‘Miracle Mike’ no longer needs neck brace

Michael Lois and his parents Matt and Hayley, a Burlington native, pose in front of their Elkhorn home a few days after Lois returned from the hospital in September. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

Sometimes, there are stories bigger than sports that end up shaking the local sports community to its core.

In 2018, nothing was bigger on the local sports scene than Michael Lois.

The star football player and University of Iowa commit, only a junior, was tearing it up on the field for the Elkhorn Elks.

But a Packer game party with friends turned tragic in a matter of seconds.

Lois, son of Burlington native Hayley, broke his neck in the shallow water of a backyard pool after a fateful leap off a trampoline.

The incident landed Lois at Children’s Hospital in a wheelchair, with vertebrae damage.

Recently, he got the OK to remove his neck brace after three months, and he is attending school regularly.

His dream of football, along with his scholarship to Iowa, are still there, but only time will tell what the future holds for the bright teen.

Lois earned a spot on the 2018 Southern Lakes Newspapers All-Area football team despite missing half the season.

Lois’ injury, recovery and perseverance highlight our No. 3 story of the year.

 

Here is the original story, which ran in the Sept. 27 edition. Please visit www.mywalworthcounty.com for the entire article:

 

Sitting around their wooden kitchen table, Matt and Hayley Lois are grateful and thankful on a foggy, mild Monday evening.

They allude to acts of God and throw around words like miracle when talking about their son, Michael, 16.

Matt and Hayley are the kind of people who would give the shirt off their backs to a stranger without hesitation. Matt works for the City of Elkhorn and Hayley is a social worker for Walworth County.

It’s this deep-rooted sense of helping others that’s been passed down to Michael, a tall, hulking man-child with the wisdom of someone decades older.

Just two weeks ago, Michael was having a blast, as he and a few fellow Elkhorn varsity football players visited West Side Elementary school to spend some time with kids who idolized the athletes.

Michael read books and even played basketball against children who thought he was in the NFL.

While that dream still exists for Michael, a 2020 University of Iowa commit, it was drastically altered only a few days after his elementary school visit.

And suddenly, a mom and a dad who dedicate their lives to the service of others needed a level of help they couldn’t imagine.

 

A tragic Sunday

On Sunday, Sept. 16, Michael was hanging out at a friend’s house just north of Elkhorn, roughly 15 minutes from the Lois home, which is off Highway H on the south side of the city.

On a hot and humid day, Lois and friends decided to take a dip in the pool, and they wanted to incorporate a large trampoline.

So they placed the trampoline next to the pool and were going to jump into the pool and land on a raft.

Michael, all 6-foot-4, 260 pounds of him, leapt high into the air and descended upon the 4-foot deep pool.

His plan to land on a raft missed entirely, as his jump forced his body to contort in the air and send his head and shoulders into the water first.

The back of Michael’s head, his neck and shoulder crashed to the pool floor, and he immediately knew something was wrong. He popped back above the water, then quickly sank under again. That’s when Sage Rushing had to pull his friend up to safety.

“Me and Sage jumped two or three times, and the third one got me,” Michael said Monday at his home, wearing a large neck brace. “I was going forward a little too much and missed the floatie, and the back of my head went right to the bottom of the pool.”

“I over-rotated, and as soon as my head hit the bottom, everything stopped and time was slow. I couldn’t move my left leg, so I’m struggling to get my head out of the water, and when I could, I was yelling ‘Help!’ Then, Sage got me to the edge of the pool, and I was like ‘Dude, I can’t move my arms.’”

 

Lost feeling in leg

Rushing and Ryley Rand lifted Michael out of the pool, and he sat and reclined on his back and complained of severe shoulder pain.

“That was my vertebrae that broke,” Michael said. “One of the vertebrae had gone under the other one. The surgeon said the only thing that saved me from snapping my spine was the muscle.”

Michael said his friends had to hold him to walk. He was leaning on the pool and said he couldn’t feel his left arm or his left leg.

Luckily, Rand’s dad is a former paramedic, and the decision was made to call 911.

“At no point was I ever scared from the moment I got out of the pool to the surgery table,” Michael said. “I felt like I was going to be taken care of. I definitely think God was with me on that surgery table. The surgeon said I should be in a wheelchair. This was a win for them. Most surgeries like this don’t turn out.”

“I thought, ‘I’m still living, still breathing, it’s definitely going to be something I’m going to have to adjust to. It would be hard, but I’d rather be alive than 6 feet below the grass.”

 

Confined to a hospital bed

Hayley and Michael were home and got the call to rush to Rand’s house, and they dropped everything and hurried out the door.

An ambulance took Michael 20 miles to Waukesha County.

They needed to drive to the nearest trauma center in Oconomowoc, where an X-ray determined Michael had to leave for Children’s Hospital in Wauwatosa.

Emergency surgery was necessary at Children’s.

“Throughout the whole thing, not one tear ran down his cheek,” Matt said.

In fact, Michael was so confident, he asked the ambulance workers if they were called in and had to miss the Packers game.

Matt and Hayley, understandably, weren’t so calm.

“The most intimidating thing was when we got to the trauma center at Children’s,” Matt said. “There’s roughly 30 people suited up, waiting for Michael and evaluating and talking and getting a plan together.”

“We are so blessed to have that hospital in our state, and the wonderful people that work there are unbelievable. After six or seven hours of surgery, the doctor finally came out to talk to us. Dr. Foy said he felt really good about what he accomplished with Michael.”

