Naperville family keeps son’s memory alive through outing

By Pam Molnar

Naperville Sun

Jul 08, 2015

Naperville residents Beth and John Shultz founded the Miracle Michael Fund in remembrance of their son, Michael who passed away in 1999. Michael had osteogenesis imperfecta, better known as brittle bone disease. The annual golf outing benefits the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.(Shultz family, Handout)

Nothing compares to the love a mother has for her child. It is not lessened by heartache, illness or even death. Instead, the ripple of her love reaches out to others in an ever growing circle.

On Aug. 5, 1998, at 35 weeks, Beth Shultz delivered her second son, Michael, by Caesarean section. An ultrasound at 17 weeks revealed her baby’s arms and legs were smaller than the normal gestational size. At that time, Shultz and her husband, John were told that their baby had femoral hypoplasia and would probably never walk.

After his birth, the doctors realized that Michael’s condition was much worse. The X-rays revealed Michael’s bones were translucent instead of the normal milky white. Michael had broken 17 bones in utero and three more during delivery.

The Shultzes’ son was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), more commonly known as brittle bone disease. It is a condition that affects approximately 6 in 100,000 people worldwide and Michael’s case was severe. “They told us he would never go home,” Shultz said.

But that would not be the first time that Michael beat the odds. He was released from the hospital a week later after his parents were taught how to move him to avoid broken bones. Michael’s older brother, 3 1/2-year-old Anthony, was only able to visit with his brother under strict supervision.

Michael slept in a special bed that was padded and slanted upright to allow him to breath. He was fed through a feeding tube and had around-the-clock nursing care. In addition to OI, Michael battled a rare blood disease and a frightening respiratory virus, requiring many hospital stays.

Transporting Michael to and from the hospital was a well-orchestrated event. He had to be carefully moved on a flat board and positioned so the straps that held him in place did not break any bones. Although the family lived in Naperville, Edward Hospital was not equipped to handle a child with OI and Michael was treated at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.

It was on one of these trips that Michael’s ambulance was hit at full speed while crossing through an intersection. While everyone in the accident needed medical attention, Michael did not even have a bruise. He soon became known as Miracle Michael.

Still, Michael was a normal baby in many ways. He loved music and bright colored balloons; he smiled at everyone and had a full body giggle when happy. “When you met him, Michael touched your heart,” Shultz said.

Michael’s treatment took a toll on the family emotionally and financially.

Shultz recalls Christmas 1998 when she opened her door to find a line of neighbors and friends offering gifts for the family, toys for both of the boys and plenty of holiday food. “It was overwhelming,” she said.

The Shultzes were also blessed with a close knit extended family that helped them with the care of both Anthony and Michael. “They were dealing with such tremendous grief. We just did what we could,” said John’s sister, Marla Isaacs.

It was Isaacs who suggested starting The Miracle Michael Fund. “It was a way to make sense of it all,” Isaacs said. A golf outing fundraiser was planned for Aug. 5, Michael’s first birthday.

Despite all the love that surrounded Michael, his time was short. He died on April 3, 1999, with his parents by his side. His funeral had a steady stream of visitors.

“It is amazing how many people Michael touched,” Shultz said.

The ripple effect of a mother’s love for her son can be seen at the 17th annual Miracle Michael Fund Golf Outing on Monday, July 13, at White Eagle Golf Club. It includes 18 holes of golf, silent and live auctions and a cocktail party with dinner immediately following.

Since its inception in 1999, the Miracle Michael Fund has raised $475,000, with the majority of the funds going to the OI Foundation.

“I don’t ever want to stop doing this,” Shultz said. “It is such a rewarding event.”

Pam Molnar is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.