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Coach Walk’s Road To Recovery

$25,827 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 182 people in 6 months
Created February 26, 2018
Coach Mike Walker, an amazing human, coach and mentor is hoping to focus more on recovery from emergency back surgery and less on financial stress. His youngest daughter, a standout track and volleyball student-athlete is on course to attend Clark College on a partial volleyball scholarship and to pursue a degree in journalism/environmental studies, but medical expenses will make it difficult for the family to provide adequate funding in the upcoming year. When Mike Walker played and coached football for Washington State University and the Canadian Football League, he did it with all his body, heart and soul. Now, he brings the same passion to middle schoolers in the Highline School District in his role as Dean of Student Success and coach. Unfortunately, while visiting his wife and youngest daughter who still live in Pullman, Mike found himself dealing with an emergency medical crisis. Mike was diagnosed with a spinal cord compression in 3 different locations, meaning he was born with vertebrae too large for his discs. Paralysis was imminent so Mike and his wife were flown to Seattle and Mike underwent a 12 hour emergency surgery to repair 2 of the 3 most critical issues. This first surgery will require months of recovery and physical therapy, which means missing nearly 2 months of work and mounting medical bills, in addition to transportation costs for his family to visit him since his daughter is graduating from Pullman High School 5 hours away. Additionally, Mike will also need a second surgery in the next few months to repair the spinal cord compression in his neck - this was identified as an emergency issue prior to the other spinal areas being deemed more critical and is still preventing full use of his hands. Mike’s family is working hard to be reunited in the Seattle/Tacoma area in order to assist him with his recovery this summer and help their daughter succeed in college. Please consider helping as you are able, and know how much every little bit is appreciated!




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Dear family, friends and followers of Mike,
It’s been awhile since my last update - - probably because it’s impossible to wrap our brains around our “new normal”. Mike has missed the joy of being physically present for Sports Awards Night, Prom, Graduation and Pullman goodbyes. We had such hopes that Mike’s final neck surgery would give him more mobility, but that is not the case. Currently, Mike is wheelchair bound. He can only stand for about 30 seconds, and this is only with a lot of upper body assistance. His legs simply are not responding. His quads (thighs) are only “firing” at about 10%. His hip flexors are not responsive. His left knee buckles - and so on….. He has seen some improvement in his upper body mobility - but he still struggles to propel his wheelchair in a straight line (one arm is stronger than the other) - but this is getting better with time and practice. There are grave concerns that he doesn’t simply need more time to heal (as his surgeon suggested) - but a real possibility something is amiss in his lumbar region (lower spine). Only additional test will help confirm this, but we are battling with his surgeon, insurance and scheduling issues to get these tests done quickly. As of yesterday we were told he may to need wait until mid August, which is TOO LONG! We are currently seeking a 2nd opinion on his condition and hope fresh eyes will add perspective and a plan. We anticipate Premera Blue Cross will deny coverage for his skilled nursing facility as early as tomorrow (we already had to endure a 2 phase appeal process before his neck surgery). If/when that happens, Mike will move to my sister and brother in law’s home where he will stay until his doctors create another plan of exploration and treatment. Making this feasible means in home PT, ramps and delving into purchasing a different car so he can transfer from a wheelchair more easily. A big challenge is lack of access to a bath or shower on the main level -- we may need to get creative in the summer sun or pack him up and go to the YMCA. We all know sponge baths just aren’t the same as the real deal.

