Now, as life goes on and he tries to resume his life on tour, he’s occasionally reminded of the guilt that he felt, letting fishing creep into his thoughts as his daughter lay strapped to a machine. “I wanted the perfect family we’d talked about, the one we’d dreamed about,” he said, a tear or two dripping out from behind his polarized sunglasses. “Before she was born, when Tiffany was pregnant, I had the cell phone glued to my rear end, and every time it rang I’d be worried. I’d call her every 10 minutes. Then, after Evi was born, I missed fishing so bad. It made me so mad at myself. My daughter didn’t even have a chance to have a passion, to have a chance in life. I’d feel like such a jerk. Even today, I have a little bit of guilt being out here.
“There are still days when I wake up and hate the world; even though the doctors were amazing, I still hate that they couldn’t save her.”
If the torture of watching your child isn’t enough to make any adult fall to his or her knees, the aftermath of such trauma on a family can be equally rough. “The doctors told us that 50 percent of couples who go through this either leave divorced or get divorced down the road,” he relayed. It changed the way he parents, too. “My son is now three and when he takes a swig of water, if it goes down the wrong pipe, it scares me to death.” In his son’s discomfort, he can still see Evi’s blue face.
While Haseotes was able to grieve with his wife and rely on the expertise of a truly world-class team of doctors, the one person he wanted to console him and give him advice throughout the process wasn’t there to offer counsel. In a crisis of fatherhood, he needed someone with a lifetime of experience to act as his crutch, but his father, also named Byron, had died in May 2009, before he could see his son qualify for the Elites or catch a glimpse of Evi’s fleeting life. The son referred to his father, a second-generation Greek-American, as “strict” and “old school” and “all about business.” The idea of a career in professional bass fishing seemed farcical to him, until his son started garnering sponsors. “Until then, he didn’t think you could make a career out of it, and he would never say it directly, but not speaking about it meant he had no problem with it.”
While the first Byron was not there to help his ailing son, the son found surrogate parents elsewhere.
“(B.A.S.S. Tournament Director) Trip Weldon was the first person I called at Pickwick,” he said. “I told him that I didn’t know what to do. He told me that family is always the most important. He’s been like a dad to me, with prayers and advice. Jerry McKinnis is the same way, always checking on me. They both told me to take care of my family first and don’t worry about the fishing end. That made me cry. Unless you’ve been there, nobody could possibly know.”
He similarly refers to the doctors who worked miracles against the odds to give his family those 9 days together as family. Peter Lawson, the head of the ICU where Evi spent most of her days, “is like a father to me.” Haseotes recalled the upside-down sketch drawn by Chris Baird, the young cardiac surgeon who looked more like Doogie Howser than Marcus Welby, to explain Evi’s condition, and compares it to something from Michelangelo. Despite the pain that her condition put all of them through, they bonded and took some solace in Baird’s statements about how much Evi’s condition taught them. “She changed the way they do things,” Haseotes said, the tears again rolling. “My daughter touched a lot of people in her 16 months of life.”