About us

Welcome to Life o’ Mike.

Mike was Michael Timothy Danforth, an egomaniac with self-esteem issues. He was a smart, funny, generous, wise and loving person who died because he didn’t have health insurance.

That meant he couldn’t afford the colonoscopy that might have found his cancer before it was too late. He died April 1, 2008. He was 33.

Mike is one of an estimated 30,000 people who die each year because they didn’t have insurance and so didn’t have access to the lifesaving diagnostic tests, or diabetic supplies that would help them monitor blood glucose, or medication that would help lower blood pressure.

Our mission is to put faces to those numbers. Tell us your story. Post blogs, post photos. Let everyone see that good people are dying — beloved people. After all, every one of those people was loved as much as we all loved Mike.

Questions? E-mail lifeomike@gmail.com

The video here, from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” was one of Mike’s favorite songs. We played it at the end of his memorial service.

Discussion

  1. Posted by leslie | May 26, 2008, 7:10 pm

    The plaid is great, and it’s more than the pajama bottoms he always wore. When he was a teenager, we rented a houise that had plaid carpeting in one of the bedrooms. Mike immediately claimed that bedroom.

    “I can dress in plaid and hide in here,” he said. “Unless I smile, nobody will be able to find me.”

    The Cheshire Mike.

  2. Posted by leslie | May 27, 2008, 4:44 pm

    I’ve had people tell me that Mike didn’t have insurance because he made bad choices. They’ve said if he had done everything right as a teenager he would have had a job that offered insurance.
    I have to admit, Mike made some bad choices as a teenager. He became addicted to drugs and alcohol. But he sobered up when he was 22 and spent the rest of his life “chasing drunks,” helping people get and stay sober.
    He was a chef and he worked late many nights, so he often came in at the end of meetings, but everyone tells me they knew if Mike showed up it would be a good meeting. He had an insight that nobody else seemed to have, and he often chose newcomers’ meetings because he knew that’s where he was needed.
    As for not having insurance, most restaurants don’t pay their employees’ health benefits. He had a talent with food, so he was able to work and make a living even while he was in school — he was an honors student in his junior year of college when he got sick.
    So, did he not deserve to survive because he did stupid things before he was 22? Should stupid choices before you have the maturity to know their consequences mean you should suffer and die?
    Of course, he probably would have been rejected for employer-sponsored insurance because the birth defect he had left him vulnerable to both kidney infections and cancer. He would have had to pay a fortune for private insurance.
    It wasn’t about choices. It never is, unless you’re talking about the choice of big business not to take care of people and the choice of legislators not to make big business do the right thing.

  3. Posted by Robbo | May 27, 2008, 7:36 pm

    yes, the plaid. Wonderful. Makes my heart sing and my eyes hurt!!!

  4. Posted by hazenwd | May 29, 2008, 6:44 am

    Just wanted to let you know I dropped in Mom. I love you. I see your on a mission. I know you never give up so maybe you can get something done.

