Michael Sullivan receives cards from the heart

Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Michel Sullivan and his two best supporters, mother Pam Sullivan and friend Tammy Presley. (Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)

Town Crier News Staff

Christmas has come and gone, but there seems to be no end to the Christmas cards that Michael Sullivan of Caraway is receiving.

Michael's friend Tammy Presley was curious as to just how many cards Michael would receive if she put the word out to friends and family. No one ever expected that 1,790 cards would come in the mail, and they continue to arrive.

"The idea came to me when we were with Michael one day at St. Jude's," Presley said. "I felt he would really get a blessing out of this, and we would enjoy it too."

Michael, 17, was diagnosed with grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma cancer on June 6, 2007, and a brain tumor. He had surgery at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital shortly afterwards.

"Michael's mother Pam and I contacted friends of Michael's, websites, sent emails, and even contacted a HAM operator to help in the campaign," Presley said. "Before long the cards just came pouring in."

"At first the cards trickled in," Pam Sullivan said. "Then before we knew it, they were coming in by large envelopes and boxes. He got cards from friends at Riverside School, where he is a senior this year. Then he got them from Buffalo Island Central School, Academic School of Excellence in Osceola, Fourche Valley School in Briggsville, Waldron Middle School, Oark School, Brookland High School, Jonesboro High School, Coy School, Valley View, England School, and even from Senath High School in Missouri."

"My friend Kenny Weathers told his HAM operator friends about the card idea, and before long I had 75 cards from all over the world," Michael said. "I got cards from Northern Ireland, Canada, and England."

"I got a lot of cards by email," he said. "By Dec. 22 I had received 1,474 cards. KAIT-TV out of Jonesboro came over and took a picture with me and my cards and did an interview. After that the cards and calls really came in."

"On Dec. 22 we spent the day here at the Caraway Housing Authority, where Tammy works," Pam Sullivan said. "We arrived in our pajamas and had a big breakfast. Soon we were greeting guests from all over. Mikey was thrilled to have the KAIT interview, and even more to see himself on TV that night. We just had a wonderful time from start to finish. We decorated a big Christmas tree and my husband Mike made homemade lasagna and bread for all of us at lunch."

Michael's friend Jason New told a Wal-Mart greeter, Lloyd Lamb, in Jonesboro, about Michael and how Wal-Mart played a part in the initial tumor detection.

Michael and his mother were in Wal-Mart's in Blytheville when he suffered his first episode.

"Michael had an aura seizure, where he started smelling something strange," Pam Sullivan said. "He didn't know what it was. He said it smelled like wires burning. Soon he didn't know where he was or even who I was. The staff at Wal-Mart called 911 and an ambulance came to take him to the hospital. They did a cat scan and found the brain tumor. We went to Le Bonheur's that day. Three days later Dr. Fred Boop did the brain surgery and was able to remove all but a slither portion. When we found out it was cancer we went to St. Jude's Hospital. Now we go to St. Jude on Wednesday each week for treatment. He has only been able to attend five days of school during his senior year. He has lost 46 pounds. He has a tough, fast growing tumor, but Mickey is a tough young man. We are very proud of him."

Lamb was touched by the Wal-Mart story, and Michael's journey since. He made a large oversized Christmas card, and then rallied the entire staff on Wal-Mart on Parker Lane to personally sign a greeting. Lamb delivered the card, which has become one of Michael's favorites.

Greetings of all sorts and varieties have come in since. Circuit Court Clerk Lesia Couch brought baskets of cards she had collected at the Lake City Court House. She asked Mike to pick out a few of his favorites, and she would scan them onto cloth to make a quilt for him.

Michael received cards from Coach Frank Broyles, State Representative Scott Sullivan, and Representative J.R. Rogers.

Mickey's friends formed a team and took part in the St. Jude 5K Walk-A-Thon in Memphis in December.

When asked what he is looking forward to, Michael said. "I want to ride on the tractors with my friends, Harvey and Ron Faulkner, in Caraway. They have two big Case combines, six John Deere tractors and four big cotton pickers. I would love to be a farmer, just like them."

Michael also told the Make-A-Wish Foundation he would like to go to the NASCAR races in Indianapolis this spring.

"Michael likes St. Jude and has made a lot of friends there," Pam said. "He met T.J. Goodrich, from Tennessee, and Amanda Jones, from Bono. He looks forward to seeing them when they are at St. Jude for treatment."

After Michael's last MRI test at St. Jude, Pam got a text message from him, as he knew she was worried. He wrote, "Going to be O.K. I have friends and family who don't even know me that are praying for me. And most of all I have God."

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