Living with the nickname "Miracle Baby," Michael Field is a happy teenager who gladly shares all the details from his Dream Come True trip to New York City and Philadelphia.
Field, 16, of Farmington was awarded a Dream Come True Trip from the Sunshine Foundation this summer. Michael said he will always remember this family trip.
The trip was awarded by a gift from the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and the Sunshine Foundation. Jessica Greene, development manager with the Sunshine Foundation, said the sole purpose of this foundation is to answer the dreams from youth who are chronically or seriously ill, who have been abused or who live with physical challenges.
"We got back from Michael's trip to New York and he absolutely loved it and had so much fun — we are so blessed and we are so grateful for everyone at Sunshine Foundation," said Angela Field, Michael's mother.
Field found out about the Sunshine Foundation three years ago and she had forgot all about the application until the family received the good news about the Dream Come True Trip.
Michael chose to travel by airplane to visit the Big Apple alongside his parents, Jon and Angela, and his younger sister, 14-year-old Julia. The family traveled to New York to see his favorite building — the Empire State building. The family visited the tall skyscraper once by day and once at night to witness the breathtaking city views.
"It was cool at night and it was part of the 'King Kong' movie," Michael said, showing his trip souvenirs. Michael talked about traveling to see the historic Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and Ben Franklin's grave site.
"We threw a penny on the grave because they say a penny saved is a penny earned," Michael said smiling.
The family had fun touring Liberty Square. Michael even saw and was photographed with a few famous people in a wax museum.
In New York, Michael especially enjoyed a cruise on a ferry boat to Ellis Island. The family also visited the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks came only months after Michael was born.
From perfectly happy to near death
Angela said Michael was "born a perfect, healthy baby and we had a perfect pregnancy."
But at only 6 months old, Michael survived life-altering abuse. His babysitter nearly took his life in what his mother said was shaken baby syndrome.
"It is 100 percent preventable and he has no physical marks but we know there were at least two shakes that we know of," Angela said. "I knew something was up because I would come home for two weeks straight ... and say there is something about her I don't like, and I wish I would have gone with my gut because I knew something wasn't right."
Michael began displaying symptoms on a family vacation.
"The first initial symptoms were right when we were coming back from Phoenix, and I thought his ears were plugged from the airplane," she said.
When the family took Michael to the doctor after the trip, he was diagnosed with a sinus infection or told perhaps he was teething.
"You are first-time parents and you are worrying, and you think it is nothing and later it was found he had bleeding behind his retinas," Angela said.
Today Michael lives with limited peripheral vision and what is called field cuts. This eye limitation will most likely limit him from driving a car.
The incident happened just a couple weeks before Michael's paternal grandmother would begin babysitting him. Angela said Michael's life was nearly taken away on May 1, 2001.
Michael suffered brain hemorrhaging, retinal hemorrhaging and brain swelling. He was rushed to Minneapolis Children's Hospital. He was resuscitated and received emergency brain surgery.
"The effects of this intolerable act are forever lasting," Angela said.
As an advocate who has spoken out against this shaken baby syndrome, Angela works to remind parents and those who work in day care about shaken baby syndrome.
"If it happened to us — it is something you never think about happening and you hear about it in more poverty stricken areas but you never think it would happen in middle-class areas," Angela said.
Angela said her family pressed charges against the child care provider. After a year and a half fighting in court, the former day care provider served six months in jail, even though Minnesota state guidelines called for a harsher sentence of 87 months, Angela said. The former day care provider is on probation for 20 years.
Speaking out at advocacy workshops, Angela wants all to understand and be aware of the real dangers from shaken baby syndrome and it is 100 percent preventable.
As a happy teenager, Michael appears strong and healthy. He lives with a shunt or medical device inside his head that relieves pressure on his brain caused by fluid accumulation.
"He has repercussions today with his vision and field cuts and he has severe brain damage and is paralyzed on the left side," Angela said. Michael is able to walk after many years of therapy. He can write with his right hand and has needed multiple surgeries. As a baby, he fought for his life for one month at Children's Hospital.
Michael owns a cool scooter and an adaptive bicycle. He is very competitive and has fun playing air hockey with his mom at a table set up in the family's upstairs home. It can be tricky for him to gather enough strength in his left leg to propel his bicycle.
Like many teenagers, Michael loves playing video games and watching his favorite baseball team, the Minnesota Twins. He has a whole collection of Twins memorabilia and bobbleheads in his bedroom.
Since Michael has physical limitations on his left side, Angela said she is never surprised to discover how he adapts and figures out ways to do things he likes. Like even playing video games with his friends.
"I have seen him use his mouth on the remote and that is ingenious," Angela said, smiling at her son who cannot use his left hand fully to play video games. "We are very lucky we have him. He is our miracle baby who had multiple seizures with all the bleeding in the head — they had to take a piece of his skull out."
As a junior at Farmington High School, Michael takes special education classes and makes progress with an individualized education plan. After high school, Michael will most likely take classes at Dakota County Technical College in the special education area.
"I adore his teachers and I let them decide what fits him best," his mother said.
Shaken baby syndrome
Shaking a baby can cause brain injury, cerebral palsy, blindness, hearing loss, learning and behavior problems, seizures, paralysis and death.
Each year 1,000 to 1,300 cases of shaken baby syndrome are recorded in the United States.
Most babies are less than six months old and 25 percent of babies die, according to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Eighty percent of survivors suffer from permanent brain damage and 90 percent suffer lifelong disabilities.
For more information, go to www.dontshake.org.
Awareness and education with childcare providers and parents is the only way to prevent shaken baby syndrome.