  5. Posted by leslie | May 31, 2008, 12:31 am

    I’ve been trying to talk to Memorial Health in Savannah since Mike died. I don’t want to sue them for the lousy care he got there. Mike asked me not to because he wanted me to devote my energy to something more positive.
    So I called the ethics department and didn’t hear back. So, after a week I called back and heard nothing. Finally, the administrative assistant called me back and said the ethics director would call me back at 2:30 on April 29. 2:30 came and went and I got no call.
    I called the interim CEO and told his secretary what was going on, and told them I wasn’t going away. I said I would come down and clutch a photo of my dead son in front of the hospital — and in front of the TV cameras.
    I got a call back.
    All I wanted was for the hospital to say failure to treat a known medical condition is wrong and that every professional who practices at memorial health is expected to inform patients if medical conditions so they can seek treatment.
    Mike’s records show he wasn’t getting colonoscopies because he couldn’t afford them, despite his high risk of colon cancer and the knowledge that there had been some thickening of the colon wall.
    When he got sick, Dr. Patrick Hammen finally did a colonoscopy, but he didn’t tell Mike or Janet that the colon was completely blocked. All the record said was, “Patient’s wife had stepped out for a minute.”
    He never had anyone call Mike. He just didn’t tell him.
    Three weeks later, Mike was in the emergency room in renal failure and vomiting fecal matter. He nearly died then.
    The following fall, when Mike got sick again because radiation damage caused a blockage in his small intestine, the biopsy found micirscopic cancer, and Dr. Hammen told him he was going to die. Six weeks later, Mike saw him and he said the incisiion was healing slowly. Dr. Hammen told him that was because he was so weak going into the surgery.
    Less than a week later, Dr. Herb Hurwitz told him the real reason for the problem. The wound was seriously infected and had been for awhile by the looks of it.
    So, the way I see it, Dr. Hammen failed to treat a medical condition. It’s in the records.
    All I’m asking the hospital to do is make a public statement that its doctors, nurses and other practitioners will inform patients of medical conditions and try to help them get the referrals to the treatment they need.
    The hospital has told me my request is too broad and they can’t even discuss it with me.
    Funny, a VP at one of the hospitals here in Western North Carolina has asked me to send some “language” and see if there isn’t a statement in it.
    Here in Asheville it wouldn’t have been a problem because the Medical Society here decided to organize all the charity care here into something called Project Access. Patients go to one of the free clinics in the county and if they need care from a specialist, Project Access gets it for them through one of its members who has agreed to donate time.
    That’s still not the way people should have to get care, but at least they’re not going to the emergency room in renal failure and vomiting fecal matter or having an infection fester because nobody cares enough to treat you.

  6. Posted by bobbybabcock | May 31, 2008, 12:39 pm

    I was a childhood friend of Mike’s in Haverstraw,NY through his highschool years. I have lost touch since 94 when I joined the military, I am saddened by the course of events he and his family had to go through and wanted to send my deepest condolonses to the family. Mike played an integeral part in the teenage years and will always be remembered.

    bobby babcock

  7. Posted by hazenwd | June 7, 2008, 1:10 pm

    Hey Mom I tried to call you today. Here is what is going on. First of all let me give the others here some background from my perspective. I think the only thing these doctors understand is their wallet. I have not seen the medical records but from what Mom has told me there is clear proof he didn’t receive basic care he should have been entitled to. I think that they should be made to admit they made a mistake. That’s all Mom wants. They will not do it. Imagine that! I’m sure it is because they believe as soon as they make a statement it will be used against them in a court of law. So I say take them to the court of law. My Mom is the one who wants to use anything she is awarded to start helping other people. She is very selfless. She said Mike didn’t want her to sue and she wants to respect his wishes. I told her if that is the case I told her to sue and use all the money for what she is trying to do here: Set up her nonprofit. They get what they deserve and good comes from it. Do we have a case? I don’t know yet. I intend to find out. If I was in Mom’s shoes and I won I would keep some of the money for myself. Maybe a 50-50 split. It was her son. They played a role in taking her son. I do not see that as a frivolous lawsuit. If anybody in this world deserves to get money from a medical malpractice suit, she does. She is an incredible person who went through more than anyone can imagine. Losing a child is as bad as it gets. Taking care of his every need,every minute, of every day, has got to be as hard as it gets. She made Mike’s last couple weeks happy ones. How many of us could do that? She says it is my son so I didn’t really do anything. Yes you did Mom. You did it and held it together. You did it and never let it get to where Mike could see how sad you were. You told him you loved him every day and kept him positive. One in a million could do what you did as well as you did. I not only hope we have a case, I hope they lose big. I hope they lose and then we can make the statement for them. We can tell the world what they did was wrong. Until they reach in their pockets it’s just us saying they where wrong and them having no comment. Love you, Mom. I got the number to the best medical malpractice attorney in Savannah. At least that is what I was told by a lawyer here in Brunswick. I also have other lawyers to call.

