KINGSPORT, Tenn. (AP) — A city sanitation worker has befriended a Kingsport youth battling heart and other health issues, starting out by praying for the child, later picking up garbage at the boy’s home and bringing experiences, attention and toys to him during visits after work.
The 4-year-old boy, who can’t walk, is slated to undergo his fourth open-heart surgery in Nashville later this year.
Rodney Dye, a Kingsport Public Works employee for more than 17 years, has formed a bond with Creed Rosenbalm of the Highland community. Dye first learned about the little boy where he used to attend church with Creed’s grandmother, Teresa Olinger of Church Hill.
“She would always ask for prayer requests for him when he was first born, because he was really sick and had a lot of heart issues. So we always prayed for him,” Dye said in a news release from Adrienne Batara of the city’s marketing and public relations department.
Being part of the city’s waste management team, Dye eventually was in charge of the family’s garbage pickup, and the boy always would be outside smiling and waving at him during his weekly route.
Creed’s grandmother eventually got in touch with Dye, saying how much his simple smiles and waves meant to the young child.
“After knowing his story and all the problems that he had in life, it just touched me, knowing that something that simple was bringing joy to his life,” Dye said.
“Anytime a kid comes out, no matter who it is, I always make a special effort to wave and smile,” Dye said. “They just think it’s fascinating.”
Creed’s mother, Jamie Rosenbalm, said that each day Creed is home she and/or his grandparents take Creed out to see Dye pick up the garbage. Dye said Creed also likes to watch the recycling truck
“We are usually in the driveway an hour before he (Dye) arrives,” Jamie Rosenbalm said Wednesday. “When the trash cans are moved to the curb, he knows it’s time for Rodney.”
After speaking to Creed’s grandmother, Dye decided to invite him to the City of Kingsport’s Public Works Day, an annual event that helps showcase the Public Works Department and its community involvement. When Creed and his family arrived at the event, Dye showed the boy the garbage truck up-close, helped him climb inside it and let him play with some of the controls.
After seeing the child’s amazement, Dye decided he wanted to do another small act of kindness for Creed. Calling in a favor, Dye obtained some toy trucks that resembled the garbage trucks driven by him and other city employees. Dye gave the trucks to the boy, knowing how much they would mean to him.
Dye and his wife regularly visit Creed at his grandmother’s house, where Dye and Creed play with the toy trucks together.
“He laughs, smiles, and enjoys the fun and the attention. It really is a blessing to see how far he’s come. He’s a sweet child, and it’s good to see him smile after all he’s been through,” Dye said.
Creed is scheduled to undergo his fourth open-heart surgery Nov. 16 at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. “His tricuspid valve didn’t develop,” Rosenbalm said. “The right side of his heart doesn’t work.” She said doctors hope the surgeries will help him eventually walk. He undergoes physical, speech and occupational therapy three times a week. Creed also has hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain.
He can “speak” in a manner understood only by people regularly around him and knows some sign language, his mother said. Dye said the youth also smiles a lot.
“This is a lifelong defect,” Rosenbalm said. “A heart transplant would be his next step if the surgeries don’t help.” If the surgery goes well, Rosenbalm said she plans to enroll Creed in pre-K at the Palmer Center in Kingsport in the spring.
A fundraiser for Creed was held in August at Woodstone Deli by the Johnson City-based Kari’s Heart Foundation. Rosenbalm said Creed is covered by some medical insurance and there is no bank account set up for his medical expenses, although anyone interested in donating can contact her at Jamie.Rosenbalm21@gmail.com.
Dye is one of the city employees who collect trash from the 50,851 citizens in 20,765 households every week, estimating that he makes 700 to 800 stops each weekday. He is the second Kingsport employee to be highlighted in the “Highlighting Heroes: People Behind the Service” campaign, designed to highlight how employees go above and beyond the call of duty. The first of the hometown heroes was city codes enforcement officer Melanie Adkins.