Of the five Weilert children, none are quite as different from each other as Ethan and Michael.
Ethan is 10, likes an orderly life, is organized and thoughtful. Michael is 6, and he’s none of those.
“Michael is sweet and cuddly, he’s just really impulsive and doesn’t quite understand consequences,” said Amber Weilert, mother of the clan. “Michael is ... impulsive.”
And energetic. Just ask his grandfather.
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“Before I got a wheelchair a few months ago, Michael would run up, give me a judo kick and then run off,” Richard Rasmussen said. “I couldn’t have caught him with a motorcycle.”
The Weilerts live in Parkland, and the boys are both students at Brookdale Elementary School.
The family says Ethan is Michael’s “guardian angel.”
It’s a job the older brother takes seriously.
“I look out for him,” Ethan says simply.
Lately those duties have required more than the normal vigilance. Twice, Ethan has rescued his younger brother from danger, including one intervention that might have saved his life.
A few months back, the two boys — they have two grown brothers, Robert and Ryan, and a younger sister, Kacee — were having a campout in their living room.
Their father, David, a diesel mechanic who works in Seattle, left for work about 4 a.m. About 30 minutes later, Michael started kicking Ethan, who had been sleeping near him.
“He’s kicked me before,” Ethan said. “I tried to wake him up so he’d stop.”
But Michael wouldn’t wake up.
“He was shaking,” Ethan said. “He’d never done that before. I went and woke up my mom.”
Amber Weilert also tried to wake her youngest son and couldn’t. For a moment, she was so panicked she couldn’t find the telephone.
Ethan found it for her. She called 911 and asked for an ambulance, then called the kids’ grandmother, Leah Rasmussen, who lives in a house in front of the Weilerts.
“When I got there, there was a little boy lying on the floor not making a sound,” Grandma Rasmussen said. “That’s not our Michael.”
When paramedics arrived, they couldn’t awaken Michael, either.
“They picked him up like a little wet noodle and said, ‘C’mon, mom,’ and took Michael and Amber to the ambulance,” Grandma Rasmussen said. “Ethan and Kacee and I had a little prayer.”
As the paramedics worked on him, Michael awakened just before the ambulance reached the hospital. Within an hour, he was headed back home — with an appointment to see a neurologist.
“He was back to being himself by the time he got home,” Ethan said.
Ethan, meanwhile, was the family hero.
“If he’d rolled over and gone back to sleep when Michael kicked him, who knows what might have happened,” Amber Weilert said. “The decision he made in that instant changed our lives.”
Grandpa Rasmussen took the family out to a seafood dinner to celebrate, and wasn’t afraid to spread the word around the restaurant that his grandson was a hero.
“Ethan is a shrimp freak, and the chef brought him an entire plate of shrimp and said, ‘What you don’t eat, take home!’ ” Rasmussen said. “I don’t think there was any left to take home.”
“I felt pretty special,” Ethan said of that night.
Michael, it turned out, had epilepsy that requires medication.
“Michael bounces off walls and always has,” his father said. “He’s a wonderful, caring person, but the poor kid has asthma, epilepsy and now maybe ADHD. Everything dropped on poor Michael.”
It would be nice to say things have calmed down in the Weilert house since that frightening night. It would not be accurate.
Michael is still impulsive Michael. And Ethan is still vigilant Ethan.
At a hotel pool last month, Amber said Michael jumped into the deep end.
“He can’t swim,” she said.
Ethan was there and went in right behind his brother. He managed to push, pull and drag Michael to the side of the pool.
Was the little guy appreciative? Not so you’d notice, though he adores his older brother.
“Ethan plays with me,” Michael explained. “I love him.”
Ethan does, indeed, spend lots of time with his brother. Sometimes, there isn’t much choice.
“He wants to do whatever I’m doing,” Ethan said. “Most of the time, that’s fine.”
If he could speak to all older brothers everywhere, what advice would he give them?
“Watch out for your younger brothers and sisters.”