Story submitted by Michael's mother, Terry.
Michael was adopted by us when he was 10 years old. But that was not when Michael came into our lives.
I met Michael when he was 5 years old. I am a nurse, and I was evaluating him to be placed in a long term care facility. The first 5 years of Michael’s life were wrought with disability, dysfunction and abuse.
Michael was born with Spina bifida and multiple disabilities. He was taken by the authorities from his birth parents and left at Children’s Hospital. Both of his parents were serious drug addicts. He had been living under the stairs in his parent’s house and he had been terribly abused, both physically and mentally. His leg had been broken and he was not a stranger to Child Protective Services.
Michael was nonverbal, had a tracheotomy tube due to frequent aspiration, needed catheterization, and had a feeding tube after being force fed by his parents.
I made the decision that Deaconess Long Term Care Facility could care for his needs, and Michael was placed. But, the story is just beginning.
Michael was very different and had managed to crawl into my heart. I did not want Michael to live in a Long Term Facility.
It was extremely hard, but my family and I began navigating the system that would eventually allow us to take him on field trips and have him sleep over at our home. His medical care was extensive, but I, my husband, and my two teenage daughters loved him and wanted desperately to make a difference in Michael’s life. What we did not know at the time though, was the difference that Michael would make in our lives.
We all learned how to care for him; we changed his trach, suctioned him, and learned how to catheterize. Because he couldn’t speak, we all learned sign language and communicated through signing. We eventually helped him get an electronic communication device so he could talk to his friends.
We, as a family, made the decision to involve ourselves with Child and Protective Services and began proceedings to become his foster parents. After that, it took 6 long years to finalize our adoption and terminate his parent’s rights. We were finally able to call him “OURS.”
On Michael’s 10th birthday, we had a stretch limo pick us up and take us to the court house. Michael wore a black top hat! The judge made us promise to love and care for him forever, and Michael came home.
Michael was strong, full of love, and graced with the ability to bring out the best in everyone around him.
Michael allowed us to slowly teach him how to eat. It was a game he played with my husband. My husband would offer sips of pop and then my men would see who could burp the loudest!
Michael then moved on to little tastes of Prego spaghetti sauce. Eventually Michael learned to tolerate a normal diet and promised to eat if his feeding tube was removed. We buried the tube in our backyard as Michael waved goodbye!
Michael’s strength and fortitude amazed us all. He had numerous surgeries to get through. He had 2 VP shunt repairs and 3 major back surgeries so he could sit up straight in his wheelchair.
We were able to get him in to a power chair and Michael drove that chair like he owned the world. He captured the hearts of everyone that came in contact with him. He fit in even through all of his difficulties. He attended Public School 84, played sled hockey, and his favorite was wheelchair baseball for 10 years. Michael embraced life and communicated his love through his expressive eyes and beautiful smile. Michael’s gift to us was his love, his joy and his ability to connect and teach so much to those who knew him.
At 20 years old, Michael Adam Gregory suffered a bowel obstruction and his wondrous life on earth came to an end, but his gifts will go on to continually help others.
Though there is a huge hole in my heart, the knowledge of knowing how Michael’s eyes have helped others is just more of the love Michael leaves behind. There is such a huge need for donation and it felt right to try to help others through him. He was a true hero in life and through donation, has continued to be someone else’s “hero.”