The football season just got sweeter for local Pusch Ridge player and his uncle, battling back from COVID-19

(Family Photos)

Special to AllSportsTucson from Rachael Hallett


It’s been a great season for the Pusch Ridge Lions, heading into the first round of playoffs as a 3-seed, after finishing the season 6-1. But for Pusch Ridge junior Hayden Hallett, this week kicked off an even sweeter season. Hallett’s uncle, Ryan Parker, was released from the hospital on 11/18/20, after spending 19 weeks in the hospital battling an extreme case of Covid-19. Parker will be home for the holidays and is so thankful to be alive.

In August, Hallett dedicated his football season to his uncle and honored victims and heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The medical team caring for my uncle was absolutely amazing and I just want to give a huge shout out to everyone who is helping to fight this terrible disease,” Hallett recently posted.

With the help of an incredible medical team at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix and thousands of prayer warriors, Parker battled and fought back, after being intubated and placed on a life-saving ECMO machine for three months. He spent 104 days in the ICU and another month in rehab, learning to stand, walk, eat and do normal life activities again. ‘Bear Down’ became his motto and the Tucson native and former Wildcat received plenty of encouragement from some hometown favorites.

Parker received video messages from UA’s head basketball coach, Sean Miller, asst. coach Jason Terry, and former Wildcat and NBA player, T.J. McConnell. The UA team sent cards, hats and plenty of Wildcat gear to keep him motivated through rehab. He even received a remarkably surprising invitation from ASU’s head basketball coach, Bobby Hurley, inviting Parker and his boys to sit on the floor with the ASU team, wearing Arizona gear, at the next UA vs. ASU matchup!

Attending physicians and UA medical school graduates also came by the Wildcat fan’s hospital room with UA blankets and gear to encourage him throughout the many weeks he was sick. “The outpouring of love and encouragement has been absolutely overwhelming,” shared Parker. “I am forever grateful.”

Hallett, along with his sisters and cousins spent time writing letters and cards for patients and staff, as well as bringing food, cookies, and other encouragement to the hospital staff. When Parker was released, the family gave the staff special ‘Bear Down, #ParkerStrong’ shirts as a memento to thank the medical team that fought so hard to save their uncle. Hallett was especially happy the rehab team was able to get him home for the holidays. “I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see my uncle alive and even walking, after all he has been through. I always knew that doctors and nurses were amazing, but I have a whole new level of respect for them now.”

As COVID cases increase in Arizona, Hallett encouraged Arizonans to be smart through the holidays and to cherish every moment. Regarding the Lions’ playoff season, Hallett says they will be taking it one game at a time, but they hope to meet again with No. 1 ranked Yuma Catholic, the team’s only loss of the season.

Parker said he couldn’t be more proud of his nephew and the Lions’ team. Hallett is ranked second in the 3A South stat leaders’ region for offense-scoring, second only to teammate, Evan Lovett, star running back and son of former Wildcat, Lamar Lovett.

One thing we know for sure, Hallett and the Lions, led by former Arizona Icecat, Coach Kent Middleton, will be taking a play from Parker’s playbook and will be ready to Bear Down tonight and leave it all on the field.


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