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“My Daddy went to heaven so I could live my life”

“Life can throw anything at me, but I’m going to get through it with faith and family” –Mikael Odum

Mikael Brooke Odum is a typical 17 year old girl. She’s adorable in her vivaciousness and love of life, faith, family, and her passion for sports. But at 17 years, she has had more than her fair share of sorrow and tragedy. But, this is really a story of a gift. In fact, this gift from heaven may have saved her life.

March 19th, 2014 started out like a normal day for Mikael’s mom, Tami Odum. She was in fact doing her normal “piddling” around the house and doing a little shopping for her garden. She was content in her plans for the day. Her husband of twenty-two years, Mark, would be coming home for lunch around noon and her children were doing important things like work, college, and school.

Tami was looking forward to lunch with Mark. He had called the night before around 7:30 p.m. and suggested she drive to Ripley’s Point Marina in Charleston and spend the night with him onboard the HAZ-MAT, a 53’ ocean sport-fishing yacht named after their company. He had been busy preparing it for the upcoming fishing season. Tired from planning an upcoming baby shower, she explained she just couldn’t make the drive but promised to return with him the next day. In fact, Mark called again around 11:30 that night and told her he just wanted to tell her one more time that he loved her. Tami responded that she was sleeping, but she loved him too.

Ever aware of the time, Tami looked down at her watch and realized that she needed to hurry home to get lunch started. She had been out picking up a statue of two cherubs for her prized garden. Even though the statue had a crack, Tami knew it was exactly what she wanted. It was heavy and difficult to manage loading, but she headed home just as the rain began to fall. As she was driving, her brother-in-law Timmy called to ask what she was up to and to see if had heard from Mark that morning. She hadn’t, but she explained that she’s hurrying home to fix his lunch.

Shortly, she passed their oldest son Roger and realized he was driving too fast. In fact, he wasn’t supposed to be driving at all as he was recovering from surgery. She called him and he told her that he was on the way to the family business for something important. As she was debating whether to follow him or not, she passed her sister-in-law Robin. As she looked up in her mirror, she saw Robin turning around to follow her. In that moment, she decided to turn into the cemetery of Doctor’s Creek Church. She pulled to a stop right beside the grave of Mark’s father and she looked up into her mirror at her sister-in-law, who she could see was crying, and she knew.

Tami explained that she knew he was gone from this earth the moment she pulled into the cemetery. She remembers holding the steering wheel and screaming. She vaguely recalls getting out and running until she landed in a ditch. She recalls the rain pouring down upon her. It is there, as her family began surrounding her, that she realized everything had changed.

Mikael and her dad Mark just before his death on March 19th of this year. Photo submitted

Mark died of Idiopathic Hypertrophic Subaortic Stenosis (IHSS), which in turn brought on a massive heart attack. He had, in fact, spent ten days in Roper Hospital, just two-weeks earlier, and was scheduled for a corrective procedure on his heart. Likely, his death was brought on by the physical exertion of moving a heavy bronze statue of a marlin off the boat. The statue had fallen, during a recent storm, and had caused havoc in the salon. He had mentioned removing it to avoid someone being hurt if it were to fall. The bronze marlin was found on the steps leading off the boat. Mark’s body was discovered face-down in the water. His lungs were clear of any water; leading the coroner to determine cause of death.

Mikael, a student at Charleston Collegiate School, was in the Bahamas on a school sponsored learning experience called “Winterium” when she learned of her father’s death. The sponsors of the trip, Blair and Teddy Turner, had to give her the tragic news. To this day, she remains appreciative of the love and support of the Turners, who were instrumental in getting her home to be with her family, and all of her Charleston Collegiate friends and school family.

The next few months were difficult ones for the Odum family. They gained strength from each other and pushed through many challenges. Tami, researching the cause of Mark’s death learned more about his disease than she ever wanted to know. However, there was one fact that stood out and sent her scrambling for answers. Mark’s condition could be hereditary; especially since his own father and grandfather both died unexpectedly. Ever the protective mother, she learned it would be a good idea for all of the thirteen children in the Odum family to be tested. Tami got to work scheduling appointments.

After all the testing, the results came back, and there was only one person found with a problem. Mikael. But the problem wasn’t related to IHSS like her Dad. It’s something entirely different. Mikael was found to have Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease (BAVD), the most common cardiac valvular anomaly. In a normal heart, the aortic valve is a one-way valve between the heart and the aorta, the main artery from the heart that distributes oxygen-rich blood to the body. It would normally have three small flaps that open widely and close securely to regulate blood flow from the heart to the aorta and preventing blood from flowing backwards into the heart. Mikael’s had just two flaps. Having this meant the valve didn’t work perfectly, but it could function adequately for years without causing symptoms or obvious signs of a problem. But, it can be very serious, even life-threatening.

Tami and Mikael began a round through nine different cardiologists to determine a treatment plan. They relied heavily on the guidance of family friend, Dr. Sanjay Kumar. Finally, they found Dr. John S. Ikonomidis at MUSC and Mikael connected with him immediately. There, they learned that her aortic root is measuring at 4.2 where a normal measurement is 2.7 and she would likely need surgery at 5.0. To monitor the growth of the fibers, she will need CAT scans every six months.

Mikael is an athlete. She plays volleyball, basketball, and soccer. She doesn’t just play, she lives it. Her main concern, all along, was being able to play the sports she loves. Initially, she was repeatedly told “no.” However, Dr. Ikonomidis is allowing her to play with a few modifications such as no weightlifting and she must keep her heart monitor with her during sporting activities. If she notices any unusual symptoms, she utilizes it to directly send a report to MUSC.

She is lucky. She found out she has a heart condition that will need monitoring and may require surgery at some point in the future. Others aren’t so lucky. Her father’s death and her mother’s concern over his hereditary heart condition led to her diagnosis of a different, but just as serious, condition. She knows it was his way of looking out for his baby.

Mikael doesn’t plan on letting this slow her down. “Life can throw anything at me, but I’m going to get through it with faith and family,” she acknowledged. In fact, she begins basketball practice this week and has an upcoming alligator hunt scheduled. She is her daddy’s girl.

Mikael is the granddaughter of Roger Clark Odum and Nora H. Odum and Thomas L. Crosby and Troyce H. Crosby. She attends Charleston Collegiate School where she has a 3.4 GPA and has received many academic awards. Her hobbies include horseback riding, drag racing, hunting, and off-shore sport fishing. She is an Impact Leader at First Baptist Church with their ‘SET APART” Youth Group and is very active in her church and youth group. Mikael has been on several mission trips and has participated in World Changers, Mission Serve and Ormond Beach Retreats.

Her athletic awards include: Volleyball, Coaches Award 2010-2011, Coaches Award 2011-2012, Most Valuable Player 2012-2013, Most Valuable Player 2013-2014, All-Region Volleyball 2013-2014, SCISA North South All-Stars Volleyball 2014, Female Athlete of the Year 2013-2014, Soccer- Most Valuable Player 2012-2013, Drag Racing - 2011 Junior Dragster - Carolina Dragway, 2012 Junior Dragster Winner - Douglas Motorsports, 2012 IHRA Summit Team Finals-Carolina Dragway.


Cindy Crosby (197 Posts)