'Mickala the Miracle' hooked on motocross
Mickala Morinville will celebrate her 17th birthday on Friday.
She will spend the birthday weekend at the Spring Creek MX Park near Millville, watching the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro MX Championship.
Motocross, you see, is a sport she really loves.
"Her brother used to race and that's when Mickala caught the bug,'' said her mother, Judy. "She started watching motocross when she was real young and has always loved it. That and baseball.
"She'll tell you that her birthday comes at a great time because both of her favorite sports are in the middle of their seasons. One or both will always be on.''
We've got a fighter
That Mickala will be around to celebrate her birthday is quite a story. A hard-fought story.
A nickname she's earned — "Mickala the Miracle'' — is precisely why.
Two days into her junior year at Red Lake County Central High School, Mickala developed a virus and found herself short of breath, which was puzzling because she was playing on the volleyball team and had been in excellent shape.
That was on a Friday. She stayed home from school and doctors said she shouldn't play in a volleyball tournament the next day.
That Sunday her parents took her to the emergency room where she was then taken by ambulance to Sanford Children's Hospital in Fargo. The first diagnosis was severe pneumonia in both lungs.
A week later on Sept. 16 she was airlifted by Mayo MedAir to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.
She wouldn't return to her Brooks, Minn., home for 206 days, on April 10.
"We are fortunate,'' said Judy. "Our prayers were answered.''
It turned out that Mickala was suffering from ARDS — Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The cause is unknown but can be and often time is deadly.
She was put on an ECMO machine, a machine which oxygenates blood while the lungs heal.
Only the lungs didn't heal, and they waited and waited and waited some more. In the meantime, her health continued to deteriorate and eventually she was placed on the heart, lung and kidney transplant lists. She was "high'' on that list, too. Renal failure set in and she was also placed on dialysis.
The concerned doctors decided to move the tube connecting her heart to the ECMO machine directly into her chest, which was a risky maneuver but it worked.
By then there were other troublesome complications as well, like hematoma and internal bleeding.
It was a vicious cycle.
"Mickala was on blood thinners because of the ECMO,'' said Judy. "For us, when we get hit by a ball we may suffer a bruise. For Mickala it was much worse. She basically lost the function of her right arm, although, thankfully, that is coming back.''
After 116 days, she was taken off the ECMO. That's the longest anyone in the country has been on the ECMO and still left the hospital.
But she still had six weeks of rehabilitation ahead and that's where Jason Pease entered the picture. He's a respiratory therapist at Mayo Clinic and worked hours and hours with his determined patient.
"Mickala and I were watching motocross in her room and a wager was made that if (riders) Trey Canard beat Ryan Dungey than I would have to shave,'' said Pease. "But thankfully Ryan won and Mickala lost the bet. After four months in a hospital gown, she had to put on a pair of jeans I brought her.
"I learned that Mickala loves the excitement of racing.''
During the — yes we can call it an ordeal — Judy Morinville stayed with her daughter every day she was in Rochester, at the Ronald MacDonald House. Her father Scott was here nearly as long.
And now she's able to go back to school in a couple of weeks, although she will always struggle to be at 100 per cent again.
When Mickala was first released from the hospital in April, she wanted to attend an indoor motocross event at the Metrodome.
"All the exhaust and everything, that would have been too much,'' said Judy.
But now, through the Make a Wish Foundation, Pease made arrangements for Mickala and her family to attend this week's racing at Spring Creek.
"They'll have comfort zone tickets,'' said track co-owner Greta Martin, "and we'll take her around the track and she will get to meet the drivers, especially Trey and Ryan. We understand Mickala is a great racing fan.''