A Season of Triumph and Trial
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Each sound elicits more of a response from the baby's father. As Reed Doughty holds his son, cupping the baby's head in his right hand, he savors every coo and utterance.
The four months of Micah's life have been a struggle. Born nearly six weeks prematurely, the baby is battling chronic kidney failure and for the Washington Redskins' rookie safety, an afternoon spent bonding with his son after practice is particularly special. Doughty's wife, Katie, his high school sweetheart whom he married five years ago, sits beside him on the couch and the tall Christmas tree glitters behind them. The attractive couple and their baby make a perfect Hallmark moment, yet Micah's troubles are not entirely behind him.
He is gaining weight but will need a kidney transplant at some point, and could begin dialysis next month. Katie, a nurse, administers three injections each week, and doses of medicine are a daily requisite. Micah undergoes lab tests every two weeks, with frequent trips from Ashburn to consult specialists at Children's Hospital in Northwest Washington.
In addition to care and love, the Doughtys offer all the security they can. As a sixth-round pick from Northern Colorado, Doughty, 24, knows there are no assurances about his playing future beyond this season -- and that he defied the odds by even reaching this point. Being a part of an NFL team, even when he was inactive, marked a significant accomplishment, one tempered by Micah's struggles.
"My son still needs a kidney transplant and he'll probably start dialysis pretty soon, so it's serious," Doughty said. "His life isn't in balance right now so that sucks and I feel bad for him, but sometimes that's the way things go and he's doing fine and he'll be great. He's gaining weight and all that stuff. We just trust God. Whatever happens to my son is for the best, and he's doing great."
Still, life has been a whirlwind for Doughty since he moved to the area this summer.
Micah was born Aug. 30 in Colorado, right as Doughty was fighting to make the team. Doughty missed the Aug. 31 preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens to be with his wife and child for a short visit. Several weeks passed before Katie and Micah could join him in this area, and when Doughty returned to Redskins Park, he was informed he had been fined $14,000 for coming into contact with an official during a preseason game.
His career was in jeopardy, fears about his son, his wife and the mounting medical bills were inescapable, and suddenly a large portion of his $80,000 signing bonus had vanished. Doughty was lonely in a strange city, overwhelmed at times by the NFL, and, more than anything else, fretful about his son's condition. He returned to a sparsely furnished townhouse a few miles from Redskins Park hoping everything was going as well as could be expected, trying to remain optimistic that he would stick with the Redskins and earn his non-guaranteed base salary this season of $275,000.
"My son was born and he was sick and the next day when I got back there was something in my locker from the third preseason game saying I had been fined," said Doughty, who appealed the suspension but has not heard whether any of the fine will be repealed. "I just know I didn't get paid for a few weeks, and that wasn't cool."
When Katie and Micah were able to travel to the area, Doughty began feeling whole again, but watching his child suffer is painful.
Micah visits the doctor every two weeks, and takes seven medications in an attempt to keep his kidneys functioning (they were working at about 20 percent at birth). Three to four times a day he takes one substance or another -- iron, sodium, potassium, electrolytes. Given his condition, he is susceptible to illness. Watching Katie administer shots -- and the infant's inevitable reaction -- tears at Doughty's heart, and the battery of medicine, much of it sprayed into the nipples of Micah's bottles, can be daunting.
"The meds get old, it does," Doughty said recently at their home, with Ansel Adams prints that remind him and his wife of their rural Colorado roots hanging behind them in their living room. "He's sleeping great now and my wife will wake me up at six because he needs to have his meds and he's sleeping and why would we want to get him up when he's sleeping? But we have to do it and he's not a big fan of a lot of the stuff. His throat will be sore and he'll have to take salt water. I mean the iron tastes like metal and the sodium he just hates. So obviously, it's hard, but my wife has been awesome. She takes care of so much stuff."