In the meantime, Payton and I, with the help of countless amazing friends are in the last phases of packing up our Pullman life and will be reunited with Mike and our west side family and friends soon. We will be going into long-term storage in Pullman, short term storage in Tacoma and living a Spartan life out of suitcases for the summer. In terms of Payton, she amazingly finished up with all As and a B for her final high school semester. This is all agonizing, but she is trying so hard to make her family proud. She visited her dad this past weekend and he was uplifted to hear she has been practicing her volleyball skills, registering for Fall classes and searching for an affordable apartment with 2 of her new college teammates. She reports for the start of college volleyball the end of July! Our other 2 children have communicated with Mike from afar. They too feel the pain of this situation. Taylor (who currently lives in Calgary), in particular, works so hard to support her sister emotionally and plans to see Mike in late July. It’s all overwhelming - but we keep moving forward, searching for answers, juggle time with insurance, doctors, PT, social work, bill paying and so on. Please know that Mike does best with friends and family around. You can only imagine the toll all of this has taken on his mental health and the rest of his body so we always welcome company or a call! Financially, we are shifting to the idea that he will likely be on long term disability for at least a while - this only provides about 60% of his income. We continue to be flabbergasted at the expense of assistive technology (beds, commodes, ramps, lifts, vehicles, wheelchairs, etc…) He hopes deeply to return to work, when his pain level is manageable. He greatly misses his students, athletes and co-workers - who have been generous beyond belief. He is loved and he is beyond determined to make the best of this situation. He is the epitome of a competitor and a good human. We just never imagined this situation would be his biggest foe.
Love to all who continue to share this journey with us. Kristen and family
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Hello all….thank you for all for continuing to stay with us on this journey. Mike and Kristen are currently dealing with insurance denying coverage - even though he has been deemed, “medically fragile”. We are hoping beyond hope that their second appeal comes through in his favor so he can continue to receive the care he needs to regain his ability to walk and use his hands. In the surgical realm….Mike had his 3rd surgery on May 18th. We were told post-op it is the most painful surgery that his surgeon performs. In this procedure, his 2nd - 7th cervical vertebrae were opened up and “hinged” in a procedure known as “laminoplasty” in order to relieve the pressure on his spinal cord. His surgeon says the “Japanese hinge” procedure went well, but the recovery will be excruciatingly painful and it will take 3 to 4 weeks before we begin to know what benefit, if any, Mike reaps from this surgery. At this point, he can stand, with much assistance. He is not ambulatory - meaning, he can not walk - something he could do after his 2nd surgery, but his ability to do so went away after returning to a home environment and experiencing multiple falls. So….we wait. He is now receiving skilled nursing care, PT and OT at tacomalutheran.org We have made progress towards reuniting as a family - Kristen is accepting a teaching position in the Seattle/Tacoma area in order to be closer to him and her family and Mikes youngest daughter Payton will graduate high school in a couple of weeks and will only be a couple of hours away when she begins playing volleyball and starts her college courses. Kristen is frantically working to pack and prepare to move in the midst of graduation and end of year events for her as a teacher. In regards to Mikes health, he was able, with the assistance of multiple people, to watch his youngest, Payton compete at the state track and field championships this past weekend. He was able to watch from his brother-in-law’s car as she threw the shot put. It took 4 people to load him in the car, and 4 people to help him get back to his room. The joy of being reunited was a gift - but the burden of the emotions weighs heavy of her young shoulders. We are all hoping Mike begins to improve. We also hope Premera Blue Cross decides to provide coverage for his much needed care. To say this all is overwhelming is an understatement --- but knowing people care helps immensely. As always - love and thanks.
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Recovery starts now...once again Mike and the family are overwhelmed by the love and support!
Just another battle scar...
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Surgery number 3 went well! The doctor and his team worked to release the pressure on his spine from C-2 through C -7. They report his spinal cord is responsive and he should see improvement in the mobility of his arms for sure, but it will take weeks to see if his legs also benefit. Full recovery and return to normal use will take months. He is in a lot of pain right now. The PA says this is the most painful of their surgeries due to muscle and bone being disrupted. As such, he is heavily medicated, but able to FaceTime. We will let people know where he will be going next for recovery and PT. Thank you, as always, for continuing to hold us all in your hearts. On a positive note, we did get a happy boost when Payton Walker qualified for her 4th trip to state! Second time going for shot put! She will accompany 19 teammates next week! Keep the positive thoughts and messages coming for Mike. Your friendships and love continue to be his best medicine. ❤️
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$25,827 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 182 people in 6 months
Created February 26, 2018
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