At age 15, Michael, an avid outdoorsmen, started seeing an allergy doctor for a cough that turned into a lot more than just a quick doctors visit. The allergy doctor detected abnormal signs and after sending it on for some extensive testing, Michael was told he had an enlarged heart. Medical professionals tried to control it with medications but things made a turn for the worse when Michael's ankle started to swell while on a family vacation. Dayna, Michael's mother, made a quick call to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas who immediately sent a jet to retrieve Michael and fly him back to Dallas where he was instantly placed on the heart transplant list.
While on the transplant list, doctors put a LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) into Michael’s abdomen that helped his heart in pumping. At the time, the LVAD wasn't approved for minors to use the device without the supervision of a medical team which meant Michael was not allowed to leave the confines of the hospital due to risk of an infection. Michael was forced to live on the eighth floor at Children’s for nine weeks making it not only difficult to enjoy the outdoors, but to be with his family.
“The hardest thing about the illness was that it kept me off the water,” explains Michael. “I couldn't fish and that’s something I want to do every day.”
Luckily, Michael received his heart transplant on April 18, 2011, his Mother’s birthday.
After the transplant, Michael’s doctors explained to the family the new do’s and don’ts for Michael (i.e. can’t be around birds, etc.). The doctors gave a lot of information that day, but Michael only had one question: “Can I still fish?”
When Michael was introduced to Make-A-Wish® he knew exactly what to wish for. He wished to have a bass boat because of his hopes to one day be a professional bass fisherman.
Because of his love for fishing, Michael was asked to represent Make-A-Wish as the Wish Ambassador at the 2013 Permian Basin Oilman’s Bass Invitational (PBOBI), an event that has raised $4 million for Make-A-Wish since 1995. As the event’s Wish Ambassador, Michael would have the opportunity to mingle with bass fishermen, see various types of boats in action and tell his story of why he wished for a bass boat. Little did Michael know that his wish would take place that very same weekend!
A few days before PBOBI, Michael, his parents and younger brother Matthew traveled to Del Rio, Texas (near Lake Amistad) to take in the weekend’s festivities. The day before the competition, Michael was kept busy with activities such as helping a Skeeter mechanic fix a propeller, stopping by the competition’s weigh station and an afternoon on the lake with a professional fisherman, Grant Goldbeck, where Michael caught a bass in just 15 minutes of his first cast.
That evening, the family was schedule to attend the PBOBI kickoff banquet where Michael planned on sharing his story with over 650 fishermen and volunteers. Michael was called to the stage where he quickly found out that not only would he be sharing his reason why he wished to have a bass boat, but his wish would be granted. The boat on display in the room was not a boat being raffled off as he thought…..it was his! The family was loaded up with all the things they needed to fish - hats, fishing shirts with their last name on the back, fishing poles and reels and of course, life jackets.
The feeling in the room was electric as Michael’s family shared that all through his treatment he was very strong and never shed a tear or felt sorry for himself.
That night, the entire room witnessed Michael’s eyes fill with tears as he set eyes on his new bass boat!
Like all wishes we grant, Michael’s wish took an entire community of supporters. Special thanks goes to Gary Lankford, Skeeter, Apache(Timothy Custer, Bobby Smith, Jay Hightower, Michael Thorson, Roger Macarevich, Lucian Wray III, Kenneth Neupert, John Polasek, and John Christmann) and of course the PBOBI group for their passion to continue making wishes like Michael’s come true!!!!
Fun Facts about Michael
- Caught first bass (5 lbs.) at age 7 at the Coleto Creek Reservoir in Fannin, TX.
- Babe’s Chicken was the first thing he wanted to eat after the nine week stay at the hospital.
- Do you have a Favorite Lure? “Topwater Buzzbait”
- Do you have a Lucky Lure? “Whatever’s catching them that day. That’s my favorite lure."
- Michael would love to start a high school fishing team and hopefully compete on a college level hoping that one day he can be called a professional bass fisherman.