A boy decided early in his life not to let his debilitating rare genetic disorder overcome him. Today, the teen holds a record as the youngest person with cystic fibrosis to complete a full marathon and is empowering others with his determination and resilience.
Michael Caruso Davis was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at just 3 weeks old. His “normal isn’t so normal,” as his days are packed with treatments, medications, and chronic pain; he usually takes over 40 pills a day. Doctors once told him that his life may be short and his death would be painful.
But Michael had other ideas.
Sharing his life journey on Love What Matters, Michael, now 18, said cystic fibrosis causes “thick, stubborn mucus to clog up” his airways, making it feel like he is constantly “breathing through a straw.”
Michael said his daily treatments consist of “putting on a heavy jet-pack-looking machine” that shakes up the mucus in his lungs and brings it out. In addition, Michael takes a “cocktail of different” inhaled medications.
At the age of 13, Michael was dealt a number of speculative prognoses. An infectious disease specialist told him he would “die rapidly or slowly but, that either way, it would be painful.” Others said he would need a lung transplant, and may lose his hearing.
Michael remembers each and every speculation as “extremely heartbreaking things that no child or person should ever have to hear.” However, instead of feeling helpless, Michael used those heart-crushing health updates to live his life to the fullest.
“I used it as a reason to put every last ounce of myself into fighting this disease and not becoming just another statistic,” he said.
As young as 10 years old, Michael was already putting sport at the forefront.
“I ran my first 5k and came in first place,” Michael recalled. “This small taste of accomplishment lit off fireworks inside of me.”
Michael asked his doctor if they could postpone an extensive treatment, allowing the pre-teen to enjoy an amazing summer holiday.
“I just wanted the chance to be a kid and enjoy it,” he said. “Thanks to my family I had the best summer of my life. We traveled the world, lived at the beach, and never took one moment for granted.”
Michael started running and surfing more, and soon found that the fresh salt air did his lungs the world of good. At his next lung function test, doctors found measurable improvement.
“I had a few more hospital stays, but I seemed to bounce back quickly every time,” Michael recalled.
His mother, Jen Caruso Chipoletti, told Delaware Online that her son “missed over 50 days” at school in 2016 as an 8th-grader at Everett Meredith Middle School in Middletown, Delaware. Yet, he still managed to be an honor-roll student.
At 14, though Michael’s lung function was registering in the low 70s, the determined athlete ran and completed the New York City Half Marathon. He then went on to complete two more half marathons, the Long Beach Island Sprint Triathlon, twice, a 40-mile bike ride, and an Olympic-distance triathlon.
“My greatest accomplishment so far has been completing the Chicago Full Marathon in 2019,” he wrote on Love What Matters. “I made history by becoming the youngest person with [cystic fibrosis], at age 16, to complete a full marathon.”
“I have received many medals for all of my races,” Michael wrote on Love What Matters. “I was honored to be given a billboard in Times Square, New York, congratulating me on my record-setting Chicago Marathon achievement.”
Michael has been awarded the State of Delaware’s General Assembly Tribute and Senate Tribute, and the Victory Scholarship Award from the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation and Wilmington Blue Rocks.
Circumstances allowing, Michael hopes to complete an Ironman 70.3 challenge in 2021, making him the youngest male in the United States with cystic fibrosis ever to do so. He will collect the Michael Brennan Courage Award from the Boomer Esiason Foundation in 2021.
Today, Michael chronicles his life and achievements on his Instagram page, @mikeydavis6.
Michael said he is “honored and humbled” to receive these awards. However, he holds that the true significance of his achievements lies in how all this is impacting and inspiring other people.
“[W]hat means the most to me is when people from all around the world reach out to tell me that my story has changed their lives and inspired them to make a change,” he wrote on Love What Matters.
“In this game of life, the cards have not been dealt in my favor,” he said. “It would be so easy to allow this disease to overcome me, but that is not who I am.”