Mark Greer’s pride in Michael, 2, is evident in every word he speaks about his son. “Michael is one of the most determined people I have ever met. Looking at the progress he has made, he couldn’t have done that without determination and grit.”
Michael was not born with special needs. In the spring of 2008, when Michael was just 10 months old, a severe injury resulted in a two-month hospital stay. Fighting for his life, Michael was in a coma for almost five days. M edical staff gave Mark little hope for his son’s survival,but Michael overcame the odds and lived through his ordeal. With his Dad’s help and his team of support staff at Siskin Children’s Institute, Michael has been overcoming odds ever since.
Michael’s injury caused permanent developmental disabilities, but he is making daily progress in his inclusive classroom at Siskin Early Learning Center-Downtown. Michael attends Monday through Friday,and teacher Hayley Lumpkin says that Michael is really improving, especially in his communication skills. “Michael is very social and has a great sense of humor,” she explains, so having effective communication skills improves Michael’s quality of life. Hayley says Michael wishes a warm welcome to everyone who comes into his classroom and is the first to chime in with his own name when his class begins the day with the song “Who Came to School Today?”
Mark says that “when Michael was injured, I made a pact with God that if Michael lived I would do everything I could to be the best dad possible.” A young father, Mark grew up fast in the wake of Michael’s injury. “I knew what I had to do as a man and as a father.” Living up to his promise, Mark now has full custody of his two boys, Michael and Michael’s big brother,Mark Jr., 6. “I never thought I would be in this place in my life—a single dad with full custody of two young boys, one of whom has special needs.” But Mark is taking things in stride and happy to have Siskin Children’s Institute offering his family help and hope. “The Institute is the only thing keeping us in Chattanooga. I love this place. I love the people. At the Institute, it’s not a rich thing or a poor thing. It’s not a black thing or white thing. It’s a people thing. Here, I am able to see that I’m not the only one going through the challenges of raising a child with special needs.”
Mark envisions a bright future for Michael. Through a voice choked with emotion, Mark says, “I believe Michael is going to be great. I see him as a miracle by even living through his ordeal, so I know he will succeed. I know he is going to walk and talk and go on to do great things in life. I see how determined he is, and so I can never give up on him.” Neither will Siskin Children’s Institute.