My parents were told I would never walk. As a baby, my congenital hip condition was improperly treated by an out-of-state doctor, causing my pelvis and femurs to shatter. I spent the next 18 years undergoing dozens of corrective surgeries at Children’s, where we received hope for the first time.
The late Mihran Tachjian, MD, was my main surgeon and savior. He was determined that I would walk, constantly reassuring my mother, “Mommy, we will fix your baby,” as he tried a number of experimental procedures to correct my legs and hips as I grew. I spent so much of my life at Children’s that it felt like home. My parents made the trip almost daily from our home in Valparaiso, Indiana, to the hospital to be with me. Many times my mother would sleep overnight at the hospital and then drive to work in Elkhart, Indiana, and back again. The love from my parents was bottomless. I can only dream of being as dedicated a parent.
One day, my parents bought me a viola from the hospital’s White Elephant resale shop. They had noted my interest in a piano in the hospital’s rec room and thought I would enjoy learning a new instrument. I soon fell in love with music, a passion that has steered the course of my life.
My viola has taken me through three college degrees and several times around the world. Today I am a professional musician and a music teacher at three institutions. I’ve also performed on music soundtracks and made commercial recordings. I even met my wife through music and we now have two beautiful daughters.
Children’s has done so much for me: It gave me the precious ability to walk, which I did for the first time at age 16; it fostered my love of music; and it enabled me to appreciate the simple things in life. As a child in the hospital, I had only seen the world through a television screen. I couldn’t wait to get out and experience it for myself.
I owe my life today to Children’s. It’s not just the renowned medical treatment that makes it special. It’s the never ending support offered to children and families, who are experiencing the most difficult times in their lives. There were so many wonderful people at Children’s. We never felt like numbers; we were loved family members.
I had my last major surgery at 18 years old and was told I would need additional procedures around age 32. I’m now 42 and still doing great. Dr. Tachjian’s work is even better than he imagined. In fact, I’ve hiked more than 2,000 miles throughout the world, and last year I completed my first marathon as part of the Children’s Memorial Marathon Team. I felt compelled to give back, to reciprocate in the hope that young patients today would see that Children’s does everything possible to help make our lives as fulfilled and enriched as we dare to dream.
Michael Hall, DMA, lives with his wife, Kristine, and their two daughters in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. He performs internationally as well as locally with the Chicago Philharmonic and the Ravinia Festival Orchestras, and is on the faculties of Illinois Wesleyan University, VanderCook College of Music and the Chicago Academy for the Arts.
This article first appeared in the winter 2010 issue of Heroes magazine.