Sometimes life deals us trials. It’s how we react to them that defines us as people. We can either rise up, or crumble.
14-year-old Michael Redding has chosen to rise up. He’s chosen to be a light. The eighth-grader has chosen to use his test and turn it into a testimony.
Michael is a HUGE sports fan, typical of many teenagers, but Michael’s story is anything but typical. From the moment he entered this world in 2002, Michael’s mom Jimmie knew something was wrong. After examining the baby, doctors diagnosed Redding with Hypoplast Left Heart, along with an incomplete Aortic Arch, Transposition of the Great Arteries and Stenosis of left Pulmonary Arteries. Simply put, Michael was born with half a heart.
Over the next 10 years, Michael underwent four open heart surgeries and numerous hospital admissions at Children’s Hospital in Dallas.
As young boys and girls, we dream. Michael was a dreamer. He hoped one day to be able to play sports and be just like the heroes he watched on television. But as he began to grow and mature, young Michael realized that dream will probably not become a reality.
Michael’s brother Aaron was fortunate. He got to play sports all the way through college. He played baseball and basketball in high school and went on to play college baseball as well.
Little brother watching big brother was common in the Redding household and Michael, even at a young age, LOVED watching his big bro do his thing on the field of play.
As he got older, Michael’s love for sports never stopped but it became more and more difficult for him to watch the games on television because he knew he could never participate and experience that for himself.
In August of 2016, as Michael was preparing for his 14th birthday, he was asked what he wanted for a gift. “Mom, I want to join a gym for my birthday,” Michael said. “I want to join with the purple running man (the logo on the gym building).”
Jimmie saw her son’s desire and granted him his gift. “I’ve never seen Michael so happy,” she said. “The staff is awesome.”
One day as Michael was at the gym, a staff member, who coached on the Pee Wee football team, asked him if he’d be interested in helping out as an assistant with the club. Michael immediately said yes.
To be a part of a team is what Michael always wanted.
The entire squad welcomed him in and Michael immediately became part of their football family. He helped out however he could and even got to go on the field for the coin toss and call a play. Michael was living his dream.
But God wanted that dream to become even bigger.
Michael’s heart condition prevented him from ever playing sports, especially his favorite sport — football. But one day, the coach had an idea and he presented it to Michael’s mom.
“What if we had Michael suit up and run a play in the game?” asked the Coach.
With tears streaming down her cheek, Michael’s mom immediately said “YES!”
When Michael found out he was going to suit up, he was so excited to be more than an assistant. Even if it was just for one game, he was actually a member of the team.
As the game progressed, Michael waited with that child-like anticipation for his turn. For his moment. For his chance to play in a real football game.
And then the moment happened. They put Michael in the game.
Michael scored a touchdown. This 14-year-old boy who never thought he could play sports because of the heart condition he had, got to carry the ball all the way to the end zone and score.
“It was like a dream,” Michael said.
“People don’t believe in miracles much anymore,” Michael’s mother Jimmie said. “ But we do!! We have watched Jesus do work in Michael physically and spiritually, as well as within our family. We are so thankful for God’s love, his mercies and his grace.”
Big Brother Aaron was so proud of his little bro. “Being a college athlete and playing sports my whole life-the whole experience was very “humbling” and brought tears to my eyes,” Aaron said. “To see him so happy to do something that he has always wanted to do was just an awesome experience.”
Today, Michael continues to go to “The Purple Running Man” gym and get in his workout. The training staff there have embraced him and allowed this homeschooled eighth-grader to experience a regular moment in a not-so-regular life.
“The gym gives Michael a sense of ‘normal’ teenager life by working out and forming lasting friendships with the guys,” Michael’s mother said.
In a society filled with stories of tragedy and sadness and fear, Michael’s story is one of hope and triumph. Every sit-up, every minute on the treadmill, every weight lifted is a blessing for this amazing young man who has fought for his life 15 minutes at a time since the day he was born.