  8. Posted by leslie | June 8, 2008, 9:10 pm

    Here’s the thing about caring for Mike: It was easy. You never know what you can do until you’re faced with it.
    Before Mike was born, I never thought I could deal with a child who had birth defects. But then there he was, and it wasn’t difficult because I loved him.
    I never thought I could change dressings and make the kind of decisions I would have to make, to stand up to doctors and nurses when they were wrong and advocate for my child.
    One of the first things I did after he was born was to fire the urologist my obstetrician recommended because he lied to me about Mike’s prognosis and treatment.
    When he got sick in 2005, Janet and I both advocated for him, and it took both of us to keep him alive until we got him to Duke.
    In the end, after he and Janet had split and he got too sick to stay with James, we brought him home.
    Caring for him here was easy. He was funny and kind. He was always thinking about the well-being of the people around him. — he was Mike. Janet and James were here much of that time, and he inspired us all. He asked us to “pimp” his walker and watched funny movies.
    I found profound joy in every moment I got to spend with Mike. As long as he was here, I was OK.
    It was easy, except for the part where we had to say goodbye. I still return to that moment again and again in my mind. I only wish I could have cared for him longer.

  9. Posted by jetodd18 | June 16, 2008, 12:06 am

    I went through the CD of pictures we received at Mike’s memorial service a few weeks ago. I’m not gonna lie, I bawled like a baby. Even now, when I see the pictures on this site, or think about summer nights on the front porch with him and Janet, I start to get emotional. I know that’s not what Mike would have wanted, and I swear I can hear him telling me “Quit yah cryin’ yah big baby!” in his New York accent, and it makes me giggle a little bit.

    Mike always got the greatest laughter out of me, with all of his crude inappropriateness, bad jokes and Lord only knows what else. It’s not hard to get me laughing anyways, but he was a genuinely funny person, always a great sense of humor. He was proudest of the fact that he could belch on his front porch and I could hear it from my kitchen in the back of my apartment. Who needs a phone when ya can belch!

    I’ve decided that at Halloween every year I’m going to golf a pumpkin…just not at my car. My dad has a whole basement full of clubs so I’m gonna take one when I move to Texas. I’m sure Mike would love for me to splatter the remnants on someone else’s car but considering I still have pumpkin stain on my doors…

  10. Posted by hazenwd | June 19, 2008, 1:57 am

    I miss Mike but it is getting easier to remember things about him that make me laugh. I’ve heard it said Mike never grew up. Who the hell says you have to grow up? A life you enjoy is sure better than pretending to be someone you’re not. I was the class clown growing up. Always in trouble. Even more than Mike until he developed his drug problem. I had fun. It got me in the principal’s office a lot. Mike had a teacher in Rockland County who didn’t want to teach him because he was my brother. He thought it was hilarious. I had to grow up fast. I had 2 kids on the way when I was 19. It made me lose some of who I was. Alcohol is how I got that person back. The problem is with that came a lot of problems. DUI. Getting arrested several times over little crap. Having my family hurt. I am looking back and hearing Mike was still able to be Mike after he became clean. I didn’t respect that enough when he was alive. I would also like to take this chance to say just what a great father and grandfather Rob has been. Reading his post made me realize I really came up short not calling him this year. It won’t happen again. Mike was always reaching out to put our family back together again. Some didn’t want to accept who Mike was. Including me sometimes. I didn’t understand how he could be so damn messy. Now I look back he is gone and who really gives a s*** if he was neat. He was funny. He was very intelligent. He had a huge group of friends who loved him. He is up in heaven right now watching me and figuring out how to get me to where he is so he can get me back for some of the crazy crap I did to him. Put him in the dryer. Made him run into the road holding a cat until 4 cars passed in his underwear. In the middle of the winter. But when he got married he asked me to be his best man. He helped me more than anyone else in this world the last year of his life. He never did tell me how bad off he was. He would always put a positive spin on things and counsel me. My life was falling apart and he would take my calls and talk to me for as long as I wanted. Sometimes we would joke around. Sometimes when we got together we would act like kids again and have fun. I’m starting to remember more of those things. I have also realized what a wonderful mother I have. And a stepfather who at one time I wouldn’t even speak to. He is a wonderful person. 2 great people who are there for me if I just learn how to ask. Anyway enough rambling. Miss you bro. Look forward to seeing you again and making some new memories. I just hope it’s 50 years from now. Just chill out, listen to music, tell some jokes and read all the Sci Fi books you didn’t have a chance to read.

