Screech of TV helps frail boy enjoy spa

Published Feb. 24, 2006|Updated Feb. 24, 2006

Four-year-old Keegan Oursler is a frail little boy. He suffers from an extremely rare disorder, periventricular heterotopia, in which neurons do not migrate to their usual location during brain development.

Keegan cannot run, play or even chat with his three siblings. He weighs just 20 pounds, and he often quakes from cerebral palsy. He also has visual and digestive problems.

He spends his waking hours in a wheelchair or a swing.

But Thursday, Keegan enjoyed a gift that made him smile.

His mother, Laura Oursler, 37, carried her son out to a new hot tub in their back yard. As 100 therapeutic jets churned out 96-degree water, Keegan was gently lowered into the bubbling water.

He smiled. His hands, usually knotted, began to relax. And soon his eyes closed, seemingly from pleasure.

"He'll be asleep in 15 minutes," his mother said. "And he won't need medicine to relax him."

A familiar-looking man, with a head of tightly curled hair and wearing tinted glasses, stood nearby, also smiling.

"Now that's what makes it all worthwhile. All he needs is some sunglasses and flip-flops," 1990s sitcom star Dustin Diamond said.

Television viewers know Diamond from his role as the nerdish character Screech in the popular show Saved by the Bell (1989-1993). But on Wednesday, he was more like the Prince of Belleair.

Diamond, 29, had come from Milwaukee - where he said it was 10 degrees below zero - to meet Keegan. He wanted to see how the child was doing in his $12,000 therapeutic hot tub, donated last Christmas by ThermoSpas, a hot tub manufacturer and retailer. The company gives away a spa about every two months to special-needs children through their Seasons of Giving program.

Last year, Diamond contacted ThermoSpas to see if they would provide spas for the Dustin Diamond Foundation, which raises money for hospitals and other organizations helping children.

Diamond and his wife, Jennifer, created the foundation after losing their first child in December 2004 because of an ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy. This is the second spa giveaway since the foundation and manufacturer formed their partnership.

"Jennifer and I had lost our first child and didn't know how to handle it," the actor said. "We were dealt a bad hand, but it brings us happiness to help other parents who are going through difficulties with their children.

"And we're going to keep trying for another baby."

Though her family received the spa in December, Mrs. Oursler said they have used it only a couple of times because of cold weather and the fact that Keegan broke his jaw and was recovering from surgery.

But with warmer temperatures, she said, the spa should provide a great way for Keegan and the whole family - father Mark, Connor, 10, Claire, 7, and Cameron, 3 - to relax and be together.

"When you have a special needs child, it can be very stressful," she said. "This will help rejuvenate us."

Today, Diamond makes a living as a standup comedian, but he plans to keep his role as the helper of children.

"I want to come back again in the future to see what kind of difference having this ThermoSpa has made in Keegan's life," Diamond said. "He may be saying, "Hey, Mom, can you get me a pina colada?' "


To nominate a seriously ill child to receive a ThermoSpa, visit