Lynn Classical senior Makenzie Mackin and St. Mary’s eighth grader Brittany McPherson and their families will host a fundraiser Saturday night (May 18) at the Knights of Columbus in Lynn to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.
Parents John and Paula Mackin and Scott and Karen McPherson have joined their daughters in organizing the event that is being called the Mak’s Attack/Brittany Battle Buddies Fundraiser. It will feature hors d’ouevres, a cash bar and entertainment by the Shuffle Mode Band and The Dirty Floorboards, a band that features Makenzie’s high school friends. There will also be plenty of raffle prizes.
The girls are sharing their story to create awareness about the diseases and to inspire others who have been afflicted with Crohn’s disease or colitis, which are autoimmune disorders.
Beset by stomachaches and other internal ailments when she was 10 years old, Mackenzie went to the hospital for a procedure and was diagnosed with Crohn’s. She began taking medications on a regular basis and continued for five years until her sophomore year at Classical. The medical process dramatically altered her lifestyle.
“I had to give up playing sports,” said Makenzie. “My biggest problem until tenth grade was that I would be out doing things like shopping and I would have to sit down because of the pain. I had to stop playing soccer, basketball, and lacrosse and I was missing school.”
In April, 2011 at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Makenzie underwent surgery, a four-hour procedure called an ileal resection where she had a foot of her small intestine removed.
In her junior year, Makenzie developed an abscess on the outside of her intestine that required six days of antibiotics. She missed 45 days of school that year.
Last summer Makenzie and Brittany attended Camp Oasis in New York, a camp for kids afflicted with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Makenzie, a counselor at the camp, described the one-week stay as an enriching experience in a mutually supportive environment.
“Following that great week at the camp, I went in to my senior year feeling better,” said Makenzie. “In December I had a procedure and they found that I had a stricture and I had to have five dilatations. That didn’t work, so a month ago I had a life-changing surgery that is going to help my condition.”
Paula Mackin is proud of her daughter for contending gallantly with a difficult medical situation during high school and the confident manner in which she is stepping forward now to talk openly about the disease.
“It’s like an invisible disease because outwardly if you look at Makenzie and Brittany, they look fine and they’re both positive people,” said Mackin. “But kids in general aren’t aware of what people go through unless you bring it to the forefront and I think that’s what Mackenzie and Brittany are doing right now by discussing it publicly. Some people suffer in silence because they don’t want people to know about it.”
McPherson, a goaltender for the Division 1 state champion St. Mary’s High School girls hockey team who led the state finalist U-14 Middlesex Islanders to the USA Women’s National Championships in San Jose, Calif., was diagnosed 18 months ago with ulcerative colitis.
According to Karen McPherson, her then 13-year-old daughter had been experiencing abdominal discomfort and was becoming weaker. McPherson underwent a total colectomy, which is the removal of the entire colon.
“It was a life saving operation,” said Karen McPherson, a former nurse whose daughter missed three months of her seventh grade year and spent five weeks in the hospital. “She has had a pretty good recovery but honestly it’s up and down, but she’s back to playing hockey and lacrosse and going to school.”
Brittany’s return to full sports participation has been inspirational to other teenagers. Some people had told the talented 14-year-old athlete that her playing days were over.
“Brittany wanted the cure and wanted to prove to other kids who wanted to play sports that you can get out of bed,” said McPherson. “She wants other sick kids to say, ‘I can get out. I can go to school. I can work and I can be on a sports team.’’’
Karen McPherson said that Makenzie has been a valuable source of encouragement and mentorship to her daughter.
“Every single examination that Brittany had to go through that caused her concern – the needles, the tests, the MRIs – Makenzie would talk to Brittany every day in the hospital and she mentored her through this awful ordeal last year and I’m so grateful to her,” said McPherson.
Makenzie Mackin will graduate Classical in June and continuing her education at Salem State University.
Paula Mackin said that her daughter still faces a battle with the disease and an uncertain, day-by-day journey.
“It’s a rollercoaster disease – you can have one day where you feel incredible and the next day you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck,” said Mackin. “There’s no rhyme or reason to the diseases. For Brittany and Makenzie to put themselves out there and be open about it, it’s very commendable.”
The girls have remained optimistic and become close friends.
“I think Brittany and Makenzie have formed a lifelong connection through the diseases,” said Scott McPherson.
“The friendship that they have formed as a result of this has been a blessing to both of them,” said Paula Mackin. “When you’re going through something like this, you need support from other people and need to know that you’re not alone.”
The parents said they were grateful to the Classical and St. Mary’s administrations and faculties and school nurses for their understanding and support.
(Tickets to Mak’sAttack/Brittany’s Battle Buddies fundraiser are $10 and will be available at the door).