Lucky McMahon is five years old. He was born with a condition called Hydrocephalus. It has caused him significant hardship in those five years, and likely for the rest of his life. But Lucky remains upbeat, and is a very friendly and nice little boy. Cubs baseball has had a major impact on him, and he, in turn, has touched the ones he's met, and even those who have only seen him online.
Lucky's story begins with his mom Paula. Paula was a bit older, and trying to have another child. After difficult experiences with a fertility clinic, Paula became pregnant. Unfortunately, she miscarried at10 weeks. She had given up on trying, but a year later, found herself pregnant. The pregnancy was very difficult. She had multiple issues where, several times early in the pregnancy, she went to doctors thinking that she had miscarried again. She wound up on bedrest, but her child was healthy.
At 19 weeks, she went for a sonogram, hoping for great news. It started off well enough, with lots of laughter. But then the nurse got quiet, and grabbed the doctor. It was a scary situation for Paula. Her words describing what happened next:
"The Doctor came in and she said that we needed to talk. Now I am scared. The nurse took us into a room... we sat and it seemed like hours. The doctor came in and she said, 'let me tell you what is going on with your
pregnancy. I want to tell you that your child has a condition called Hydrocephalus, and a small
cerebellum.' I am like, what in the world is that? And can it be fixed? I went all numb. She drew pictures
and said in Illinois, I was still in the legal stages of abortion. She actually recommended me aborting
my child, because his disabilities could be severe and he probably won't live. She went over and
over, and then I said NO NO abortion. I said that God gave me this child and I won't get rid of him. She wanted
to do more testing, but I wasn’t for that until I was at least 24 weeks. I did get the amnio to see if he had
anymore genetic malformations, and he didn’t. In the mean time, the fluid on his brain had grown over the
next 14 weeks to an ungodly amount. I was truly scared.
Lucky Liam McMahon was born at 33 weeks at 5 lbs, 9 oz. Most of that weight was due to his enlarged head. He
came early because I had preeclampsia, and it wasn’t good. They asked me, if he or I had issues, which one
do they need to save? I said save the baby. Well, they saved both of us. Lucky didn’t do so hot at the
beginning, but he was breathing on his own. I myself bled out, and well, it didn’t look good for me. I had
to have 2 units of blood and stay in recovery for a couple of days. I didn’t see Lucky for 2 days after he
Lucky would be in intensive care for over two months at the beginning of his life. He had a shunt put in to progressively drain the fluid from his head. His brain needed room to grow, and it just didn't have space in a skull filled with that much fluid. I don't want to cause alarm, but I feel that I need to show you what Lucky's head looked like so you can see how serious his condition was.
That picture breaks my heart, and honestly, I'm surprised that Lucky survived being born. His situation was much more complicated than just draining the fluid from his skull. Lucky's had a long list of ailments and surgeries in his short life-
Exotropia - misaligned eyes
Bifid uvula - a split muscle in the back of the throat that causes feeding and speech issues
Submucus cleft palate
Encephalopathy - brain disease that alters brain functions or structure
Brachycephaly - the shape of his skull is shorter than normal
Spasticity - his muscles are too tight
Failure to thrive - Lucky is tiny for his age
Delayed growth and development.
Intermittent alternating exotropia - the reverse of cross-eye
G-tube - feeding tube, no longer needed
Chiari Malformation - more skull issues
Binocuar vision defect
Polymicro gyro - affects his brain and balance
Dissociated vertical deviation
Sleep apnea - both obstructed (airways are blocked) and central (breathing stops because of brain miscommunication)
Craniosynotosis - sutures on his skull are fused
Rhombencephalosynapsis - his cerebellum doesn’t split, it is fused together
Mild Spina bifida
Because of all of these issues, Lucky's had 15 surgeries in his 5 years. He has a 16th scheduled for mid April. As someone who's been very fortunate to be healthy and has never has never needed surgery, I can't even imagine the toll of 3 surgeries in a year. Some of these were severe skull surgeries, necessary to save his life. The full list:
Shunt when he was a few days old
Placing a reservoir
G-tube feeding tube insertion
Tonsillectomy and adenoids removal
Craniofacial (cranio vault reconstruction)
Head wound 2
Chiari decompression (performed the morning after the Cubs won the World Series)
Frontal orbital advancement (moving his forehead forward) with distractors
Upcoming: 15 cavities filled, 2 crowns, and 3 teeth removed
To summarize, Lucky had the fluid drained from his head at birth. This was successful, but it led to further complications. At a year and a half, he had corrective surgery to reshape his skull and give his brain room to grow and develop. This was a surgery so risky, and Paula had trouble finding a doctor willing to attempt it. They had to go to Texas for the procedure, and it was fortunately successful. A year later, he needed another surgery keep his cerebellum from going down his spinal cord. This one wasn't a success; he has an ongoing issue that can lead to more complications if his condition degrades.
Lucky lives up to his namesake, despite the circumstances. He began walking unaided just in the last year, and is a fairly active child. He has an obvious speech impediment and severe balance issues, which makes it difficult for him to eat, breathe, speak or sleep. Throughout his brain surgeries, doctors outlined a worst case scenario where he'd basically be a bedridden vegetable. Happily, that isn't close to being the case.
Lucky is a very friendly, energetic child with an infectious personality. He was so excited and nervous to be on video chat with me, squirming the whole time, and did a great job answering my questions. Despite all of his health issues, Lucky has found hope and distraction in baseball, which has encouraged him to be optimistic. With that in mind, I'd like to give you a glimpse as to what kind of person Lucky is, in a couple of videos.
This week, we will be going in depth into Lucky's experiences with baseball. I truly believe that Javy Báez inspired this kid to become as active as you saw. Sports may technically be just a game, but it's a way of life that can give us all hope. That's the lesson I've been learning from Lucky, and what I hope he teaches you as well.
• • • • •
If this story has affected you personally and you'd like to help out, here are some suggestions:
• From Paula: For Lucky, support him, which has been wonderful. 😁I let Lucky experience everything with life. I want him to experience everything, take it all in. Think about contributing to the Hydrocephalus Association to help find a cure. In September, I am holding a very first Hydrocephalus Walk to raise funding for Hydrocephalus to help bring awareness to Hydrocephalus on September 26th 2020 in the Decatur IL area.
• Lucky LOVES baseball cards. Lots of people will send him baseball cards. He loves getting surprise packages of Cubs stuff. It really makes his heart smile. If you've got something to send him, let me know, and I can get you his address.
• Finally, a family friend put together a GoFundMe for Lucky's upcoming dental surgery. In this complicated age of health insurance, Lucky will incur about $2000+ worth of dental bills that insurance won't touch. Paula needs the money by April 3, 2020, with Lucky's surgery scheduled for April 17th. As of right now, if everyone who follows Cubs DNA on Twitter gives just $3, we can fully fill his fundraiser. That's such an achievable number, so I encourage you to be part of a team effort. Let's change Lucky's life!