But neurosurgeon Dr. Andrew Foy also explained a complication occurred, and they weren’t sure about Michael regaining use of his right arm.

 

Dreams are realized

Hayley and Matt feared the worst, that there would be some paralysis in his arm, but somehow the same day Michael’s limbs recovered, and the dream of walking again became more possible.

“They were pretty impressed with Michael,” Matt said. “During physical therapy, he worked so hard to the point of passing out from exhaustion and pain.”

For Hayley, who was out on her deck and preparing to make dinner, it was a call she wouldn’t wish on anyone.

“We left everything unlocked and rushed as fast as we could to get to him,” she said. “We ran out the door. They took good care of him. Ryley and his mom sat next to him until we got there.”

“I was just in shock, your heart sinks. I couldn’t wait to see him.”

“Adrenaline kicks in,” Matt said.

Only one day after surgery on Monday, Michael was ecstatic knowing he could move everything, and he was determined to stand.

Just eight hours after going under the knife thanks to what Michael called a “horse-sized” IV injected into his arm, the teenager was ready to get out of the hospital bed he’d been in for the past three days.

“The nurses and my mom tried to help me stand up,” Michael said. “I was like, ‘No, don’t touch me.’ I wanted to be very independent and do stuff on my own, like tying my shoes and putting my socks on. I said I’m going to do this by myself.”

“A lot of people came to watch,” Matt added. “They just thought it was early in the process for standing up.”

Less than 72 hours from breaking three vertebrae in his neck and a seismic shift in his spinal cord, Michael Lois could stand.

And it wasn’t long before he was walking.

By Wednesday, occupational and physical therapy began, and it started with baby steps.

Michael’s left hand could only go from a fist halfway to being completely open, and it was in the shape of the letter ‘C.’

On Tuesday, the left hand still had nerve damage, but he has made huge strides.

“Therapy definitely helped,” Michael said. “Just eating. The fork, the food’s coming off and you’re shaking trying to get it into your mouth. There were a lot of ‘Let me do it’s’ that week.”

 

Finding inspiration

The life-changing ordeal has opened Michael’s eyes, he said.

He said the story of Marcus Luttrell, a Navy Seal in Afghanistan in 2005 that survived a Taliban attack but broke his back and crawled seven miles to safety, inspired him to keep fighting.

Then, on Monday, while at lunch at Someplace Else in Elkhorn with his family, he noticed another sign that hit home.

A veteran was eating beside the Lois’ table, and Michael thanked him for his service.

On the back of the man’s jacket, it read, “Every day is a bonus.”

“I thought that was a surreal moment, it definitely hit home,” Michael said. “It made me appreciate life more.”

“At Children’s, we would go down the hallways and I would see the people in those other beds. It was hard not to shed a tear. I never felt sorry for myself after seeing those bedrooms. I just wanted to keep fighting and get out of that bed. It was hard work, not giving up.”

 

Welcome home

Michael was walking well by the end of the week, and Saturday he was free to return home to Elkhorn.

“He’s been so strong,” Matt said of Michael.

A homemade “Welcome Home” poster awaited Michael, and it was a weekend of reconnecting with family and friends.

After two surgeries and countless hours in a hospital bed, Michael gets outside on his deck as much as possible.

University of Iowa swag litters the front yard, deck and inside of the home, and Iowa football coaches have been in constant contact with the family.

During the interview at the Lois home Monday, Matt returned a text to an Iowa coach.

“What helped keep us strong was Michael’s strength, enduring the pain and the therapy,” Matt said. “You could just feed off his energy, and it really humbled us.”

Hayley said while Michael was growing up he wanted to play football or become a Navy SEAL.

“I’ve always respected veterans, and Marcus Luttrell has always been my idol,” Michael said. “He had to crawl under rocks with no pants on to avoid the Taliban. If he can do that, I could get out of the hospital no problem. That’s why I did it in less than a week. That was my motivation.”

Michael’s message is simple – I will beat this.

“I’m not asking for your sympathy,” he said. “I just want to make everyone proud and get back on that field again. I’m just going to keep busting and working hard.”

“I don’t think I have enough time to repay all these people. Anything’s possible. I just broke my neck, and here I am walking.”

As for the fateful day at the pool, Michael has no regrets.

“I had fun that day, I was with my friends, doing what I like to do,” he added. “It’s just an accident, and in a month I’m going to be laughing about that with my friends.”

 

 

TIMELINE

 

Michael Lois defied the odds and overcame a potential life-threatening predicament.

      Here’s a timeline of his week.

 

Sunday, Sept. 16: Michael suffers broken neck after jumping into a friend’s pool. He’s rushed to a hospital in Oconomowoc and Children’s Hospital for emergency surgery.

 

Monday: Michael undergoes a second surgery.

 

Tuesday: Michael stands up for the first time since the accident.

 

Wednesday: Michael walks with the help of a walker.

 

Friday: Michael is able to walk without any assistance, no walker.

 

Saturday: Michael returns to family home in Elkhorn, where he is still doing physical and occupational therapy and taking nerve and pain medication.

 

Mid-October: Lois returns to school full-time, wearing a neck brace.

 

Mid-December: Lois is given medical clearance to remove neck brace.

 

– Please visit www.mywalworthcounty.com for the entire story…

 

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