John Polcyn, left, found the camera memory card held by Michael Crane while using a metal detector at a Maumee Bay State Park beach.
It took John Polcyn 15 years, but a recent trip to Maumee Bay State Park to search the area with his metal detector yielded his most cherished find ever.
When he dug a few inches into the dirt and found a memory card from a camera, it seemed like a relatively routine thing. He planned to use the card in his own camera when he went on vacation.
Then he plugged it into his computer, looked more closely, and realized he had something far more precious -- at least to one local family.
The card -- filled with 458 pictures of a young boy and his family on vacations and holidays, including a Disney cruise, a monster truck show, and Christmas activities -- were the keepsake memories of a young boy battling a lifelong congenital heart defect who was able to participate in the Make-A-Wish Foundation program.
"This has definitely been my best find," said Mr. Polcyn, a 48-year-old Toledoan for whom metal detecting has been a hobby for about 15 years.
Finding 9-year-old Brandon Crane and his family proved to be difficult initially, taking more than a month. But when Mr. Polcyn was finally able to return the card to its rightful owners last week, the memories for the family came flooding back.
"I was shocked," said Michael Crane, Brandon's father. "I didn't think that even if we did find the card that it would ever work."
Brandon, an A-and-B student at Fairborn Primary School in Fairborn, Ohio, where he lives with his mom, was born with his heart condition, and has had three surgeries -- the first when he was just 11 days old. He was forced to undergo a second operation at six months old, and again when he was 4.
Brandon's wish was to go to Disney World, but Mr. Crane knew that the Florida heat would have been too hard on his son's heart. So Make-A-Wish sent the family on a Disney Cruise in July, 2009 -- a trip that was commemorated on the same card Mr. Polcyn found buried deep in the sand.
"I knew that we could go swimming and get inside when it got too hot out on the Cruise," Mr. Crane said.
Michael Crane and his son, Brandon, pose in one of the 458 photos from the memory card that was lost on a family vacation.
The Make-A Wish logo plastered across a shirt Brandon was wearing in one of the photos was one of the items that made Mr. Polcyn take a closer look at the memory card before using it in his own camera and potentially making the digital memories obsolete. He began searching through the photos more carefully, zooming in on a variety of identification clues: Brandon's name on an arm band; his father posing next to a decorative tombstone with his name on it taken around Halloween.
Mr. Polcyn looked through the phone book, finding only one Michael Crane in the area, only to learn he had moved and his phone number had been changed.
Mr. Polcyn called the Make-A-Wish Foundation and inquired about the family. They recalled Brandon but since the Cranes had moved, the organization had no way of finding them. Mr. Polcyn's luck changed May 20 while watching a local TV news broadcast.
"There was a house that burned down across the street from me, and I was trying to catch that when I saw this story about Brandon and his dad and the three lifesaving operations he had gone through," Mr. Polcyn said.
The story also featured information about the Heart Walk and 10k Run at the University of Toledo coming up May 21, which both the older Crane and Brandon planned to attend.
Mr. Polcyn called the news station, and an anchor there gave him Mr. Crane's e-mail address.
After receiving the e-mail, Mr. Crane, 35, wasn't sure at first what Mr. Polcyn was talking about. Mr. Crane, who is a medical assistant at Toledo Cardiology Consultants Inc., and coordinator for the Toledo-area Mended Little Hearts program, a support program for parents of children with heart conditions, said he lost the memory card while camping with Brandon when he went to switch it out with another.
"I had actually sort of forgotten about it," Mr. Crane said. "When I lost them, it was the last weekend in July of last year.
"I probably dropped it or the zipper from the camera bag opened," he said, adding that he is astounded that Mr. Polcyn found such a small item intact and said he should sell his story as a worthy commercial idea for Kodak.
Getting the photos back is good news, as Brandon faces the possibility of a heart transplant in a few years. The scar tissue in his heart will not grow as his body develops, his father said.
"In time, he will start to have irregular heart rhythms and need a pacemaker with a defibrillator implanted," Mr. Crane said.
Contact Payton Willey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6065.
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