By: ROGER HOLSINGER, Assistant Editor
Published: Saturday, August 13, 2011 11:08 PM CDT

Michael Mickey, 6, of Scottsbluff holds the baseball that struck him in the head while he and his family were attending a minor league baseball game in Reno earlier this summer. The impact fractured Michael’s skull, but doctors say no permanent damage was caused. Behind Michael are his parents, Tammy and Kris Mickey. Photo by Roger Holsinger

It was probably the longest 90 minutes of Kris and Tammy Mickey’s life.

As the two patiently waited while their youngest son was in surgery, they placed their son’s life in the hands of God, praying Michael would be coming home to Scottsbluff with them.

And their prayers were answered.

But Kris Mickey said there were some very scary moments after Michael was struck in the head by a foul ball while the family was on vacation in Reno, Nev.

Kris, who has two brothers who live in Reno, went with his family to a minor league baseball game between the Reno Aces and the Sacramento River Cats on Friday, May 27. Michael was one row in front of his parents and sitting among his brothers and cousins when the ball came screaming toward them.

“It happened so fast,” said Kris. “It took about two seconds from the time he hit the ball to when it hit Michael.”

Tammy Mickey said she watched the ball and remembered saying, “Here it comes.”

Michael said he wasn’t watching the ball, but instead was more interested in a bag of peanuts his older brother, Tyler, was opening.

The ball streaked down the third base line, striking Michael directly above his right temple. Kris said he could tell right away the injury was serious. Michael’s skull was dented, “and he asked me, ‘What hit me?’”

Kris immediately grabbed Michael and carried him in his arms out of the section asking for help. After a slight mix-up the two met up with paramedics and Michael was placed on a stretcher.

“He never lost consciousness, but kept asking me if he was going to be OK,” said Kris.

“It was surreal,” Tammy said. “I kept thinking, ‘We were on vacation. This can’t be happening.’”

Michael said the pain felt like hot water on his head at first, and then it felt like ice water.

“When we got him in the ambulance I could see Michael was in excruciating pain, and the hardest part was that I couldn’t do anything but hold his hand and tell him that he was going to be OK,” said Kris. “But Michael kept saying, ‘It’s not going to be OK.’ That was hard to hear.”

Once the ambulance arrived at Renown Regional Medical Center, a trauma team was assembled, said Tammy. They were told that the ball had fractured Michael’s skull inward and had slightly torn the dura mater, which is the outermost of the three layers of protective tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

Kris said before Michael went into surgery, he became disoriented and went into a seizure, which was frightening to him and Tammy. At that point, Kris said, they weren’t sure if Michael would be coming home with them.

After 90 minutes of surgery, neurosurgeon Dr. Jay Morgan came out to talk to Kris and Tammy.

“After Dr. Morgan told us the surgery went well and that he didn’t think there would be any brain damage or long-term affects, he got a hug whether he wanted one or not. That was a long wait, and we did a lot of praying,” said Kris.

During the surgery, shattered bone was fitted back together and two small plates – about the size of a coin – were inserted, and the dura that was damaged was repaired.

Kris said the two plates could one day be removed, but that they could stay in as well.

“One of the first things I told Michael when he came to was that he wouldn’t be able to play baseball (T-ball) for the rest of the summer. Michael said to me, ‘Yeah, right.’”

While Michael was showing improvements, doctors were still concerned with internal bleeding and swelling. Kris said they knew Michael was headed in the right direction after he put together a Lego kit and asked for a cheeseburger.

“We knew that he had turned a corner at that point,” said Kris.

One of Michael’s first visitors in Reno was River Cats first baseman Wesley Timmons, whose foul ball struck Michael. Kris said Timmons and other players had prayed for Michael. Timmons brought a friend with him and the two gave Michael a number of souvenirs, including a signed baseball from the team, a cap and one of Timmons’ bats.

Five days later, Michael left the hospital with a little less hair but an armful of souvenirs.

Kris said a month after the accident, he was back in Reno for some training and went to Aces Stadium and met with the team’s management. Kris left with an autographed ball, shirts, a miniature mascot and more well wishes — all for Michael.

Just two weeks after Michael’s accident, two young baseball players died after being struck by baseballs in separate instances. While the Mickey’s story has a happy ending, Kris and Tammy said the ordeal tested their faith, but also made it stronger.

For Michael, the experience is something he’ll obviously remember.

“It was scary and I really didn’t like being in the hospital,” he said, adding that he believes he was lucky and that God was watching over him.

And what about not playing baseball for the rest of the season?

“During the last game of the season and the last out of the game, we let Michael bat,” Kris said smiling.

“And I hit it,” added Michael. “I always hit it.”

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