Livonia Franklin senior Michael Mackiewicz received the baton just three steps behind the John Glenn runner.
He began to run, falling farther and farther behind, but that wasn’t what mattered.
His teammates cheered him on as he made his way around the track — it would be the final time he did so competitively. Halfway through his lap, his teammates were joined by John Glenn’s entire team, which also began to cheer and shout, telling Mackiewicz that he was doing a great job.
When he crossed the finished line, the tired senior was hugged by coaches and teammates while his parents cried. He had finished his first — and last — race of the season.
Livonia Franklin’s Michael Mackiewicz runs his portion of a relay against John Glenn. (Photo: Kristy Mackiewicz)
“It was such an emotional event just to watch him compete one last time,” Livonia Franklin track and field coach Aaron Moran said. “It was really cool. To watch him come through and finish and stand at the finish line and look up and see the mob of Franklin kids running over to give him a hug, it really was an emotional experience.”
While the moment was an incredible one, Mackiewicz’s final race at Franklin wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
Livonia Franklin’s Michael Mackiewicz is hugged by coaches and teammates after completing his final race for the Patriots. (Photo: Kristy Mackiewicz)
Just several months ago, he was one of the best runners on the team, poised to run at the collegiate level, but after running an indoor race in January, he noticed he wasn’t feeling well and told his coach he needed a few days off.
Something is wrong
He felt far more fatigued than normal, his joints were swelling up and his body was tight. His parents took him to see a doctor, hoping it was just a form of the flu. After a series of blood tests indicated it could be something related to arthritis, he was sent to another specialist, which meant more blood tests. From there, he was sent to the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor, where he finally got answers.
Anticipating that there would be a diagnosis, Mackiewicz waited with his parents in the hospital room. The doctor delivered the news; he had lupus.
Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.
“The whole room was silent,” Mackiewicz said. “Everyone just went quiet and took it in for a second. … At first it was just a lot to take in. Everything that was happening with my body, everything was really sudden.”
From there, his life changed. He was unable to run track and instead was faced with routine doctors visits. Despite the adversity, Mackiewicz was determined to stay a part of the team.
“I wanted to make the best out of the situation,” Mackiewicz said.
He attended every practice and meet, doing whatever he could to assist the coaching staff. His support of the program was returned by his coaches and teammates, who were anxious to make sure Mackiewicz was doing well.