Three-Sport Athlete Adjusts to New Life After Car Accident Shatters Dreams
CBN.com - “The TV was on. And I happened to see this breaking news story about a wreck, and I said to myself, ‘Whoever was in that wreck, they didn’t make it,’” recalls Yvonne McKay.
Gary and Yvonne McKay heard on the news that one person had died and another was critically injured in an accident near their home. What they didn’t know that one of them was their 22-year-old son Michael.
“Michael was a kid that had a lot of goals, a lot of drive. He started playing football at age 6. He was a sweet little kid, and never gave me any problems. He loved God and he was a Christian,” Yvonne says.
Michael McKay was a model student and athlete, a star quarterback at Campbell High School in Georgia, and later at Gardner-Webb University. Michael had a tryout scheduled with a professional football team in the fall of 2000. That summer, he took a job delivering auto parts.
“He had an opportunity to play arena ball. And he was one week away.”
Michael was on top of the world. But everything changed the morning of September 9, 2000. Michael was sitting at a red light when a BMW, traveling at nearly 100 miles an hour, hydroplaned and hit him head-on.
Michael’s delivery truck flipped over five times and landed on top of another car. He was then rushed to Cobb General Hospital in Atlanta.
“Michael had bilateral orbital fractures around his eyes, nasal fracture, jaw fracture; he had liver problems, a contusion of his liver. He required a gastrostomy tube, a tracheostomy. He was on mechanical ventilation for a while,” says Dr. Donald P. Leslie, Medical Director of the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
The hospital staff called Yvonne to let her know, but failed to convey exactly how dire the situation was. “I got there and I said I was there to pick up Michael, Yvonne recalls. “And they said, ‘You can’t because they are working on him. And I said ‘What do you mean they’re working on him?’ And they said, ‘You don’t know?’ And I said that I did not know. And one of the other nurses said that he might not make it.”
Several hours later, she was finally allowed to see her son. “That was the longest hallway that I ever could have walked. And he was just laying there, with swelling—facial swelling—and I’m thinking, ‘What’s going to happen to my baby?’”
Dr. Leslie, who worked extensively on Michael, said, “Michael had bleeding and hemorrhaged down into his basal ganglia, which is well down into the center of the brain. Many people who have this severe an injury do not recover.”
“I was asking God to put him back, because it was just like humpty-dumpty. And that’s what I was asking: to put him back--back to where he was, or close to where he was.”
Yvonne called her pastor and family and friends who set up a prayer chain that spread across several states.”Michael was visited by classmates from his pee-wee ball days, friends from high school, college, the neighbors, and my friends. He had 300 of his friends and students and classmates to show up,” Yvonne says. “They even thought he was a celebrity at one point. So we had this network of prayer people just praying constantly to keep him here.”
While his mother continued to pray at the foot of her son’s bed, Michael slipped into a coma. “They tried to convince me to let him go, and I kept telling them, ‘No he wasn’t going. They didn’t know who I knew, and I had the faith that he wasn’t going,’ Yvonne says. “At one point, the doctor came in and looked at him and the doctor said, ‘Michael is in there somewhere.’”
The family and friends continued their prayer vigil around the clock. Then one day, Michael’s eyes fluttered open. “To me, that was one of the signs that he was going to make it,” his mother says.
Michael has little memory of his time in the coma. “As I was coming out of it, it was a really big state of confusion,” he says. “I asked my family,’ How did I get in this hospital? What am I doing here?’ Because I didn’t realize I had been in an accident.”
Although it was a positive sign, Michael still had a long way to go. “I went through five and a half years of rehab, and three years of physical therapy,” he says.
“It was just like having a child again. They had to hoist him out of bed because his whole left side was paralyzed. I would put a pen or pencil in his hand to help him write the alphabet and numbers.”
Today, Michael is about 95% recovered from his accident and has very few limitations. He is coaching middle school football, and eventually hopes to pursue a career in broadcasting.
“To purify gold and silver, you have to put it under a flame and burn the impurities out. And I feel that was God’s time of putting me under the flame and burning those impurities out of me. But while you’re going through it, He’s maturing you,” Michael says.
Rather than questioning God or being bitter about his experience, Michael is grateful to be alive and healthy again and says his faith is now stronger than ever: “Jesus--He really is my everything. And I pray every night that people don’t see me, that I am a reflection of Him, and that He shines through me.”
Dr. Donald Leslie is still stunned by Michael’s level of recovery. “I have seen a number of cases as severe as his, but certainly none that have done any better than he has done. He’s done remarkably well,” Leslie says. “As much as we could give him, we did, but there were other forces that I can’t explain scientifically, that took care of Michael.”
Michael and his family believe it’s no mystery—it’s a testament to the power of prayer. “You can never get prayed for enough. Another cool aspect I love about Jesus is He says that you can come to Him at any time, any day, at all times. He listens to all prayers and answers them according to His will. And that’s a beautiful thing--to know that I am in His will, to recover as fully as I did, Michael says. “I don’t care what any naysayers might think—prayer works.”