Miracle Michael | VA West Palm Beach Health Care

The feeling of freedom from grabbing the throttle, the breeze hitting his face and a good sweat from the gym was all that was on U.S. Army veteran Michael Meltzer’s mind on the morning of July 15, 2019, as he drove to Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

In the blink of an eye, that free ride turned into red flashing siren lights, doctors surrounding him on the hospital bed, and alarms ringing on monitors.

A mother’s worst nightmare was Marcy Meltzer’s reality. Marcy watched from the observation window as her son’s life was in the hands of a medical team. She says, “It was like a movie, the kind you see on TV.”

The broken bones and ruptured arteries from the collision could not stop his heart from beating its last beat.

For six months, Michael’s eyes remained closed in a coma, but his mother knew from what she called his “hunting spirit” that the day would come when his eyes would open.

Known as “stubborn” since his military days, the trauma doctors didn’t know what his strength was capable of and how many medical predictions would prove wrong.

From being limited to pressing buttons to indicate a yes or no answer to being able to talk and move on his own, there’s nothing Michael can’t do.

His mother says with a big smile: “The medical examination and the predictions were that Michael would not wake up or be able to do anything again, that he would be bedridden for the rest of his days, but I didn’t believe it.”

Faith in her son trumped medical advice from community hospitals for what was believed to be Michael’s future.

After he was discharged from the hospital, Marcy was left to care for her son alone. Everything changed when the relief of the Home Primary Care (HBPC) team from the West Palm Beach Virginia Health System came to the aid of not only her son, but her as well.

The team of doctors, assistants, nutritionists, social workers, psychologists and physical therapists brought a sense of ease to their new lifestyle at home.

Marci says: “I was blown away when they first came. They were simply amazing; they took such a burden off me. They helped Michael progress to where he is today thanks to their care. I had nowhere to turn, they were by my side. They comforted me and boosted my energy and emotionally it helped me a lot because I was alone.”

As Michael progresses, the team will adjust his personalized health plan and continue to progress his development based on his new needs.

“Miracle Michael,” as his family and friends call him, said: “I’m very grateful for the help. They [HBPC team] helped me when I couldn’t handle it. Everything from diet to mental health, that was it. They really stepped up and took care of me.”

The more alert Michael became, the more he was suddenly forced to digest his new reality. When he regained the ability to speak, he looked at his mother and said, “I need help.”

All of the physical exercises to regain mobility as he worked to break free from the constraint of being bedridden only addressed the external aspect of his recovery, with the missing piece being his internal mindset and well-being. This is where mental health stepped in as part of the HBPC team.

He says, “VA helped me think about my goals and how to achieve them. My quote that I live by now is, “If you can’t live to see the bad, you won’t live to see the good.” Your worst day doesn’t have to be your last. I am much more capable now compared to the first day I came home. There’s always something that can be done, whether it’s working out or talking to someone, there’s always something you can do to improve.

Beyond his mental health therapy, Michael also sought out ink therapy with both of his arms, which were now fully covered in tattoos, as a way to tell his story. The quote he now lives by can be found on the art displayed on his arms, and one tattoo in particular represents a life-changing event with the wheel of his former motorcycle paired with a set of wings.

Despite many changes, from tattoos to nearly twenty procedures later, one thing that remains is Michael’s determination. He will soon pass the graduation stage, diploma in hand, for a master’s degree in geomatics engineering from FAU. He is living proof that miracles do happen.

Once declared a dead veteran, he proudly tells his fellow veteran brothers and sisters, “But I’m back, and so can you.”

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