Lyle engineering student battles through tough odds while earning degrees

By Shelly Slater/WFAA-TV   video icon

A dad, a husband and dedicted SMU Lyle School of Engineering student.

Jerrold Dash is getting his Masters degree in systems engineering a year later than planned.

"I've been dealt an unfortunate hand, but I'm not going to let the hand dictate the way I play the game," he said.

Dash, a non-smoker, had stage-4 cancer in his lungs. Doctors gave a grim outlook.

"'You're terminal; you're not going to survive.' I had a lot of nurses who would come in and give me a pity party," Dash said. "But I was like, 'I'm going to be alright. I am going to beat this.'"

He went through chemotherapy for a year, then he moved to California, away from his family, for clinical trials at Stanford University, where he got a double lung transplant.

His old lungs were so riddled with cancer, he had reached the point where he could hardly talk. And yet that wasn't the most painful part. Being apart from his girls, especially his oldest daughter, was worse for Dash.

"When I came back from the transplant, she didn't know who I was," Dash said. "She was scared to go to me."

Patrick Hicks, with the SMU Lyle School of Egineering, said the school immediately prepared for Dash's return.

"We made arrangements to get the classroom moved into a better ventilated area," Hicks said.

Despite the positive outlook, Dash 's cancer returned. He beat it for a second time, earning him a title on campus: "Miracle Man."

"Life just continues to throw him curve balls, and he continues to hit them out of the ballpark," Hicks said.

But even then it wasn't over. Dash recently got a bad case of the swine flu.

"I called the transplant doctors and immediately they called in the Tamiflu for myself," Dash said. "I had to take twice as much as a normal person."

On top of that, he was quarantined in his house for days on end surrounded by medicine and hand sanitizer.

"It was pretty rough, pretty painful for the first 4 days," he said.

So rough, in fact, he had to make a choice.

"When I got the flu diagnosis, I told them to drop me out of my class," Dash said. "One, I didn't want to get any sicker. And two, I didn't want to spread this to my classmates."

And three, he wants to focus on the future, like living to see his daughters go to high school. Doctors say that may not happen because his lung transplant is not a cure.

"You couldn't survive if you didn't believe in miracles," Dash said.