After facing childhood full of surgeries, Hermitage man faces new challenge

Local News

HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – The story of Mike DeJulia, Jr. is more than just a story about someone from Hermitage who needs a kidney transplant. It’s about a young man who’s gone through more physical problems than one person should have to endure.

From birth to age 12, Mike endured 54 surgeries, 48 of them brain surgeries, and now he’s waiting on at least one more.

Mike’s life began prematurely.

“They didn’t think he would live, first of all. They told me to have him aborted. We had organ donations set up. We had a coffin picked out,” said Mike’s mother Laura DeJulia.

She gets emotional when talking about her son, she says.

Mike was born with hydrocephalus, the buildup of excess fluid in the brain. It required 54 surgeries during his first 12 years, little of which Mike remembers.

“Little bits and pieces but not very much,” he said.

“Like from two to like four, he had 13 surgeries, trying to get a shunt to work,” Laura said.

His forehead also needed to be moved forward.

“So, surgery number 22, his forehead was moved very far out,” Laura said.

Surgeries 23 to 54 involved putting in new shunts to keep the fluid draining from his brain. Most people get one or two shunts in a lifetime. Mike has had 45.

“And his last surgery was in 2005, so it’s been a long time,” Laura said.

Mike graduated high school, worked different jobs, and in August, graduated from New Castle School of Trades with specialties in heavy equipment and commercial truck driving.

“It’s just been a struggle, but we were very thankful we had him healthy for all those years, and it’s just very unfortunate now that we face this,” said Mike’s father, Mike DeJulia, Sr.

In June, with his blood pressure high and his legs swollen, it was determined his kidneys were failing.

“And we’ve gotten to the point where now it’s chronic, and we have to have a kidney transplant,” Laura said.

“I was just in shock, honestly. No other words for it other than shock. Surprised. Just didn’t know what to do. Felt like I had my back against the wall,” Mike said.

Occasionally, Mike will scream and cry but not often. He does not feel sorry for himself.

“Everything happens for a reason. I’ve been aware of that my whole life,” he said. “I’m just hoping to get it all worked out, get better, get back to work and be happy again.”

Mike does dialysis four hours a day, three times a week. His parents will be tested soon to see if their kidneys might match.

He feels good but gets tired easily. If he’s sitting down, he’s OK. What he’s most upset about is that his new diet does not allow him to eat chocolate.

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