By Kati Walker
Miracles are no mystery to Michael Melton, who was born at 26 weeks and given a one percent chance at life.
Now, he and his family are asking for the community’s help in giving Michael yet another miracle, one that could potentially change his life forever.
Michael and his twin brother Max were born pre-mature at 26 weeks. Michael weighed 940 grams and measured 13.25 inches; Max weighed 942 grams and measured 14.2 inches.
“Michael struggled,” said Julie Melton, the twins’ mother.
Max spent 102 days in the NICU while Michael spent 223 days in the NICU.
Julie said Michael had to have a tracheostomy, which is where doctors put a tube in Michael’s throat to help him breath.
“It was one of the scariest decisions, but it was the best decision,” Julie said. “If I could have gone back in time, I would have wanted to do it sooner.”
Julie said she was scared about the procedure because from what she had seen, a tracheostomy was not good.
“When I think of tracheostomy, it can be a grim outcome,” Julie said. “I thought you’re all crazy, you’re not sticking a tube in my kid’s neck.”
She said with the support of other parents who had seen their children through the procedure, she was able to come to terms with it.
“Other parents had talked to me and told me it’s just going to give his lungs a break,” Julie said. “It’s not the end all, be all.”
Michael was baby “B” and Max was baby “A” when the doctors referred to the twins. Max was closer to Julie’s cervix, and protected all three of them.
“Max is the one who kept all three of us from getting an infection,” Julie said.
However, Michael was already flipped upside down and ready to be delivered, Julie said.
“They didn’t know if he was just hanging on for his brother’s sake or not,” Julie said. “When they said he would be born, if he did survive, it would be a 40-60 percent chance he wouldn’t see, hear, talk or walk. He would pretty much live in a hospital. They didn’t think he would ever come home. And here we are, home.”
She said that discussion was the hardest she had to endure in reference to Michael’s health.
After several challenges, Michael was able to come home on November 11 of that year. The family traveled to Dallas in March for an appointment with a specialist.
“When we went that year to the pulmonologist, he immediately admitted Michael,” Julie said.
Michael spent two months in that hospital. Julie said that was hard, too, because Max, Michael’s twin, couldn’t stay with them in the hospital.
“My dad would drive Max to me every few days,” Julie said. “It was hard.”
Now, Michael and Max are 4 years old. Julie said Michael is still non-verbal, but he will echo her with sounds. Michael was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at 19 months and has a developmental delay, along with a chronic lung disease due to his premature birth.
Michael also has seizures that don’t have the same appearance as conventional seizures.
“When most people think of seizures, they think convulsions, but that’s not at all what Michael’s are like,” Julie said.
She said at first she didn’t even know he was having seizures because Michael would just start staring into space.
“When they first started happening, he just gets into a staring spell,” Julie said. “He could be in the middle of something and then trance out.”
Michael also has mild cerebral palsy.
Julie said because of these medical hindrances, Michael has had a home health nurse since he came home from the hospital. The nurse has been with the family ever since.
Julie says every doctor who has seen Michael is amazed by the progress he has made since leaving the hospital.
“It’s exciting, especially because he isn’t supposed to be here,” Julie said. “Even the doctors who have seen him, they say he’s a medical mystery. I wouldn’t bet against him for anything because he’s beat every odd.”
One the bigger challenges for Michael has been watching his twin brother, Max, develop and begin to walk and talk while he hasn’t.
“His tolerance for his brother is hit or miss,” Julie said. “It really bothered Michael to see Max become mobile and him not.”
Julie said she often refers to the twins as “quiet and riot” because Michael is non-verbal while Max is on the opposite end of the verbal spectrum.
“Max is so loud and high energy, it kind of freaked Michael out a little bit,” Julie said. “He’s becoming more tolerant, especially since Michael started walking.”
Julie said she began raising money for “Miracles for Michael” after doing research about autism and other things that affect Michael’s daily life. She said something that struck her was stem cell therapy, which is not offered in the United States.
However, she said other countries have seen enormous success with stem cell therapy, specifically Panama, the country that accepted Michael.
An unexpected challenge arose for Julie when legislation changed her insurance plan.
“Doctors we had been seeing since Michael was born, we couldn’t see anymore,” Julie said. “For me to keep them, I have to have the out of network authorization and come out of pocket for doctors’ and medical expenses. We started raising money for the stem cell therapy, but now it’s for both.”
The family established the special needs trust to raise the money for Michael in June.
“Fell at the right time for Early Settlers’ Day,” Melton said.
She said for the stem cell therapy, the family has to raise $15,000 for the therapy alone, which consists of four days of infusions. Some of the results Julie has read about include a non-verbal child who started saying words, making eye contact and interacting with others.
“It’s changed lives, it’s just not available to us here,” Julie said. “It’s not something you can just go out and do, it’s something you have to plan for.”
Julie is also a single mother, and said she doesn’t know how she would make it day by day without the help of her family.
“My family, my nurses who are my family, we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for them,” Julie said. “We just take it day by day, or breath by breath.”
“You never know what the day is going to bring or the hour is going to bring…that alone is a full-time gig and [Michael]’s my easy one!” Julie laughed.
Where Michael lacks in volume and presence, Max makes up for.
“We’ve got Max who’s hanging by the ceiling and always ready to go, go, go,” Julie said “He’s always on the go.”
Julie said because of Michael’s condition, Max often has to miss out on things, too.
“I had to pull Max out of parent’s day out this past year because Michael’s immune system is so low and Max was bringing stuff home with him,” Julie said.
Michael was diagnosed with the common cold, para influenza three, RSV and multiple pneumonia all within a two month period last winter.
“Max has been sacrificing since before he was born, he had to be born early,” Julie said. “But if it wasn’t for Max, neither one of them would be here.”
Julie said the Max suffers because he has to miss out not only on childhood experiences, but on time with family, too.
“Max misses out on normal family time, especially when we have a planned admit or random admit,” Julie said. “If it’s a hospital admit, he can’t go, he can’t stay, they won’t let him in the room.”
Regardless, Julie said Max is supportive of his brother and also wants him to succeed.
“He’s so encouraging to his brother,” Julie said. “When he started walking, Max said ‘Yay! Good job!’ He knows a lot of medical stuff, more than any typical 4-year-old would know. If you’re coughing, he’ll say ‘Oh, you need suction.’”
If Julie and her family are able to raise enough money for the stem cell therapy, she believes it will be life-changing for her entire family, but especially for Michael.
“I believe it will be a life-changing thing for him,” Julie said. “He deserves it.”
Julie said she will continue to persevere and fight for Michael and her family because it’s all she’s ever wanted.
“I always wanted to be a mom,” Julie said. “If I can do one thing right in my life, it would be for my kids. It would be being a mom.”
She said though she never could have prepared for it, she wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“I never imagined all of this, you can’t prepare for it,” Julie said. “But you do it day by day, and breath by breath.”
Michael has a Special Needs Trust set up at AimBank. Julie said anyone interested in donating can do so by going into the Levelland branch of AimBank and telling an employee they would like to contribute to the trust. Julie said the employees are aware, and will make sure the money is handled correctly.
Julie said people can also contact her directly through her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/julzie.mm.
The family also has a website, Miracles4Michael.com.
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