The child was involved in an automobile accident. His injury resulted in the removal of half his brain. He was left in a coma.
"See what you can do," his supervisor said to him.
Though Byrne had no idea where to begin, he grabbed two washcloths, one wet and one dry, washed his face and hands, then dried them.
"So this process started," he said of their exceptional journey together.
For months, Byrne read him stories and sang to him. The boy eventually transitioned from intensive care to step-down (an intermediate unit) to general beds, all the while, still comatose. Byrne continued his work with the boy, wheeling him outside to get fresh air from time to time, still singing, still reading.
One day as the nurses lowered him in a tub for a bath, the boy said "Don't." He awoke from his coma.
"So now the fun started," Byrne said, reminiscing.
The boy, who was about 10 years old at the time, had to learn various things all over again. They would practice his reading, penmanship and drawing together.
"He looked forward to when I would come each time," Byrne said. "Gradually he was getting better."
Then one day in the fall, as they sat outside in the sun reading a favorite book, Byrne learned how much his friendship meant to this boy.
"He reached over and he held my hand," Byrne said, his eyes distant but with words spoken like it was yesterday. "He said to me, he said, 'Matt, I was in a coma, and you read to me, and I got better."
"So, that's my story," Byrne said, wiping away tears.
Faith plays a critical role
"The thing that bothers me is to see children who are neglected," he said. "That's a tragedy. I've seen kids who've died from neglect, and that's a crime."