published Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Cook: Mickie's best friend


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• To learn more about Mickie, visit Kristin's Facebook page: Mickie1inamillion

Let's begin with a few numbers.

Mickie McCoy's age: 12.

Friends she's lost since her first epileptic seizure: too many.

Friends who've stuck by her, like sisters, giggling over chocolate chip cookies and staying up way too late during sleepovers: two, and let's name them. (Lona and Reilly, take a bow).

Number of doctors Mickie sees regularly: 12.

Hours it takes for her to recover from a seizure: 24 to 48.

Number of medications she takes each day: 15.

Amount her parents pay for medicine each month: Same as the rent for their Rossville home.

Other medical conditions besides epilepsy that Mickie's been diagnosed with: five, and let's name them, too. She has cystic fibrosis; and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which can cause heart problems; and arteriovenous malformations, which are like little wrecking balls to her vascular system and may be causing her seizures; and severe eosinophilic esophagitis, which has almost eaten away her esophagus; and hereditary hemorraghic telangiecstasia, a rare blood disease affecting only a million people on earth.

(Well, a million and one.)

Number of months that doctors predict before Mickie's seizures -- right now, she just stares off, catatonically -- become grand mal, which is the dangerous, body-shaking kind: 16, maybe 12.

"And she has a hole in her heart," said her mom, Kristin.

So let's fill it.

The story of Mickie McCoy is remarkable in its breadth and depth. This girl -- a middle school Job -- seems to suffer more illnesses than most people in their lifetime. Nosebleeds that won't stop and seizures that cause forgetfulness and lethargy -- Mickie had seizures during a family vacation to Disney and doesn't remember any part of the trip. Soon, she'll undergo another surgery, this one to implant a vagus nerve stimulator, which is like a pacemaker to help control her epilepsy.

"She's a fighter," Kristin said.

Literally. While being tremendously sick, Mickie's also able to be magnificently active and alive. She's a first-degree black belt who wants to be a coroner when she grows up. She's an honor roll student at Rossville Middle School, an amateur chef -- I've heard her pancake bites are divine -- and an artist who has converted a spare bedroom into her own studio.

"I paint sun catchers," she said, smiling, as if somehow she's caught a piece of the sun herself.

She rarely complains, or mopes, or hangs her head. On the days she's sick, her parents still make her get out of bed and try -- at least try -- to get to school.

"You can't let it get in the way," said Kristin. "You can't stay in bed and feel sorry for yourself."

Oh, but the whole family could. Kristin's an assistant at Erlanger hospital, and Mickie's dad, Matt, works at Bridgestone, which means they are a happy and loving family, but certainly a middle class one. The bills are adding up. Scratch that. The bills have added up; now, they're toppling over.

That's why I'm writing about Mickie.

The hole in her heart? It's a real medical condition, but it also symbolic of something else.

Besides all the medical treatments and surgeries, she has another part of her heart that needs that unconditional, unforgettable, I-love-you-so-much-love that lights you up like 1,000 Roman candles even on your darkest day.

Come on folks, you know what I'm talking about.

Mickie needs a dog.

"A seizure response dog," Kristin said.

Trained since birth, a seizure response dog -- usually a Labrador retriever -- could alert someone when Mickie has a seizure, roll her over to prevent choking, bring her medications, turn off the water if she's collapsed in the shower, lick her face to wake her after a seizure, and possibly even detect a seizure before it happens.

Best of all, the dog would be that sweet filling in the other hole in her heart: the one that longs for the companionship and devotion that only dogs can deliver.

"It's going to help her self-esteem and boost her confidence," said Kristin. "If she has a seizure, she knows she won't be alone."

These dogs don't come easily. The McCoys are on the waiting list with an Illinois company, but in a couple of weeks, they've got to make a $2,000 deposit. Then, months later, another $8,000 is due.

"We had used all our savings for medical bills and everything else," Kristin said.

They've already got more than $1,000 raised but won't make it without our help.

Mickie -- our one-in-a-million-girl -- could use a boost.

Number of dogs it would take to change her life: Just one.

How many people it will take to help the McCoys afford it: Don't know, but let's find out.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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