"Not because I had a high IQ, not because I was naturally smart; I was a good researcher because of the fact that I wanted to work hard... I just did it and concentrated on doing the best possible job that I could."
Always the one to crack a joke during a completely inappropriate time, to chase the kids around the house until their little throats grew coarse from shrieking in delight, to give practically a stranger $3,000 dollars to cover the cost of dentures, to refill the bird-feeder, to get a McDonald's coffee almost every day, to walk around the lake with a friend looking for advice, and to light the campfire, Lyle Myers, my grandpa, left an imprint in the lives of all who encountered him.
Recently however, his vibrant personality and strong mind started to waver, leaving those around him concerned. Like the millions of others experiencing dementia around the world, it was discovered he was sinking into the same infliction. Knowing that his time to treasure memories may not last as long as we'd hoped, I wanted him and others to remember the legacy of Lyle Myers.
A huge source of Lyle's happiness and pride originates from his 26 years of research at Montana State University. Here he embarked in two monumental research projects with his technician, Doug Shoop, which changed the lives of countless farmers.
For decades, newborn calves were dying from scours, and since "...the cause was unknown, I did a special gut loop where... I took a young lamb, in which a veterinarian would do surgery on them." Afterwards, "Individual sections would be tied off on the intestines... and then bacteria would be injected from the [dying] calves." Because there are so many different bacterial parts in an animal, no other scientist had discovered what was the cause of the scours.
After he looked in the "sections of the intestines... I could find fluid in the parts of the intestines which were affected by the certain bacteria, [which were] causing the scours." Through this method, he developed an "e coli vaccine," which was a trial run to see if this would fight against the destructive bacteria.
Incidentally, this vaccine was extremely effective when injected into the soon-to-be-mother cows. Through Lyle's research and efforts, thousands of calves were saved. Soon there were "...various places in the US that had calf scour problems," using his vaccine.
Lyle and Doug sharing a laugh in their lab room
But did Mr. Myers stop here with his hard work and research? Obviously not, as he always had "worked his butt off."
Soon after the success in his calf project, he thought to himself, "You know what? Lambs scours [are also] a huge problem." For a year he went back to work with the gut loop technique, which unfortunately produced only negative results. One day, after the setback, he was with Doug and "the only thing I could think of was that lamb scours... were caused by viruses of anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that develops in the absence of oxygen)."
After they started growing the bacteria anaerobically in the gut loop tests, they started harvesting positive results. Soon it was discovered that (get ready this is a mouthful) enterotoxigenic bactericides fragilis (also known as ETBF) was the bacteria causing the scours.
Lyle published a paper on his findings, and soon after, Cynthia Sears, a woman who worked at John Hopkins University, used his research to help children experiencing scours. Throughout her furthering of Lyle's research, it was determined that ETBF was causing colon cancer as well as scours.
Countless people were saved because of their conjoined research.
Accomplishments of Lyle Myers
These accomplishments stemmed from the gut instinct that Mr. Myers remembers, "I've always had a good feeling about the research that I did. I'll wake up in the middle of the night and think about something related to my research, ....my work, and working really hard... I was never a good speaker; I was shy, nervous,... and hated being watched, so hard work was necessary."
His hard work will never be a forgotten aspect of his life. "Throughout the 16 years of my life I've always striven to uphold his ideas that grit, determination, and passion can help you accomplish anything you desire. "
Even though Lyle remarks how, "I could only have 1 year to live - but I would love 5 or 10 more and for things to get better,... but whatever happens, happens," his legacy will survive long after he passes.
While he may start to forget the impact he had on the countless lives of the animals and people affected by ETBF and scours, I hope he always knows that the hand print he left on my heart couldn't disappear even if it tried.
Consider donating to the Dementia Society of America: https://www.dementiasociety.org/donate