Spring 2021 Magazine

Former MLB pitcher Micah Bowie puts 'hope in the Lord' during fight for his life

Micah Bowie has always known that a decade of professional baseball might take a toll on his health.

“A lot of times,” the former Washington Nationals pitcher said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast this week, “you leave the game, but you take the injuries with you.”

He never expected it, however, to get this bad.

In a gut-wrenching story brought to light by a recent profile in The Washington Post, Bowie explains that lingering back problems from his days on the mound have escalated to the point where less than 10 percent of his lungs are functioning. In a years-long fight for his life, the 44-year-old former southpaw has been denied disability benefits from the MLB Players Association and is stuck seeking treatment for a condition most doctors wouldn’t deem worth correcting — all while combating the daily reality that each morning might be his last.

And yet, overlooked or counted out by everyone else, Bowie finds his hope beyond this world.

“I’ve always known that God is in charge,” he told Sports Spectrum in an emotional episode of the podcast. “It’s His way, not mine.”

Bowie’s hopeful words are easier spoken than lived out. His own testimony confirms it.

Years after retiring from baseball, which he last played at the MLB level in 2008, with the Colorado Rockies, the former Atlanta Braves draft pick finally underwent surgery to control his back pain. Doctors implanted a spinal cord stimulator, which is designed to “block the sensation of pain” through a “low-voltage electrical current,” according to AANS. Things progressed, and the first month after the operation “went great,” Bowie said.

“And then one night, I was laying in bed, and the battery, which they put inside you, connected to your spine, that battery … decided to migrate,” he explained. “And it damaged my liver, diaphragm and my right lung. It punctured my right lung and hit the liver as well.”

After countless return visits to the hospital, Bowie was on medical oxygen, a treatment he first received in December 2016 and still requires more than two years later. Miscellaneous follow-up operations, from the removal of the stimulator to the retraction of some lungs, aided the recovery, but all in all, “the damage was done.”

“To be 100 percent honest with you, my hope is in the Lord,” Bowie said. “Medically, with your diaphragm ruptured — babies come out with a ruptured diaphragm, and that’s something doctors have to immediately repair at birth. It’s not a muscle you can do without very well. When that is broken … you’re broken.”

So when Bowie was back in the hospital following a re-rupturing in December, he wasn’t sure he’d make it. That’s been the case for years now. But this time, with no help from MLBPA and little hope from the medical field, he approached a possible end. A final chapter to a story he never thought he’d tell.

“This last time in the hospital, my family’s around me,” Bowie said, pausing to hold back tears, “as we’re waiting to see if I’d survive the next spasm.”

At that moment, he added, “God said, ‘Speak,’ and that’s what I’ve done” in sharing his journey.

Bowie knows the steps ahead won’t be easy. None of them have been. But as much as he strives to raise awareness not only of his unforeseen struggles but of the struggles of those without a voice, he also strives to rest on the promises of a better future. He clings to 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.'” Bowie trusts in God.

“Only God knows what’s going to happen next,” he said. “I know that God is there, and He can do whatever He needs to do. And I am confident that if the Good Lord wants me to be healed, or if He wants things to be done, I guarantee you He can make that happen.”

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You can hear the entire interview with Micah on the Sports Spectrum podcast below:

 

To help Micah Bowie and raise further awareness, donations can be made in Micah’s name through the Association of Professional Ballplayers of America.

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