Michael Yeakey is the kind of kid who likes to be in the middle of the action. The outgoing sports-lover is a “trooper” according to his mother, Shannon Yeakey. She estimates Michael has spent a year and nine months of his life at Riley Hospital for Children, where he has undergone around 20 operations.
The Mishawaka family made their first trip to Riley when Michael was just 1 year old. He was suddenly unable to urinate, so they brought him to their local hospital. Michael was catheterized and was referred to specialists in the Riley Hospital Pediatric Urology department—ranked among the top five programs in the nation.
Riley Urologist Dr. Martin Kaefer discovered that Michael had a condition known as neurogenic bladder. Michael underwent several surgeries to try to restore his urological function. Dr. Kaefer ultimately performed a Monti procedure, creating an external opening in Michael’s abdomen that allows him to use a catheter.
A few years after his initial diagnosis, Michael began developing new symptoms. He started walking hunched over and was losing feeling in his legs. Doctors discovered that he had a tethered spinal cord, which likely was the root cause of his urological problems. Shannon recalls how attentive Riley neurosurgeon Dr. Joel Boaz was as he explained the spinal surgery he would need to perform on Michael. “He sat with me for about 45 minutes and explained everything,” says Shannon. “He knew I was overwhelmed, so he explained it again. If I ever have a question, Dr. Boaz will personally call me back and explain stuff on his own time. I think that’s great.”
Michael has faced many obstacles during his Riley journey. He has also developed neurogenic bowel, has recurring problems with his kidneys and continues to fight chronic bladder infections. In addition to Dr. Kaefer and Dr. Boaz, Michael receives care from Riley Pediatric Nephrologist Corina Nailescu, M.D. Shannon says she is grateful for the way their hometown doctor, Dr. Daniel Kinney with Navarre Pediatrics, helps coordinate Michael’s care with his Riley specialists.
Although the long trips from Northern Indiana are challenging for the family, Shannon says they feel they are in the best possible hands at Riley. She especially appreciates the way Child Life specialists keep Michael and his two siblings occupied with fun activities during his long stays. Michael has formed a bond with Urology Child Life specialist Megan Ali, who helps him cope with uncomfortable procedures. “Riley has been tremendous for us,” says Shannon. “If it wasn’t for the things we have there, I’m not sure how we would get through it.”
His medical challenges haven’t changed Michael’s action-packed personality. He played football last summer and plans to return to the baseball field this spring. “He has been through so much,” says Shannon. “But he loves to be a part of things. And he is usually happy.”