Teammates Plan Memorial For Calgary Canucks Defenseman Evan Bayko

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Teammates plan memorial for Calgary Canucks defenseman Evan Bayko

A Calgary Junior A hockey team is organizing a special event on Monday to honour a teammate who died of epilepsy, and to raise awareness of the condition.

Calgary Canucks defenceman Evan Bayko died in June. The 19-year-old was found to have epilepsy three years earlier. Through medications, Bayko managed his condition and played in the competitive Alberta Junior Hockey League for three years.

"In a summer he went from a little kid to a big kid – that’s what killed him," said his mother, Corinne Heim Bayko, who was told by doctors they expected her son would grow out of the epilepsy. "He would have one seizure a summer when he grew."

On a Sunday night in early June, Evan watched television and then went to bed. When he hadn’t got-ten up by the afternoon the next day, his sister went into his room to check on him and found he had died in his sleep from what was later described as sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).

"We didn’t even know what that was until after he died," Heim Bayko said.

One in 1,000 people with epilepsy die every year from SUDEP, which is an unexplained death in a person with epilepsy, where the death is sudden, in benign circum-stances (often sleep) with no direct explanation through autopsy.

"One of the big problems about SUDEP is a lot of people living with epilepsy don’t know about it," said Elizabeth Donner, pediatric neurologist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and co-founder of SUDEP Aware.

The loss of the defenceman, who was fairly quiet off-ice but a force to be reckoned with on-ice, was felt deeply by the teammates.

"It was tough. Walking in you’d just see him hanging out in his stall. He’d be quiet but always had a smart comment to make you laugh," said team captain Joel Paie-ment. "We had four or five guys come back from last year’s team. We tell stories about him to the younger guys."

To honour their teammate and show support to his family, the Calgary Canucks are hosting a special event on Monday – A Night for Evan – at their regular-season game against crosstown rivals the Calgary Mustangs.

The two teams aim to fill Max Bell Centre to commemorate Evan and raise funds for the Epilepsy Association of Calgary and the Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) Aware program.

Profits from the 50-50 draw, puck toss, as well as special prize draws will go to the two charities. One prize is a signed jersey from Taylor Hall, the Edmonton Oiler forward whose face was cut by a skate in an accident Jan. 17. Hall and Bayko once played hockey together.

Tickets are on sale at the door, as well as in advance by e-mailing anightforevan@gmail.com.

Claire Young

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