Miracle in Woodland Hills

April 23, 2014

My blog has had some kind of connection to music, so when I decided to post this entry I couldn’t think of what could bring this into focus and then I remembered I had written a song recorded by Frankie Laine called, “Dammit isn’t God’s last name“. Very much related to this blog.

Forty eight years ago my wife and I were blessed with a special angel. Even though he is challenged with the mental capacity of an eight year old he has been a life changer since his birth. He will talk your ear off on every subject from, “where are you from?” to, “What did you have for dinner?”. He is especially interested in when you put your trash out and he won’t forget to remind you from that moment on. The one drawback is that he does not complain about anything, so we never know how he is feeling except when he is hungry.

On Sunday February 16th, Michael celebrated his birthday at Farrells (Mountasia) in Santa Clarita as has been the ritual for many years. He enjoyed everything including spectacular cup cakes made by his niece, Chelsea. He had a wonderful time. The next day was his actual birthday and he went to lunch with Chelsea and dinner with his mom and our family friend Lilly. What could be better?

Tuesday is a big day as he goes to a social club at Grace Community Church. He had a light lunch and nothing else because he eats dinner when he gets home around 9 pm. This night was special because his nephew Harley walked with him up to the meeting hall. When we got home he said that he wanted to skip dinner and just go to bed…..Very odd! A few minutes later he was up trying to vomit. We thought he had the flu. He eventually went to bed and to sleep.

Upon awakening in the morning I noticed that he had labored breathing so we made an appointment with a doctor at Kaiser Permanente. Our regular physician, Doctor Terando, was not available so we took anyone that would see him. He went in with no breakfast or fluid. Michael did not complain except for a stomach ache. It had to be the flu or the horror of passing a stone, we were hoping for the flu. After a battery of tests a Cat Scan was ordered to see if he had a blood clot on the lungs. Before it could be done office hours closed so he was sent to urgent care. We were there a few minutes when the Doctor on call, Doctor Ravari came over and said,”I don’t like the way he looks, send him to emergency.” In emergency we were met by Doctor Trephan who had all the paperwork from the tests etc. She just looked at him and without examining him in any way, just using her skills and knowledge said,”all these tests are wrong, I’m cancelling the Cat Scan”. We were totally confused. She proved her theory with an ultra-sound or x-ray before explaining to us that there was something in his abdomen that should not be there. I asked if he was going to need surgery. She told me that she had already called the surgeon.

The surgeon, Doctor Weinstein, made it clear that they did not know what they would find but it was very serious. Something had allowed bodily fluids and other material to get out of the closed system that we have in our bodies. It did not look good. We were devastated.

After surgery we found out that he had a perforated ulcer in his duodenum. Doctor Weinstein said that at this point he was as sick as it gets in fact he was the sickest person in the hospital. His lactic
acid level was 4.7mmol/L (normal is between .5 and 2) meaning that he had sepsis. Chances of survival are about one in two, not very good odds.

While we were waiting to see him another doctor visited us and told us that he had never seen anyone as sick as Michael and that we should start thinking about the , “what ifs”. I was unable to get my face out of my hands but my granddaughter Chelsea took over and said,” we don’t want him to die”. The doctor was very nice and said that they would do everything that they could.

After some time we were able to see him and he didn’t look like anyone I had ever seen before. He was bloated from many liters of fluid and hooked up to many IV’s including a ventilator, a pump from his nose to his stomach,two drains, a catheter, a vital signs monitor and oxygen. I could only look at him for a moment. I kissed him on the forehead and broke down outside of the ICU while reflecting on the future. Everyone was going through their own thoughts but I can only talk about mine.

I stayed in the hospital for the next two nights and slept on a chair in the waiting room, my wife stayed in the room also on a chair. I went into Michael’s room around 5 am on the first night and everyone including my grandchildren were dozing so I had another chance to look at him. My ultimate optimism took over and even though he was still unrecognizable, I thought he looked a little better. The care that he was receiving was more than one could ask for. Every morning the entire team of doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists etc. would make the rounds with their laptops on movable carts and discuss every case individually. The doctor on the first morning was a little bit positive and told us that he was hopeful but warned us that the ensuing period would be a roller coaster ride and that we should not get on. Of course we did.

For the next ten days he did not have one bite of food but he improved at an alarming rate. He went from a sepsis rate to normal and slowly they were able to remove the ventilator, the drains, the pick line, which went through a vein to his heart, the catheter, the IV lines, the monitor for vital signs and the oxygen tube in his nose.

At this point he looked normal and was able to start the eating process. He does have a scar which goes from his breast bone to below his belly button and three incisions going across his stomach being held together with stitches, staples and plastic supports. He looked beautiful!

After five days more which made the total stay about two weeks he was able to come home. For some reason I decided to pick him up in my old car instead of my wife’s which is new. We loaded him up and before we left the parking lot I noticed that my digital clock in the dash which hadn’t worked in two years decided to come on and perfectly display the time. There is no explanation except that maybe after the delay of game it’s ………………TIME IN!



  1. Thank you. A beautiful post on Michael, your angel. Alyssaa

    Date: Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:24:19 +0000 To: alyssaacambel@hotmail.com

  2. I have been thinking about you the past two weeks and thought several times to call. Something in the back of my mind said “not now – wait”. I am thrilled that there is a happy ending to your trial. Michael has always been a thoroughly enjoyable person for me. No matter how long It has been since I last spoke to him, he recognizes my voice almost before I say anything as he announces “Dad, it’s Hal”.

  3. Most mornings a song will pop into my head for (as far as I can tell) absolutely no reason. Just the other day it was “Pass the Dutchie”, which the guys at the studio thought was hilarious :), but today it was “Chick-A-Boom!” (which also linked my memory to the Groovy Goolies cartoon that had the song in it, but that’s neither here nor there).

    The convenience of the internet is such great joy to a curious mind like my own, and I tend to look up anything that I don’t know, or would like to know a little more about.

    Anyway, I ended up at your blog, and began reading, firstly with the August 2014 entry, the oddball explanation of “Chick-A-Boom!”, and being in artistic agreement and full understanding about making stuff that basically doesn’t even mean anything, except that it seems to go together well. And I dig the fact that you dig it 🙂

    So then I read the next entry and it’s about your son. The story-writing was riveting without being sensational. I had real empathy for the suffering he went through, as well as the helplessness your family experienced. I’m glad he turned out to be okay.

    But you forgot one thing — you forgot to tell us what the heck he swallowed!

    Anyway, best wishes in your endeavours.


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