A few steps to diploma


John Michael Night: ‘It’s for a reason’ In an exclusive interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Mick and Vickie Night talk about their son John Michael’s journey of recovery from a rare brain stem stroke earlier this year, and John Michael shares a remarkable insight. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

In an exclusive interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Mick and Vickie Night talk about their son John Michael’s journey of recovery from a rare brain stem stroke earlier this year, and John Michael shares a remarkable insight. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

Years from now, when most of the details of a high school graduation slip away, those in the auditorium of Winter Park’s Trinity Prep Saturday will be hard pressed to forget a young man who mustered every bit of strength and courage to take a few precarious steps.

John Michael Night the star lacrosse player who suffered a bizarre, devastating brain stem stroke nearly six months ago, leaving him with locked in syndrome rose from his wheelchair,cheap nfl jerseys braced by a trio of friends, to accept his diploma.

His 124 fellow graduates, family and teachers roared their approval, even as they wept.

“Momma, we made it,” John Michael wrote in remarks he asked the principal to read.

“A lot of people don’t survive the type of stroke he had,” says his mother, Vickie Jones Night. “Sometimes no one realizes they’re even conscious because they can’t communicate. It’s tragic.”

Mick Night, John Michael’s father, says, “It was like a bomb going off on the main highway from the brain to the body.” The road is still there, but damaged.

Every part of John Michael’s body can move. He just can’t control it. Not yet.

And because the stroke is rare and often fatal, there are no good predictions for recovery. A 37 year old police officer in Northern Ireland had the same condition and can now speak and walk. Last month, on the one year anniversary of the stroke, she went sky diving.

“John Michael is actually ahead of where she was at the same time,” Vickie Night says. “But we know every stroke is different. One day at a time.”

The mother of three, a devout Christian, has been by her son’s side almost nonstop since that first day, Dec. 14 initially in an Orlando intensive care unit, and then at Shepherd Center rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta.

John Michael spent five months there, his room slowly filling with autographs, jerseys, flowers and care packages from supporters around the world.

The Mercer men’s lacrosse team visited. So did a team from Rollins. And the Georgia Tech cheerleaders. And Florida State head football coach Jimbo Fisher.

NASCAR drivers and pro golfers and an Olympic swimmer posted get well messages. NFL broadcasters and Little League players and marathon runners flashed the signature two four sign in Facebook posts a reference to John Michael’s No. 24 lacrosse jersey. The Atlanta Braves paid tribute to him at a home game. So did the Atlanta Hawks. Country music star Toby Keith posted a selfie.

Strangers wrote by the thousands. One boy even sent a care package of Legos to John Michael’s younger brother, 11 year old Ben. “I’m sure you’re probably sad,” he said. “Maybe this will help.”

And the extended family of Trinity Prep classmates took turns visiting, fundraising and sending him photos and videos. It took three carloads to bring it all back to Winter Park two weeks ago. It was May 24 the date chosen with purpose. Hundreds of supporters turned out along Winter Park’s Park Avenue for the homecoming.

John Michael hated that he couldn’t walk for it. That had been one of his two goals: walk out of Shepherd Center. The other was printed and posted in his hospital room. “I will walk at graduation.”

For weeks leading up to the ceremony, the 18 year old had practiced to regain the simplest of movements. The same drive that once made him the varsity MVP has, in recent months, helped him hold his head up, swallow food, lift his arms and start to speak again.

“Mom,” “Dad,” “yes,” “no.” For now, a single word is a victory.

“He pushes himself to the point where he’s almost sick,” Mick Night says. “We’ll ask him if he wants to stop, and he always says no.”

Their communication system, worked out in the first week in the ICU, involves spelling out words through a chart, with vowels across the top row and consonants in four subsequent rows. You first count to five, waiting for John Michael to widen his eyes at a number, which corresponds to the row. Once you know that, you list the letters of that row in order, stopping when you get another wide eyed response. John Michael had the chart memorized within a week. His parents, brother and big sister, Ryan, 21, home for the summer to help care for him, took a little longer.

Now, his friends and girlfriend use it, too. It has made the homecoming easier. And few things these days are easy.

Mick Night, listed in the top one half of 1 percent of Coldwell Banker real estate brokers internationally, knows he is fortunate to have the means to give his son more opportunity than most. But the price of medical care is still staggering.

It cost him roughly $300,000 to bring his son home, between the house modifications, specialized equipment and a new vehicle a customized Toyota van that can accommodate the teen’s 6 foot frame. https://www.cheapjerseysgty4.top The garage where John Michael once trained for lacrosse is now filled with equipment to improve his strength, balance and coordination.

The round the clock care and daily therapy speech, physical and occupational will run upward of $40,000 a month.

Insurance will pay some, but the Nights have no idea how much yet. Dozens of fundraising events lacrosse tournaments, bake sales, car washes, T shirts will help, but they come nowhere close to what’s needed.

“It’s crazy,” Mick Night says, shaking his head. “I can’t think about it too much. I have to just go a day at a time.”

One day at a time: It’s a philosophy he’s learning from his wife. Vickie and John Michael, he says, have always been the most spiritual of the family. Long before the stroke, John Michael listed John 13:7 on his Twitter page as a Bible verse to live by.