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Sharp Health News

Father and son have much to be thankful for

Dec. 21, 2021

Retired Captain Michael Mays with his son, Michael Mays Jr. of San Diego

Retired Captain Michael Mays with his son, Michael Mays Jr., whose life the incredible team at Sharp Memorial saved.

For retired U.S. Navy Captain Michael Mays, family is everything. Every year, Capt. Mays looks forward to spending the holidays with his three grown children and their extended family. This holiday is exceptionally special because only eight months ago, Capt. Mays almost lost his son, Michael Mays Jr. Thanks to the incredible care of the entire care team at Sharp Memorial Hospital, Michael Jr. is here today.

It all began on a typical evening in March. Michael, who lives with Capt. Mays, complained about a disturbing amount of rectal bleeding. Capt. Mays immediately brought Michael to the hospital, where a CT scan revealed there was a mass in Michael’s abdomen that was thought to be contributing to the bleeding. Michael was admitted to the Sharp Memorial Hospital Intensive Care Unit.

“Michael is an intellectually and developmentally disabled man with a disability resulting from brain damage at age 19 months,” Capt. Mays says. “He is now 53 years old. You can imagine the added difficulties this condition presented the physicians. However, everyone was dedicated to helping Michael.”

Met with a difficult task, Sharp’s caregivers raced to figure out how to stop the bleeding. Because of the mass’s placement and the complexity of getting to the mass, Michael’s surgeons were worried Michael would not survive the extremely risky surgery. In addition, Michael was losing blood fast and required many transfusions. The doctors advised Capt. Mays and his family that they should prepare for Michael’s passing.

The family decided to gather and hold a vigil for Michael. However, one of Capt. Mays’s daughters was delayed in her travels to San Diego due to it being Easter weekend. So the family decided to put off saying their goodbyes to Michael until that Sunday.

An extra day saves an extraordinary individual
Capt. Mays believes this delay in his daughter’s arrival is what saved his son’s life. The next morning, one of the doctors found Capt. Mays and told him he decided to attempt the risky surgery.

“The doctor said he was up all night thinking about Michael, and he just couldn’t let Michael pass without trying something,” Capt. Mays says.

While Michael headed off to surgery, the family was advised to go home where they could rest. The hospital team assured them Michael was in good hands and said they would call if they were needed.

Capt. Mays recalls when they received the news to return to the hospital as they waited anxiously at home. “About an hour and a half passed, and we weren’t sure if it was good news or not,” Capt. Mays says. “But when I saw the smile on the doctor’s face, I knew the surgery was successful.”

He was right — the surgery was successful. The source of bleeding was found in the small intestine, and surgeons were able to remedy the situation.

Honoring his son’s exceptional care
Michael recovered well and was sent home about six weeks later. Capt. Mays was so moved by the care and bravery of the entire Sharp HealthCare team, he donated a generous gift to support Sharp HealthCare Foundation’s Greatest Need fund, which provides unrestricted funds to go immediately to programs and services at Sharp.

“I want you to know how much my family appreciates the care provided to Michael,” Capt. Mays wrote in a letter to Sharp Memorial Hospital leadership about his experience. “I also want to acknowledge the doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, transporters and dietitians involved in Michael’s care and recovery.”

Capt. Mays’ gift recognized 13 Sharp HealthCare team members who took part in saving Michael’s life. Honoring such a phenomenal team, each of Michael’s caregivers received a Guardian Angel pin. For his philanthropic heart, Capt. Mays is now recognized as a member of the Partners in Health program.

“He was cared for by many, many individuals,” Capt. Mays says. “Several, in my opinion, went above and beyond their expected performance to help my son through encouragement and care.”

To honor a caregiver at Sharp HealthCare or learn more about our Partners in Health program, visit

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