Michael Elliott Bamford was born on February 18th, 1993, with cystic fibrosis– but he lived outside that box – never letting it get in his way. From the moment Mike could walk…he ran! Everything was full speed ahead for that kid! His cystic fibrosis did not slow him down or define anything about him. Mike did not want to be different than any of his friends, and he lived his life to the fullest; refusing to accept the limitations that cystic fibrosis can put on a body.
On Labor Day of 2009, we received a phone call that would forever change our lives. Michael was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, a type of blood cancer. He spent 15 months valiantly battling the leukemia, on top of the pre-existing cystic fibrosis. Unbelievably, Mike also contracted a very rare fungal infection that further compromised his health and treatment plan. Caring for these three distinct and difficult medical conditions challenged his doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado, as well as specialists around the United States. The chances of a child having these diseases are 1 in 4 million.
Michael passed away on December 11, 2010. Rick had a talk with Mike two weeks before he died. Mike told his Dad he never wanted to give up. This gave us hope that Mike might still get back up on his feet even after so many set-backs. He had a way of giving us hope, of lifting us up. How he did this, we don’t know. Mike had just spent his entire sophomore year – and half of his junior year in a hospital bed. Mike still had the will to fight for his life. In the end, his body simply could take no more.
Mike lived an awesome sixteen years. Dr. Frank Accurso, Mike’s cystic fibrosis doctor, and his team from the pulmonary department became like family. After the diagnosis of leukemia and the subsequent 15 month hospital stay, The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders floor became our family too. Many other departments at Children’s Hospital were yet another extension of family. None, of whom, we will easily forget.
Mike maintained a positive attitude through so many battles. He kept his sense of humor, his goal to walk again; to go home to friends and family; and to walk on the greens he so passionately loved. We know Mike was an inspiration to so many people and he changed lives through his struggles. Mike went into the hospital a goofy, fun- loving 16 year-old. You can guess how much his battles grew him up; we watched him change into a man. A very fine, young man.
He left us with so much to smile about. He said a few things that encourage us today: “It’s all good,” “Peace out,” “I love you more,” “I love you to the moon and back, and back again.” We eat Taco Bell, drink Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper, put baby corn and yellow peppers on our salads. We wear his ball caps, his endless supply of black ankle socks, a few shirts and shorts, his slippers, his neon green Crocks. I wrap myself in the family blanket we all fought over, that Mike had with him in the hospital and named “Fuzzyweller.” I hold his dog, Tula, and kiss her – telling her it is from Mike.
Mike taught us how to live, he inspired us. He lived his life abundantly and we will always be thankful for this and all the memories of him that are etched upon our hearts. He was Natalie’s shadow and social affairs keeper, his father’s buddy, and my “three kids in one” child.
While in the hospital, I told him, “You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.”
Yes, indeed he was.
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