  11. Posted by dancermmd_95 | July 1, 2008, 11:15 pm

    This is Meghan, Mikes 12 year old niece! When my Mom came to let me know about my Uncles death I was devastated! I was in front of about 10 of my friends and cried my eyes out. At first I just couldn’t accept he was gone. I never told anyone that but I kept saying How could he be gone so soon! I didn’t see him often because of me living in a different city then him. I had just saw him about 4 days before he passed so I just didn’t think it was long enough! When he was alive, I didn’t realize he would ever be one of my heroes, but at his funeral thingy I realized what a great man he was! He always made me smile/laugh! I have little memories with him but the one that always stands out is when he held me upside down at the age of 10 and put me in a TINY trash can! I really probably won’t fully realize he is gone til Christmas or Thanksgiving! I ALWAYS saw him on those holidays! My Uncle Mike is such a GREAT man! I miss him soo much! And love him soooooooo much! And will NEVER EVER EVER EVER forget him!

  12. Posted by KaileyR | August 14, 2008, 6:56 pm

    I just found this website last night after reading a friend’s myspace bulletin.

    I went to college with Mike a few years ago. I did not know him very well but I remember that he was funny and a nice guy. I used to hang out with him and some other friends in the quad between classes. We’d sit around, eat lunch and talk about random stuff. The last time I saw him was in a gas station sometime in ’05 or ’06. He told me about his medical condition. He was thinner than he used to be and looked a little tired but he was upbeat and seemed optimistic about it all. He said that he was feeling a lot better. I am sorry that I never got to see him again. I thought he was a really cool person.

    I want to offer my condolences and prayers to Mike’s family and friends. Also I would like to applaud the efforts that you all are putting into helping people who do not get the healthcare they deserve. I wish the best for the rally.

    Kailey Roberts

  13. Posted by hazenwdII | August 28, 2008, 11:23 pm

    Had to get a new log in. The cookie got deleted I guess and I didnt remember my password. Something like 1hjoi&*%ty%#@h but anyway…. I thought the rally went well. A good start. You have to start somewhere. Two T.V. station covered the rally. The policeman who was there said it is the first time he has seen a first time rally get covered by two stations. Not bad at all. I’m sure the one in Asheville will have hundreds as I saw how my Mom’s friends turned out when he passed. Great community with great support. The sky is the limit. Whatever your dreams are Mom I know you will make a difference. Janet and Christian are not going to let it go either. Rob is supporting my mom 100% and thats important. I’ll be at every rally I can get to. No matter where they are. What credit cards are for. I’m still not sure where I stand as compared to where Mom stands. The beauty of the way she just pulling this off is that it did not matter. She just asked for change. For ideas. For conversation. For open and honest discussion. No one can argue with that. No one. I think this approach will lead to where she wants it to lead. To one day help someone. I dont doubt that for a minute. Like the Adam Walsh tragedy and what his father has been able to accomplish because of it. To have your son beheaded and turn it into a positive that has seen laws change across the country is amazing. The guy seems to be an ego maniac and kind of gets on my nerves but you cant argue with his results. Every one of us know who Adam Walsh is. One day maybe everyone will know who Mike Danforth was. Damn wouldn’t that be amazing! He would hate being the symbol of something. His face can be like the starbucks logo. Wouldn’t that be something. Love you Mom. And love all you guys that have helped her and been by her side to help her through this.

  14. Posted by hazenwdII | August 28, 2008, 11:35 pm

    and we are going to do Savannah again and this time I am going to get involved. Now that Christian Janet and Mom have figured out how to organize it (done all the work) I am going to dive in with both feet and we ARE going to get more people. We will do it again and again until we reach the number Mom dreamed of. I could have had people there. Now I know how I will approach it. Its about a solution. Period. Your experiences. Your stories. I dont know anyone who doesnt think we have a problem. Your solution might be to elect Obama. It might be to elect Mr.T. That doesnt matter. Improving our system does. My mom is for universal health care. I am not. We still stood side by side and said lets help people who need help. I think it would be great for this organization to raise millions and help people. Why not? This is America. Anything is possible.

  15. Posted by leslie | August 29, 2008, 12:56 am

    Universal health care can mean more than one thing. I’m for getting people access to quality health care. If it’s done with a public-private partnership, I’m just as happy as if it’s done through the government taking it on. There has to be a way to achieve it. There has to be a way to stop more than 25,000 people from dying every year.
    An’d I’m not going away until it’s done.

