“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”
I have wanted to write this blog for weeks. Finally I decided to reach out to the parents of Michael Sloan and ask if they minded if I wrote a little bit about Michael’s story, and they graciously agreed. Watching him persevere over the last two months or so has been so inspiring to me. Not only watching him actually, but also watching the love and dedication his mom and dad have shown to him has touched me tremendously. I also wanted to share some pictures of his sweet, adorable face both before and after his accident. You can just see the joy in his face and it has caught my attention in a big way.
Everyone has heard people say that life can change in an instant. PJ and Timberly Sloan were reminded how true this is on July 11th when their six year old son, Michael, was found at the bottom of a pool while swimming at his camp. He was given CPR which saved his life, but unfortunately he had suffered a complete loss of oxygen to his brain. He has spent the last two months in a rehab surprising doctors and doing things that no one ever thought he would do. Initially his parents were told he may never open his eyes again or even come off the ventilator. But just as Michael’s parents said, Michael is a fighter. He has not only opened his eyes and come off of the vent, but he is making progress every day. He has spoken a few words, taken a few steps , pushed pedals on a bike, and enjoyed watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and now the beginning of Vanderbilt’s football season. I am sure by the time this article posts, he will have accomplished even more. Michael’s story hit home for me as it did for many other parents. There is just no pain like the pain of watching your child suffer. I have a son Michael’s age and just weeks before Michael’s accident I had a small scare of my own. My four year old daughter decided to take off her floaties when I turned around and attempted to swim after her sister. I turned back to find her floating in the pool. She looked so dazed and that image has been etched in my mind. Fortunately I got to her in time and she was only stunned with a little water ingestion. It shook me for days. It was the scariest moment of my life.
From the moment I heard Michael’s story and saw his adorable face, I have followed his every step on Facebook. When I get up to go run I always check his mother’s Facebook page to check on his progress. One thing that stands out about Michael is his love for sports. He is a huge Predators fan and above all he loves Vanderbilt Football. If you have followed his story then you have seen it too. He may be the littlest sports fanatic I have ever seen! Seeing how his love for Vanderbilt Football has been a theme in his healing and in his fight has amazed me. I am a UT grad so I know what it means to love a football team, but Michael is six! Yet he has the passion of a grown man when it comes to his team. Michael would always dye his hair black and gold for Vanderbilt games. He told his father he wanted the team to be able to see he was rooting for them. Since Michael’s accident however, the table has turned and it has been Vanderbilt football rooting for Michael. Coach Derek Mason even retired the #1 jersey for this season in Michael’s honor, since Michael is their number one fan. Coach Mason delivered the jersey himself. Michael has received gifts from the team, from the cheerleaders and from other Vanderbilt fans as well. The whole community reached out to support him.
In addition to Vanderbilt’s support, they have received support from the Nashville Predators and the Nashville Fire Department as well. Michael even has a signed hockey stick from Mike Fisher. And September 27th will be Michael Sloan night with the Nashville Fire Department at the Predators game. A portion of the proceeds will be going directly back to Michael’s family. But the support from the sports community didn’t stop there. Michael has received gifts from the Cincinnati Reds and even had a visit from a member of the Belmont basketball team.
Michael’s recovery is going to be a long road. But if you look at the constant theme throughout his fight to recover, it’s perseverance, passion, loyalty, and support. It’s the love from his family and friends and all of the new fans of his own he has acquired. It’s having the drive to keep going, to keep pushing, and most of all having the will to never ever give up. All of these are qualities Michael has not only learned from being loved by his family, but by the love he has for sports and especially his true passion from Vanderbilt football.
I have always been a believer in sports and I have always thought kids could learn a lot from them. Michael Sloan is no doubt an example of that. Seeing what the sports community has done to support him shows that being a fan is truly appreciated by these college and professional level teams. Even with all of the rough days he has had, Michael has managed to laugh and smile. One thing that makes him smile the most is hearing Vanderbilt’s fight song. His parents say that was his favorite song to listen to when he would get ready for a soccer game or to get him ready to watch Vandy play. In the very beginning I read an article that His father PJ was quoted in. PJ was saying that the doctors weren’t optimistic about Michael’s recovery. He went on to say however that they just did not know his son. Well apparently he was right because Michael is already exceeding expectations. I have no doubt that the start of football season will only give Michael an even bigger reason to get better. He knows his team needs his support!
If you are ever having a bad, busy, or overwhelming day, I would challenge you to follow Michael’s progress to see what he endures with all of his therapies and his tube feedings. Yet there is rarely a day that I don’t see a picture of Michael with a smile on his face. Many times there is even video of his laughter. When I get overwhelmed with my kids and my job, and just life in general…. I think also of his parents. They have to be two of the strongest people there is. I have to be honest and say that I am a UT grad so I pull for the big Orange. However this year, for Michael, I sure hope Vandy has a great season. Michael is coming back from the rehab in Atlanta, but his therapies will continue here in Nashville. If you want to donate to Michael’s fund, you can do so here: http://www.gofundme.com/bi4b1c
You can also follow his progress on his Facebook Page, Pray For Michael.
We are all rooting for you, Michael!