How football, faith and family keep this 9-year-old alive - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

How football, faith and family keep this 9-year-old alive

Michael Stephens says his favorite position is running back Michael Stephens says his favorite position is running back
Katoya Stephens quit her job to tend to Michael Katoya Stephens quit her job to tend to Michael
The Texas Outlaws made Michael's dream come true The Texas Outlaws made Michael's dream come true
The Outlaws provided Michael with the game ball signed by all of his teammates The Outlaws provided Michael with the game ball signed by all of his teammates
Katoya gives Michael treatments at home, sometimes for hours at a time Katoya gives Michael treatments at home, sometimes for hours at a time
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

"Right before his make a wish trip he was saying mom I'm going to heaven and it's going to be okay," said Katoya Stephens.

Those are words no mother want to hear from her 9-year-old son.

Doctors say Albany native Michael Stephens' days are numbered.

But Michael has three lifelines that doctors failed to realize. Faith, family and of course football.

Michael has his own imaginary football team. He'd love to actually suit up, but he's living with a number of diseases which prevent him from taking the field. 

His mother, Katoya, has had to stop working to become his full-time nurse. And a very good one at that.

"He has the epilepsy, asthma, autism, ADHD and DiGeorge syndrome. Immune deficiency disorder he has anemia disease. And with all of that comes the heart problems," reflected Katoya.

Issues that led to multiple unsuccessful heart surgeries for Michael. 

That eats away at the 9-year-old's confidence, but he and his family remains strong.

"He just told me yesterday, 'Mom, I'm going to fight. I'm going to keep fighting for you,'I don't want you to be sad,'" said Katoya.

She lives for Michael to be happy as well, and more importantly alive. 

Aside from the routine home care, she has to drive three hours to Atlanta for weekly medical visits. It's worth it, but it's not cheap.

"We just budget, we don't get to do the extra, like Christmas," said the mother of two.

But Christmas came early for Michael who was offered an amazing gift by the Texas Outlaws. The little league football team invited Michael out to California for their national championship game last week, and even left him with a prize.

"Game ball." But the real treat for Michael watching his team play for the championship alongside Snoop Dogg.

"Snoop was talking up there," recalled Michael. "And I was like really bruh, really?"

After the emotional high of the championship, reality grounded the enthusiastic running back when he returned home. 

He will be spending his Christmas in Atlanta for yet another heart surgery.

"I don't want the people to put sharp things on me."

"I don't want him to give up," said Katoya. "Because he's really, really scared about the surgery. He's scared."

"What would make you happy this Christmas? "If I get out the hospital."

Michael would love to have a Christmas full of toys, but with his cost of care, This Christmas, the Stephens' only present, is each others presence.

"With him having DiGeorge now," said Katoya. "We understand that anything could happen and we've almost lost him several times. So anything really can happen."

His surgery is set for Tuesday. To help the Stephens family, click here to donate to their GoFundMe.

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