doctors do about seizures.

I cannot imagine what Hunter and her family have gone through. The first seizure my son had did almost kill him. The 2nd one too. We just happened to be at the hospital when it started although no medical personel was with us when it did start. When I noticed he was turning blue I screamed. He had stopped shaking by then and was just not breathing. They had to do CPR on him. I almost lost my baby 3 times within a month. But to actually lose a child that way is devastating. And now…with all the lawyers and court and depositions they are going through. I can’t imagine. I am very lucky my son is still with me. He has lifelong problems but at least he is alive and thriving.

Candace on

Teena, I really feel for you, mine aren’t that bad. I count my lucky stars that I might have one every couple months.

Beverley on

I feel for this family, but see no cause for a lawsuit. If you went to a doctor and they didn’t want to prescribe medicine, you go to another doctor, you don’t just sit back and wait for your symptoms to get worse. We make our own choices and have to be our own strongest advocate.

Also, the fact that they were already suing the therapist before he even died, shows that there was plenty of time to have had him at another doctor. If my son was sick and we saw a doctor who didn’t take us seriously enough, or want to prescribe medication, we would be at another doctor ASAP. And Mickey was 19 and legally and adult. He should have been seeking out new medical care for himself if he wasn’t happy with his treatment, we are not talking about a 6 year old.

The interview says that by the time they got him to treatment in California, the seizures were already severe. Well, that’s not the therapist’s fault. It’s the parents’ fault for not getting him to a different doctor sooner.

While this was a tragedy, I don’t think they should be allowed to sue when they bear some of the responsibiliy themselves.

Audrey on

I agree, I don’t see how a lawsuit could bring any justice to the parents if they themselves waited for his symptoms to get worse instead of seeking medical help first. Fair enough the parents were told it was caused by stress, but I have never heard of a therapist being the only treatment. I don’t understand why they didn’t seek help when they had plenty of time and were watching they’re son get sicker, I just don’t understand.

Regardless, I do feel deeply for the family at this time of loss and hope they can find peace to get through this and move on.

Daze on

Has she settled the lawsuit with that plastic surgeon yet?

brooke on

God bless hunter and her family, she has been through so much, but this is the worst. She seems like a strong loving lady with faith, so god will help her as much as possible.

Sasha on

Well she certainly has grounds for a lawsuit if a licensed social worker did not advise her to take her son to a doctor! But of course as his parent the ultimately responsibility is hers. It sounds (hopefully) like she’s doing this partly to promote better oversight in the medical field. I doubt a jury would award her a huge “payout” in this day and age anyway. I think society’s attitude towards these huge legal awards is starting to shift back to reality. My sympathies to her and her family :(

Meaghan on

A parent should never have to lose a child. How heartbreaking. I can’t even imagine how I would go on. My aunt passed away last May from having a seizure and falling down the stairs in front of her house. She was in a coma for 10 days before we took her off life support.

teenyz on

Bless you Daze. You just made my day!

Crystal on

What I don’t understand is why you would take a person who is suffering from seizures to a therapist? Why wouldn’t you take him to a doctor who specializes in seizures? It just seems stange to me to take a person who suffers from seizures to a therapist.

Olivia on

memyselfandi: There is a kind of allergies called Cerebral allergies where eating the food one is allergic to can cause a change in brain chemistry. It can drastically alter a persons mood. So, yes allergies can cause depression.

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