The Sticks of the Trade
Michael works as a phlebotomist, drawing and testing blood on a daily basis, which is ironic since he has Type-A Hemophilia.
"Hemophilia is a hereditary bleeding disorder," said Brian Wicklund, MDCM, MPH, Director of the Center for Coagulation Medicine at Children's Mercy and Michael's hematologist. "The blood in hemophiliac patients is deficient of proteins that are needed to allow the blood to clot properly."
NEEDLES? NOT A PROBLEM!
Although Michael works around needles every day, he doesn't face much risk for serious injury.
"My life isn't in danger when I go to work," Michael laughed. "Most people think a paper cut is life-threatening for a hemophiliac, but that's not true."
People with hemophilia suffer predominantly from internal bleeding as well as early onset arthritis. Treatment usually involves near-daily IV medications that restore the blood's clotting abilities.
"But I do have to be conscious," he continued. "I have to make smart choices at work like I do in any other part of my life."
Children's Mercy operates the largest hemophilia treatment center in the Midwest in conjunction with Truman Medical Center.
Michael was treated at the Hemophilia Center the first three years of his life for severe internal bleeding. Soon after, he was diagnosed with arthritis. Michael underwent his first of several arthritis surgeries when he was only 12 years old.
"The Kansas City Regional Hemophilia Center provides care to more than 500 patients with hemophilia, von Willebrand's disease, platelet function disorders and rare bleeding disorders," Dr. Wicklund said.
In addition to its clinical treatment, the center hosts a unique camp each summer that teaches kids with bleeding disorders how to self-manage their diseases. Here, Michael learned to administer his IV medication when he was seven years old.
"If I got hurt on the playground as a kid, I knew how to go and administer medicine myself," Michael said.
Dr. Wicklund said the camp reflects the center's desire for its patients to be self-sufficient and to become part of a supportive community.
"This camp is a place you can be yourself," Michael smiled. "You don't have to worry about being different because everyone else is like you."
Even though Michael's treatment at Children's Mercy ended a couple of years ago, he maintains a close relationship with Dr. Wicklund. The transition from patient to colleague hasn't deterred Dr. Wicklund from calling him "Mikey" when they pass each other in the hospital though.
"Mikey has come a very long way," Dr. Wicklund beamed. "I'm absolutely thrilled to see him with a Children's Mercy badge around his neck."
Michael said he is equally thrilled with his position at Children's Mercy.
"I enjoy helping children," Michael said. "Children's Mercy is like a second family. It's helped me all my life and I love giving back after what I went through."
More than anything, Michael says Children's Mercy taught him a healthy perspective of patients with any disease.
"It's important to recognize each patient is a normal person with a small condition," he said. "Myself included. My disease is only a small part of who I am."