Kansas City,
16:20 PM

Former Children's Mercy patient graduates high school despite odds

Marci Mulloy

Children’s Mercy Hospital respiratory therapist Marci Mulloy wiped away tears as she talked about 18­-year-­old Michael Douglas. He has a rare lung disease that requires him to use oxygen at all times.

She said doctors had predicted he wouldn’t be able to attend kindergarten because of fatigue. They also didn’t expect him to live past the age of 13. He proved them wrong.

On May 15, Michael graduated from Wellsville High School as valedictorian of his class. Mulloy was among dozens of people who attended his graduation party at the Wellsville Community Center. She has known Michael since he was an infant, and he was a ring bearer in her wedding.

“He has been amazing. I think he touches everybody’s lives and changes it forever,” she said.

A rare illness

Just before his first birthday on Feb. 23, 1999, Michael began breathing rapidly, so his parents took him to the hospital emergency room in Ottawa. From there, he went by ambulance to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

One year later — after numerous hospital stays, tests and surgeries — Dr. Philip Black, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Mercy, diagnosed him with interstitial lung disease. It’s an illness that causes progressive scarring of lung tissue, and so it affects Michael’s ability to breathe. Black said it’s basically a stiffening of lung tissue.

After the diagnosis, Michael was sent to Houston, where he saw a specialist who created a regimen for how to live with the disease because there is no cure. It included medicines, a two­-day steroid treatment every six weeks and a food pump at night. They’ve stuck with the regimen, just updating it as Michael has grown and new medicines have become available.

Sports fanatic

Michael plans to attend Ottawa University in the fall, where he will study sports administration and be the director of basketball operations.

That’s no surprise, given he loves sports and is a self-described sports nut, especially when it comes to Kansas University basketball.

Mulloy, his longtime respiratory therapist, believes he will achieve anything he sets out to do. “He is going to do great things in this world.”

Read the full story via WellCommons.

Learn more about the Pediatric Pulmonology program at Children's Mercy.