May 15, 2019

Better Than I Was Before

Photo shows Michael Jackson holding a baseball bat and waiting to swing.by Amber Carlton

 

When Michael Jackson enrolled at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, he had one goal: to break his parents’ athletic records. The fact that he hadn’t played competitive sports before didn’t matter. His parents had been star athletes in high school, and he was determined to be even better.

Before long, Michael was excelling in a number of sports including basketball, football, and track. After graduation, his determination and natural gifts helped him secure spots on semi-pro basketball and football teams.

Then, on May 22, 2012, he was struck by three grand mal seizures, one of which left him clinically dead for a time. At the hospital, his family received grim news; if Michael survived, he would spend the rest of his life in a vegetative state.

But on his birthday, June 2, Michael woke from his coma and with the same determination that made him a standout
athlete, he made a remarkable recovery. He was released from the hospital just three weeks later. That same day, Michael and his mother stopped at The Independence Center to learn how to apply for disability benefits. The nerves in his eyes had been irreparably damaged, and he was now legally blind.

When they arrived, they found an entire community ready to help Michael regain his independence. “We walked in and Jeff
(Henderson) met us,” Michael recalls. “Me and my mom were still trying to figure out what I’m going to do. All I really knew my entire life was sports and my kids.”

Michael remembers Jeff, former Benefits Coordinator, telling him, “You have to play a sport.” Then, a couple of weeks later, “He calls me and says, ‘We found a sport for you. We’re taking you to a tryout.’”

That tryout was for the Colorado Storm, a beep baseball team based in Denver. In the game, players with low vision or blindness hit a beeping baseball and then run to a beeping base before outfielders, who are also blind, recover the ball. Despite never having played baseball before, he won a spot on the team and by the next year, he was playing in the Beep
Baseball World Series.

Since then, Michael has batted a near-perfect .909 in one game, has played in four World Series, threw the first pitch at a Sky Sox game, and has appeared in ESPN Magazine. He is also a volunteer beep baseball coach at the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, thanks to a connection Tim Ashley, former Peer Support Coordinator, made for him.

Through everything, Michael’s lifelong determination to shatter records and expectations has remained firmly intact. “When
something happens, you don’t stop,” he says. “I know I’m not going to be the same as I was before. I’m going to be better than I was before.”

For more information on help in applying for disability benefits, contact our Information & Referral Specialist at 719-471-8181.