Update: As noted in the comments, Mikey passed away early this morning. His family are grateful for the outpouring the Bama Nation have shown during this time. Consider the comments section below as an open thread to express your condolences.
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Alabama football returns to Tuscaloosa today. Some fans are analyzing recruits, depth charts and early practices. Other fans have dusted off their gameday swag and are making plans with family and friends.
For a fan named Mikey, things are a little different. In January, Mikey was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and underwent six weeks of radiation treatment. Initially the results were positive, and Mikey had several good months, including a chance to go to Disney thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Last Saturday, Mikey, was watching his beloved Crimson Tide, wearing his own No. 3 Alabama jersey and pajamas. He got to see Alabama dominate Michigan for a half before he told his parents he was tired and was ready to go to bed. His stepfather Terry noticed he was stumbling a bit on the way to his bedroom.
Sunday morning it became apparent things weren’t going well. Mikey was complaining of having a headache, having issues walking and Terry noticed he couldn’t lift his left arm. They took Mikey back to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to learn that the swelling around the tumor in Mikey’s brain was starting to affect his motor skills. Mikey received treatment to reduce the swelling, but his motor skills continued to decline to the point that he could no longer speak and his pain meds had to be increased. Mikey’s parents thought they were going to lose him that night.
The bright spot of the week came when some family and friends began spreading the word about Mikey on Facebook and Twitter. The phone number for the hospital was given out, asking that any Alabama players that saw it give Mikey a call.
The Tide responded.
Mikey started receiving calls from players past and present, and his parents could tell he could hear what was going on because he began to perk up. Calls from Barrett Jones, Carson Tinker, Prince Wembley as well as his jersey’s namesake Vinnie Sunseri all seemed to give Mikey strength and boost his will to fight. Vinnie dedicated his season to Mikey.
Later, Nick Saban called and spoke to Mikey’s mom as she lay in bed next to him, and Terry said coach Saban’s voice was so powerful they could all hear him in the room. Mikey definitely heard it too, though the only way they could tell was by his heart monitor as it jumped from 110 beats/minute to 130.
The Bama Nation responded too. Alabama fans and non-fans alike spread the word to keep Mikey in thoughts and prayers. Others took it a step further sending gifts and making calls. One Bama dad arranged to have a digital billboard in Huntsville to give Mikey a special message up in lights, along with the Twitter hashtag #RollTide4Mikey.
“I felt the need to help,” he said, “and that is how I could.”
So today, while we are all watching Alabama battle Western Kentucky, take a moment to think about Mikey, who is fighting his own battle from his hospital bed. Keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers, and say a Roll Tide for Mikey.