He’d been through a lot in the prior years, so what should have been a happy time, the culmination of his goal to become a professional angler, was in some ways already tainted. He’d recently lost his father, the patriarch of the Haseotes clan. And Nicholas, the young son of his younger brother and best friend Ari, had been treated for leukemia starting at the age of seven months. For someone who up until then had by his own description led a relatively charmed life, the bad news was snowballing at an unprecedented pace.
“When I was at (Boston) Children’s Hospital with my brother, they were there for six months,” he said. “I thought to myself, ‘I hope I never have to come back to this place again.’ But five years later there I was, and it was 16 months for us.” Haseotes is a competition junkie, but noted that “nobody wants to compete that way.”
The thing that Haseotes likes the most about tournament fishing, the complete dominion over all of the decisions throughout the day, is exactly what tortured him throughout those months in Boston. “I’m so used to being in control and making decisions and not worrying about the consequences,” he said. “But for the first time in my life I wasn’t in control, and it killed me to not be able to get her better.”
He and Tiffany spent long hours in the waiting room, hoping for a whiff of good news, a miracle cure that on some deep level they probably knew wasn’t coming. One surgery was 7 hours. Another was 8. Another was 15. He’s lost track of the others, their numbers and durations melded into a stew of time and frustration and anger and sorrow represented by the image of the waiting room clock, the only part of the experience that remains indelibly etched in his brain.
“There were so many surprises with this kid,” he said. “She fooled us a lot.” But every time things seemed to be taking a turn for the better, they quickly went downhill. To this day, he keeps pictures of young Evi in his boat, secured in a Ziploc® bag, and every day on the water he consults the “smile that would light up your day.” That’s the image he wants to remember, not the times where her face would go from pink to white to a painful blue, a palette of pain for the tiny girl and frustration for her parents who were unable to make the problems go away.
Haseotes also wants to remember the nine days that she spent at home, not totally free of the feeding tubes and treatments, but as far removed from the sterility of the hospital as she’d ever get. Nine days in 16 months, a small fraction of her short life, but a period that he calls the “best time of my life, the four of us (the couple has an older son, Byron III, now 3) laying in bed together, like a real family.” Then, on day nine, the blue face came back, and Evi never came home again. When the time came this January, it was clear, BJ explained, that “she was already with God, looking down on me and giving me strength.”