  16. Posted by hazenwdII | August 30, 2008, 11:40 am

    Mom I hear a lot of people telling stories about their trouble with the system. I am going to try and get then to come post them. I tried twice the other day but like an idiot I told them mikeolife.org instead of lifeomike.org. Brain fart.

  17. Posted by jetodd18 | August 30, 2008, 10:01 pm

    As September 11th approaches I get just a tad more nervous- besides the 9/11 anniversary, I am also having my first colonoscopy. I found a highly reputed (and very sweet) gastroenternologist at Emory University Hospital who, after taking a 45 minute history on my issues, made me feel very comfortable and proved that she knew what she was doing. I’m a little anxious about going under for the procedure but that’s about it. My doctor said that people cancel their procedures all the time, and there are times where I’m like “do I really want to do this…” But I know that there would be many, including Mike, who would be disappointed in me if, with the benefit of health insurance, I canceled my procedure simply because I’m a big wuss, especially since in the next 30-60 days my job/health insurance situation are uncertain. (holy run on sentence batman). The procedure is mainly to rule out any conditions rather than diagnosing. 12 days and counting!

  18. Posted by leslie | August 31, 2008, 9:18 am

    Go for it, especially if you have health issues. That way, if there’s anything out of the ordinary, you’ll know you have to find a way to get it done next time. Mike’s doctor wouldn’t do one because he couldn’t afford it. But you’re in Atlanta and there must be somebody there who will follow up if you need it. Or maybe by the time you need another one we’ll have health care for everyone.

  19. Posted by jetodd18 | September 13, 2008, 9:31 pm

    The colonoscopy went well! Janet (and several others) told me the prep day was gonna be the worst…and it was. Ya know, you never really realize how many food-based advertisements there are on TV until you can’t eat!! That was cruel. The solution I drank was nasty- I tried to flavor it with pomegranite cherry crystal light and blech! Its rather unfortunate that my body wash is also pomegranate scented. Some of the solution didn’t stay down but I did manage to finish it all. My mom took me to Emory; I had my lamb, Lambie, with me also (she was with me when I had my ear tubes in and out and my wisdom teeth pulled) and the nursing staff was so nice to me. They were cheery, comforting, and they talked to me which was nice. It took a little while to get going but once they gave me the happy drugs I was very relaxed. I didn’t actually fall asleep, so I got to watch my procedure on the monitor. The good news is they didn’t find anything unusual but took a couple of biposies just to make sure (which feels like a poke). I was able to walk out of the hospital with my mom, had some yogurt and oatmeal before my Longhorn steak dinner, and all was well! There were so many times where I wanted to cancel, but I’m so glad I didn’t. I have a diagnosis, a treatment plan, and I don’t have to have another one for a very long time. :-)

  20. Posted by Mountaintop Healthcare | November 17, 2008, 10:37 am

    Amazing! Leslie Boyd came to speak at our first annual fundraiser for Mountaintop Healthcare and she was amazing! Mike’s story is the reason that our nonprofit exists. Our goal is to respond to those who are uninsured and under-served in our healthcare community. Leslie’s talk gave us one more reason to champion for the people in Western North Carolina and expand our knowledge into other areas! Thank you for sharing your heart and the beautiful words you spoke to captivate our audience. Thank you for the attention you are bringing to a challenging issue.

  21. Posted by Christian The Jew | July 27, 2009, 5:38 pm

    It should be noted that this site is still visible other than the first page. Not sure if that’s been considered. Hope all is well with the controversy now.

  22. Posted by Hazen | October 6, 2009, 8:43 am

    Just read my daughters post from when Mike passed. Can’t stop crying. Damn I miss him.

  23. Posted by Ryan | October 6, 2009, 9:33 pm

    Thanks for keeping this site up, especially with the current debate over health reform. I’m sure Mike is stoked that you keep his memory alive in such a positive and productive way.

  24. Posted by leslie | October 9, 2009, 11:05 pm

    Thanks. Mike always loved being the center of attention, so I know he’s loving this. Mike asked me to keep it positive, so I’m trying as hard as I know how. I miss him a lot, but doing this keeps him close.

