HUDSON - One day when David Youngerman was 6 years old and on his way to soccer practice, something went wrong.
"My hand felt numb," said David, now 10. "I didn't know what it was."
His mother, Michelle Marengo, stopped at a gas station to get water for him. David collapsed inside.
"I put him in the car, and he slumped over to one side," said Marengo. "I knew he was having a stroke; I could see his little mouth drooping."
An MRI at Children's Hospital revealed that David suffered from moyamoya, an extremely rare disease that creates blockages in the main arteries that bring blood to the brain, causing strokes and seizures. Moyamoya means "puff of smoke" in Japanese and refers to the appearance of a telltale tangle of tiny blood vessels that forms at the base of the brain to compensate for the blockage.
Days later, Youngerman was on an operating table, undergoing a complicated, eight-hour procedure in which doctors rerouted the blood vessels in David's brain to give him a normal life. Since then, David has become an ambassador for the hospital, sharing his story with thousands at fund-raisers and benefits.
"It's just really cool to speak, and it's doing a big favor for other kids," he said.
Though he is an avid Patriots fan, David has never seen the team play in person. But that is about to change. Earlier this week, the hospital's Children's Miracle Network gave David tickets for his first game: the Super Bowl.
"He's been willing to do anything with us at any time," said Amy Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the hospital. "We thought, who better to do this for?"
Before taking off for Phoenix yesterday, David and his mother stopped by their local
"I think they have some prizes for me," David said when he arrived, eyeing a table covered in Patriots paraphernalia.
He was speechless when a store manager handed him a $500 gift card and told him to go shopping.
"No shopping trip has ever been quite this exciting," Marengo said, as David made his way to the electronics section, where he picked out a portable computer-game system, two games, and a digital camera for his mom.
"It's awesome," he said afterward. "Everything's awesome."
Now a fourth-grader at C.A. Farley Elementary School in Hudson, David lives the life of a normal 10-year-old, though he takes two aspirin a day and has to pay special attention to make sure he stays hydrated. Doctors will monitor his brain for the rest of his life to ensure that other blood vessels do not become blocked.
"It is a lifetime disease," said Marengo.
After his recovery, David and his mother felt it was important to give back to the hospital that had given him a second chance. They never dreamed that the organization that had already saved his life would come through with the trip of a lifetime.
"I don't know how many speeches we can give to repay them," Marengo said. "It's amazing; they're an amazing hospital."