Kyle MacFarlane’s childhood dreams were like most sports loving boys. His career aspiration simple – play professional baseball.
“I’ve loved baseball my whole life,” Kyle said, noting his family’s passion for the sport. “That’s my favorite sport.
“My dad taught us to play all positions, to show us that we can do anything we put our minds to,” he shared.
At the age of 15, however, that changed for the young baseball enthusiast, as he became inexplicably ill.
“He was very rarely sick as a child,” Cindy MacFarlane said of her son. “Around 14 or 15 he began vomiting and we couldn’t control it.”
It was an illness which proved to be both a mystery, as well as frustrating for the teen and his parents as they sought answers. The combination of overall good health (aside from the vomiting), being active and testing negative for all food allergies and intestinal diseases, left doctors puzzled and of little help.
Eventually the illness made daily attendance of high school impossible. Then living in Southern California, Cindy shared teachers would come to their home to help Kyle stay current in his studies. In 2006, despite continuing to live with the mystery illness Kyle completed high school. Later that year they relocated to Oakdale.
His hopes of attending college were short-lived as the vomiting continued eventually resulting in hospitalization on multiple occasions. During this time Kyle had transitioned from a once healthy 187-pound active male to 145 on a good day.
Still at a loss, at the age of 19 with hope of helping what seemed to be a digestive disorder, his gallbladder was removed. Yet to no avail.
By 2007 pancreatic cancer was ruled out, yet doctors discovered bile sitting in the young patient’s stomach, indicating a problem with motility.
“Nobody knows about motility,” Cindy said. “Motility is the movement of the muscles to help digest your food.”
During this time the family crossed paths with Dr. Linda Nguyen, who was their doctor at California Pacific Hospital in San Francisco at the time. Dr. Nguyen now holds residency at Stanford Medical. Nguyen specializes in Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Kyle weighed 109 pounds at the time and was immediately admitted to the hospital. He remained there for two months.
“During that time, they discovered his stomach empties too fast,” Cindy said of her son’s condition.
A shot administered daily proved to resolve the problem and aid with proper digestion of his food. It also resulted in the young adult developing Type 1 Diabetes for its high sugar content. There is no history of diabetes in Kyle’s family.
“It was a big life changer,” Kyle said of his journey through trial and tribulation. “Basically flipped my life 180 degrees. At first it took a lot to become accustomed to my illness and how to deal with it.”
Kyle shared he no longer feels a difference, staying mindful of his insulin, proper nutrition and exercise.
His newfound passion for proper nutrition and overall digestive health, coupled with his own personal struggles from initial trial and error for diagnosis prompted the founding of the Kyle MacFarlane Foundation, a 501c(3) not for profit.
“My main goal was to create the foundation for awareness,” he said of his initial idea. “Let them know what they need to do and they’re not alone.”
According to Cindy, the goal of the foundation became bigger than that, as the two navigated getting the foundation started in 2011. Non-profit status was acquired in 2014.
“With the foundation we have learned that digestive diseases are the fastest growing with children and adults currently,” Cindy said. “We wanted to take it further than those who are currently ill. We wanted to educate kids that are healthy.”
Kyle echoed his mother’s thoughts, noting the importance of personal education, as well as creating excitement for children in the way of understanding the plus side to proper nutrition. The foundation’s “Hands on Nutrition” program is one they hope to take to schools throughout the Oakdale Joint Unified School District, as well as the Central Valley.
In order to do so, to make it dynamic and exciting, the mother/son team has an electric motorcycle as “live” demonstration for the students. One side features the bad food and its effects on the body, while the other side does the exact opposite.
“The body digestive system is just like a vehicle,” Kyle said. “If you eat all the good stuff that maintains it. You take care of it and it’s going to last without complications. Just like a car or motorcycle.”
The motorcycle will be on display for the first time this Saturday, Oct. 28 for the inaugural Kyle MacFarlane Foundation Community Health Fair. The event will be hosted at Gene Bianchi Community Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I have to hand it to Kyle, he’s very positive,” Cindy said of her son and his passion for making a difference through the foundation. “He told me once, maybe God gave me this to help others and educate others. Maybe that’s what my calling’s for.
“He’s very passionate about helping others and bringing awareness to all of this,” she added. “He’s passionate about education so no one else gets sick.”
“It’s kind of why the foundation was started,” Kyle said. “Why get mad or depressed. Why not make something good out of it and help someone get through the situation.”
For more information on the Kyle MacFarlane Foundation visit www.kylemacfarlanefoundation.com or find it on Facebook at The Kyle MacFarlane Foundation, Inc.
Saturday’s event is open to all in the community.