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A second chance at life: Michael's story

May 06, 2013

Michael is a bright, spirited 2-year-old: full of life and overflowing with a vivacious curiosity about everything and everyone. But, his joy and unbridled enthusiasm for life also serve as a bittersweet reminder to his loved ones that just a few short weeks ago, Michael nearly lost his life in a tragic accident.

February 3rd was a normal day like any other, but Michael hadn’t slept well the night before. He was tired and upset, not wanting to take a nap. His mother, Noelvys, tried rocking him and singing him to sleep as she usually did, then placed him in his crib, turned and walked a few steps toward the door.

Before Noelvys had even reached the doorway, she heard a thud. She turned around to find Michael on the tile floor, crying. Somehow in those few, short seconds he managed to climb out of his crib and had fallen to the floor. Shaken and upset, Noelvys examined Michael, and it didn’t appear that he was hurt. There were no bumps or visible signs of injury.

After about an hour after his fall, though, it became clear that something wasn’t right. His mother and grandmother noticed that Michael wasn’t acting normally. He refused to eat, wanting only to go to sleep. He was difficult to arouse, and his lips began changing color. Once they realized something was wrong, the family immediately called 911 and got into the car to go to the hospital. The emergency operator advised them that an ambulance was on its way, but in the few short minutes it took for an ambulance to arrive, Michael had become unresponsive. He no longer opened his eyes. He wouldn’t wake up.

Emergency responders called for a helicopter to transport Michael to Arnold Palmer Hospital, and his family followed by car. By the time his parents reached the hospital, Michael was being prepared for emergency surgery.

Dr. Greg Olavarria, the neurosurgeon who examined Michael in the emergency room, determined that Michael had suffered a skull fracture and had an epidural hematoma- significant bleeding in his brain. Michael was near death, and every second counted as the team prepared him for surgery and raced to save his life.

Dr. Olavarria and his team removed the blood clot in his brain, and Michael quickly made a miraculous recovery. He spent only two days in the Intensive Care Unit, and four days after his accident, he went home. Dr. Olavarria says,

“Every once and a while, I’m reminded of how fortunate we are to be able to make a life-saving, life-changing impact on people in their time of dire need. Michael is now walking and talking again- doing everything he did before. He’s a normal 2-year-old now, and I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Michael is now running around his house, chatting happily as 2-year-olds do. He wants to go outside and play, go to the lake to feed the ducks, and play on the playground. He watches the Mickey Mouse Club on TV, and plays Angry Birds on the family’s iPad. The only visible reminder of his accident is the imposing scar that runs the length of his small head. It doesn’t bother Michael; he doesn’t even know that it’s there. But, for his parents and loved ones, it is a reminder of what could have been.

Every day is a reminder that Michael was incredibly fortunate. His mother describes how this event has changed their lives:

“Everything has changed. I always loved my baby. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. But, when you go through something like this, it teaches you to appreciate life even more.”

Although Michael has completely recovered from his physical injuries, Noelvys believes it will take longer for his family to heal from the emotional trauma that they’ve suffered. It was simply an accident, but there is a lingering feeling of guilt and sadness about what Michael has experienced. As time goes on, though, she believes those feelings of sadness will fade away.

Michael’s bright smile and infectious laughter bring light and joy into their lives every day. He has a full life ahead of him to share, and his family is so grateful for every moment with him.