Posted on December 15, 2023

Warrior Mac: Thriving Against the Odds with Cerebral Palsy

When McKay Mortier, affectionately known as “Mac,” entered the world in December 2015, his parents, Jessica and Justin Mortier, braced for a future that would come with uncertainties.


A Fighter from the Start: Mac’s Challenging Beginnings

Born via an emergency C-section, Mac was unresponsive. But from his very first breath, he was a warrior. Mac was transferred from Traverse City to Corewell Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital where he received life-saving care. The Mortiers were given a heart-wrenching prognosis: Mac wasn’t expected to live past the age of 2.

“We started to travel two different paths. One of hospice, but then also starting this path of hope and therapy,” said Jessica.


From Hospice to Hope & Freedom

Mac’s primary diagnosis of cerebral palsy (CP) touches all aspects of his life. He needed a strong rehabilitation team to help him achieve victories that seemed unattainable.

“We started therapy at Mary Free Bed at Munson,” Jessica explained. “And then it was just a matter of achieving little, tiny milestones.”

Little by little, those seemingly small milestones began to stack up. From the early days, where reaching and grasping were monumental tasks, to working riding a bike without training wheels and playing basketball – Mac’s hard work has paid off.

Mac celebrates his 8th birthday on December 15, and his progress feels nothing short of miraculous.


Step by Step: Mac’s Incredible Progress with His Therapists

Mary Free Bed at Munson physical therapist D’Anne Proehl and occupational therapist Alisha Reichanbach have been pivotal in Mac’s development. They’ve been with him, step by step, helping him navigate the complexities of CP.

His therapists have not only worked on Mac’s physical breakthroughs, they’ve also been instrumental in his cognitive and emotional growth.

“There’s not a part or a phase of Mac’s life that hasn’t been touched by the people here at Mary Free Bed at Munson,” said Jessica. “We watched Mac learn to crawl and eventually walk in physical therapy. He learned the alphabet and how to stack blocks in occupational therapy. He learned to chew in feeding and swallowing therapy.”

The journey isn’t just about achieving milestones; it’s about creating a nurturing environment where Mac can flourish. Mac’s therapy team has been constantly researching and implementing innovative methods to aid Mac’s learning and growth.

The Mary Free Bed at Munson team not only had a profound impact on Mac, but also on his parents.

The role of a rehabilitation therapist extends beyond professional care. As parents and caregivers navigate the complex and often overwhelming world of medical treatments and rehabilitation, therapy teams often provide much needed guidance, motivation and support.

Mac’s therapists managed the delicate balance of addressing Jessica and Justin’s questions and uncertainties while providing exceptional treatment. Jessica shared that Mac’s therapists are more than just members of his care team.

“They have become an integral part of his story, pouring their talents and empathy into not just his therapy goals, but our wellbeing as a family.”


Celebrating Everyday Joys: Life in Second Grade

Today, Mac is experiencing the joys of life that every child deserves. Now in second grade, it’s about being the ‘mayor of his school,’ as his principal affectionately calls him. He’s one of the top readers in his class who finds happiness in art class, gym and exploring the library for his next great read.


Looking Ahead with Optimism: Mac’s Bright Future

As Mac’s parents ponder his future – whether it be college, driving, or other adventures to come – they do so with a sense of optimism and gratitude. Grateful for the years of therapy that have helped Mac thrive beyond imagination, they look forward to the endless possibilities that lie ahead.

“We try not to get too far ahead of ourselves,” said Justin. “We’re just enjoying the heck out of where he’s at in his life right now.”


Moment of Gratitude

We’re thankful for the resilience and the magic that happens when the right people come into our lives at the right time. Mac’s story reminds us that with the right support, kids facing insurmountable odds can achieve remarkable things.



Ask For Mary

Mary Free Bed teams at Munson Healthcare provide expert, coordinated rehabilitation therapy for kids and teens with CP. Learn more about Mary Free Bed services in Northern Michigan.