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Visit our new web site

It's official! We are WNC Health Advocates.
Please visit our new web site, Visit WNC Health Advocates
The new name reflects what we do -- advocate for health care for everyone and help people access and navigate our current health care system.
While we still hold onto the memory and the generous spirit of Mike Danforth, we need people to be able to see our name and understand who we are.

Help Life o’ Mike

We need your help now more than ever. Your tax-deductible donation will help us get Patient Pals and Family Friends to more people in need of peer support. Please consider a gift in honor or in memory of a loved one.
Donate here or mail your donation to Life o' Mike, PO Box 1213, Asheville, NC 28802.





Patient Pals & Family Friends

Life o' Mike has a peer support program for people with one or more serious or chronic medical issues or disabilities.

We aim to reduce isolation and fear among people who have conditions, including psychiatric illness, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, mild dementia or other cognitive disorder or disability, thereby reducing depression and complications as people learn to improve self-management of their medical conditions.

Patient Pals help alleviate feelings of isolation and frustration. They can help people develop a list of questions to ask the doctor and then accompany the person to the doctor to make sure all the questions are answered, taking notes to be sure the person understands the doctor’s answers.

Our trained volunteers also accompany their “Pals” to art exhibits, movies and walks outdoors, meet for coffee, call to check in and more.

Our Pals have experienced weight loss, improvement in diabetes, HIV, psoriasis, depression and more, just because they have someone who cares about them. Some relationships develop into longer-term friendships; other Pals move on to more independent lives.

Family Friends are there to help caregivers and other family members grow into their new role.

We need volunteers, who are asked to donate a minimum of one hour a week. Training is free and includes information on active listening, ways to help and when to know more help is needed.

And of course, we need funding.

To learn more, call Leslie Boyd at 828-243-6712 or e-mail lifeomike@gmail.com.

Life o’ Mike honors Joe Eblen


Life o' Mike presented its first Michael T. Danforth Community Service Award to Joe Eblen at a luncheon on June 8, in the Friendship Hall of First Congregational Church, 20 Oak St., Asheville.
Joe, seen here with Leslie Boyd, left, and his wife, Bobbie, has spent his life helping children and families, both as a coach and game official for more than 60 years, and as founder of Eblen Charities.

Start From Seed

Life o' Mike has a new program- Start from Seed (SFS).
SFS is a volunteer doula program aimed at providing non-medical, comprehensive support to low income, high-risk women and families of Buncombe County focusing on three areas:

1. We help new doulas with certification and training in return for their participation as a volunteer doula for SFS

2. We mentor volunteer doulas with their first few clients

3. Our volunteer doulas provide birth and postpartum doula services to low income, high risk moms, providing support and tools to empower them as a new parent.

A birth doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; a postpartum doula provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

Start from Seed clients are referred to us from the Buncombe County Department of Health’s Nurse-Family Partnership Program, Western North Carolina Community Health Services, and Mission Hospital. The Program is intended and designed for growing clients’ inner strength and helping them gain empowerment to help them cope with the emotional, physical and mental challenges of childbirth, labor, and motherhood.

Our new moms and their infants have many needs. If you would like to help them get off to a good start, please visit our Start from Seed web site: Start from Seed, or call Program Director Chelsea Kouns at 804-814-9946.

Events in the community

Free birth and labor classes

Peaceful Beginning Doula Services holds free birth forums, Peaceful Birth, 6:30-8 p.m. the last Thursday of every month (except November) at Spa Materna, 640 Merrimon Ave., above The Hop, in Asheville.
All are welcome, expectant women and their partners are encouraged to attend anytime during their pregnancy. We also encourage doulas and other maternal/child professionals to attend and share in the discussions. The forums are "birth circle" style, focusing on normal birth which follows the Lamaze Six Care Practices for Healthy Birth. The forums are led by certified and experienced educators.

NAMI Family-to-Family Class

NAMI of Western Carolina holds 12-week classes for families and caregivers of individuals with a severe mental illness 6-8:30 p.m. Mondays at Charles George VA Medical Center, 1100 Tunnel Road in Asheville. The course covers major mental illnesses and self-care. Registration required. Info at 828-299-9596 or rohaus@charter.net.

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