Nathalie Touboul graduated with Malibu High School’s Class of ’07, and Lyon Herron graduated a few years after that. Herron, who has suffered from the rare disease Gardner syndrome for most of his life, made a big impression on Nathalie. In fact, so much so that now, 16 years after graduating high school, he was the inspiration for a character in a script she co-wrote for ABC’s long-running show “The Good Doctor.” It was the “B-story” in the episode titled “Quiet and Loud” that aired Jan. 23.
“He’s within my age group, and Malibu is a small community, and he’s such an advocate for his rare disease, and I remember a bunch of local fundraisers given for him over the years,” Nathalie recalled in a phone interview. “I pitched his rare disease to my bosses [at ‘The Good Doctor’], and they were excited and let me put it in the script.”
The episode will hopefully bring national attention to the extremely rare disease, Gardner syndrome, that puts individuals at high risk for developing colorectal cancer and ongoing desmoid tumors. It is an inherited condition caused by a genetic abnormality. There is no cure, but the symptoms can be managed.
Lyon, a Malibu native, was first diagnosed with the disease at the age of 4. He later developed stage 3 colon cancer and was treated with a variety of conventional and alternative treatment methods. He’s had dozens of surgeries, including the removal of a 6-pound tumor, stem cell therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy.
Beginning in November 2019, Lyon spent 485 days at Cedars Sinai hospital dealing with an intestinal fistula (hole) and inter-abdominal abscesses. Aggressive fast growing desmoid tumors wrapped around his small intestine and mesenteric artery, and he developed sepsis, edema, and low hemoglobin.
In January 2022, during a procedure to put a new clamp on the fistula, he aspirated in post-op and his lungs nearly filled with fluids. He was placed in a medically induced coma and put on life support. The doctors gave him a 20 percent chance of waking up, but he came around after a week and is still recovering.
Meanwhile, Nathalie was working her way up the ladder in the television industry. For the past 10 years, she’s been assistant to David Shore, a producer, writer, and the creator of “The Good Doctor.” He’s also been involved in a number of other successful television shows over the years.
Nathalie had wanted to break into television writing for a long time, and was finally given an opportunity to sit in on writers’ meetings and begin participating in that work starting about four years ago, which had her doing two jobs at once — still being an assistant as well as learning about the writing process, which requires a lot of research on a medical show.
She was first exposed to script writing as a career by her stepdad, Elias Davis, an award-winning TV comedy writer for shows like “M*A*S*H,” “Cheers,” “Frasier,” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” Her mother, Gail Block, is a retired PR consultant.
Nathalie’s first big assignment for “The Good Doctor” was to co-write part of the fifth-season finale, considered to be “an important script,” which aired last May. That, along with her writing on the episode inspired by Lyon Herron, has now given her enough credits to join the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA). She will shortly join the show’s writing team full-time.
In speaking about Lyon, Nathalie said, “He shares openly about everything going on — he does podcasts, and does it with such positivity, it was very inspiring to us. He’s hopeful and optimistic, and has an anti-cancer clothing line. We were able to use Lyon’s personal beanie from the clothing line on the show, which says ‘Heaven Ain’t Ready.’ That really spoke to us.”
While the story on the show was inspired by Lyon, it’s not intended to be his biography.
“Lyon’s character in the show is played by a teen, younger than Lyon in real life, who also has a positive mental attitude,” Nathalie said. “Lyon is really close to his mom in real life, and so is the character on the show. He’s such a good guy, I feel lucky I got to share his story.”
Lyon is now married to another MHS grad, Danica Locker. He was raised by his mother, Barbie Herron Conkling, who still lives in Malibu. Whenever healthy enough, over the years, he continued to surf, snowboard, and take photos.
However, on the latest update to his GoFundMe page, posted Dec. 19, 2022, it states that Lyon is currently living at his mom’s because he needs assistance and his wife works full-time. A visiting nurse and physical therapist come twice weekly. He’s in and out of the hospital frequently due to large amounts of edema (fluid), multiple blood clots in his right leg and a systemic E. coli infection. But he reportedly still has a positive attitude and stays focused on “overcoming each hurdle.”
Lyon receives disability payments and help with medical expenses, but finances are still a worry. His current GoFundMe, at https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-lyon-recover , has raised $22,672 of a $50,000 goal from 159 donations. To buy one of his “Heaven Ain’t Ready” beanies or T-shirts, go to https://lyandco.la/collections/heaven-aint-ready.