It all started on November 3rd when I took my wife, Stephanie, for a scheduled visit to the hospital. While I was waiting for her I was reading from the book “The Hidden Life of Jesus” which is a translation of the adventures of a Russian explorer in Tibet who found ancient manuscripts in a Monastery that recorded the travels of Jesus through India and Kashmir and Tibet before he returned to Jerusalem at the age of 30. I read the passage featured above about the imperative of honoring and taking care of the women in our lives. I had no idea that my wife, my mother and my daughter in law would all be in the hospital that week. I actually took the photo in the family waiting area of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine family waiting room.
I am writing this as much for myself as for any other potential reader so that I can remember and hold on to the powerful lessons that I learned last week. These lessons sound so commonplace–love and family are the most important, it is our spiritual integrity upon which we must rely to get us through tough times, faith is the antidote to fear, with prayer we can overcome anything… that sort of thing. They are lessons one might find on the Get Well cards they sell in the hospital gift shop. But when we stand by the side of the people we love while they face critical health emergencies, these basic lessons take on new meaning and relevance.
In telling my story, I want to start with Halloween, which was a carefree and joyous moment. I knew at that time that my wife would be having a minor scheduled out patient surgery in a couple of days, but we were not overly concerned with this. We expected she would have a little bit of pain, and need some rest, so we made arrangements for our dogs to stay with their Auntie, and we cleared our schedule so that we could devote ourselves supporting her rest and recovery. That was Monday, and everything seemed fine. I spent the evening in a goofy costume in our front yard shaking an oversized Maracá made from a small goard and passing out candy to children.
We had friends visiting us that day on their way to Brazil. They were going down to Rio de Janeiro for the 40th anniversary of the Santo Daime Church there known as Céu do Mar. This is the home of my Padrinho Paulo Roberto and Madrinha Nonata, who were the first people to bring the sacramental tea that is the center of the Santo Daime religion from the rain forest. I felt a little torn as our friends prepared for their departure, because the celebration at Céu do Mar was something that I ordinarily would not want to miss. But I had received a very strong feeling of trepidation that I should not go down for the celebration. It felt like danger, but I did not really understand it. Sure, Rio de Janeiro can be dangerous, but I’ve been there many times, and there was not any reason to think it was more dangerous now that it was in the past. Still, I had this strong feeling that we should not go down there to join the festivities.
And having decided that we would not go, we went ahead and scheduled Stepanie’s surgical procedure. We said good bye to our friends and wished them well on their journey. I felt torn about our decision not to go. Lots of people were disappointed, and I felt some regret. I did not have a clear understanding of why I had felt so strongly that we should not go.
That was all on Monday. The next day, I received a call from my son Charlie who was traveling with my grandson and my daughter in law in North Carolina. They were going to visit my son George who recently moved with his girlfriend to Greensboro. Upon arriving in North Carolina after a long drive, George called and let them know he had COVID and that they should not come to stay with them. So they went to Ashville to enjoy some fall colors. Simone had a sharp pain in her stomach, which they thought might be appendicitis.
They went to the hospital and saw she had a kidney stone that was having trouble passing. It was quite large, a full centimeter in diameter, yet the doctors saw that it seemed to be passing on its own. They sent her home with instructions to return to the hospital if her condition deteriorated or if she developed a fever. That night, she did develop a fever, and she returned to the hospital for emergency surgery. They detected bacteria in her blood and admitted her to the hospital and gave her intravenous antibiotics to clear up the infection.
This was a bit of a scare, but everything worked out ok. We were all grateful that the episode occurred at the doorstep of Ashville’s brand new hospital where she received excellent care instead of in the middle of the Amazon rain forest which is where she was born and where her family still lives. If this had happened there, it would have been very grave indeed. I thought to myself, maybe this is why I did not go to Rio. But really, I was not at all essential in helping Simone. I was in Miami while they were in Ashville. I could have done everything I did from Rio just as easily as I did from Miami.
Stephanie had her procedure on Thursday the 3rd day of November. I spent the day in the car shuttling her from home to the Mamography department and then to the hospital and then back home again. Her procedure went very well. We had set aside all day Friday for her to rest and recover.
We had healing work scheduled in our Santo Daime Church for Sunday. There was a conference in Miami about using psychedelics to treat PTSD and other conditions over the weekend of November 4th, and a representative, Glauber, from the Santo Daime in Belo Horizonte, Brazil had been invited to speak. Padrinho Alfredo, who is the leading spiritual authority for our branch of the Santo Daime, personally asked our church to hold a healing work on behalf of Glauber and some of the attendees at the conference.
The Santo Daime Church practice revolves around the communion with the divine through a sacramental tea that we call Daime. The constituent plants used to make the sacrament are the same plants as are used to make Ayahuasca. The experience of communion through the Santo Daime Church is very powerful. However, it is not used as a medicine to cure disease in the way most people think of medicine. Rather the Daime is a sacrament which opens the doors to communion with the divine, and the healing power comes from the prayers and divine connection.
We asked everyone from our local current to do their best to attend, and we invited some visitors to help. This was a big effort for us on the heals of Stephanie’s surgery, but it was also very important to honor the request of Padrinho Alfredo. The work was scheduled to start at 2:00 pm in the afternoon on Sunday the 6th of November. I thought maybe this was the reason I had felt so strongly that I should not go down to Rio. Maybe it was because I was needed to lead the healing work.
Friday night I was exhausted. I was happy that my wife and daughter in law were doing well, but the stress of helping them and preparing for the work, combined with a few nights of less than 5 hours of sleep had really taken their toll. My wife asked me to make chicken soup, Jewish Penicillin as she called it, to help her heal. It was so restorative. I went to sleep right after dinner. I was so tired, I slept for 9 straight hours, and woke up bright and early.
Thank god I thought, that the sleep would help me prepare for the work Sunday. I got up in the morning on Saturday and ran through the healing hymns on my guitar to prepare for the next day, and then I started packing my bag to go to a workout with my personal trainer and coach Katie. Katie had been a little under the weather, so I put a little pyrex bowl of the chicken soup in my bag with an orange and a chocolate bar from our little chocolate company to give to Katie. I was in a good mood and looking forward to my session.
Then my world changed. My phone rang on my way out the door. It was my step father. I was about to get in the car and almost sent the call to voice mail. But I was not in any particular hurry, so I thought I’d see what he was up to. I answered the phone and he told me that he thought my Mom might be having a heart attack. He had called 911 and asked me to come over immediately.
As I pulled out of our community, the ambulance went by with sirens blaring. I knew they were going to my Mom’s house about a mile away. They raced past the little side street short cut staying on the main road, and so I was able to arrive about a minute before they did. I parked my car on the street outside my Mom’s long gravel driveway and waited for the medics to arrive so I could enter the code for the gate to let them in. The drive is long and lots of tree branches hang low, and so they had to walk the stretcher and their gear up the drive. David was waiting at the front door.
The medics took my Mom’s vitals. She was complaining of chest pain, but her heart seemed to be working ok. They said they did not think she was having a heart attack, but it was a good idea to go to the hospital just in case. Thank God, because it turns out that she had a blockage of the main artery feeding the heart and was at the very beginning stage of a major Myocardial Infarction.
They put her in the ambulance and David and I followed in the car. When we got to the hospital they were wheeling her in on the gurney. We got to the room and the ER doctor confirmed that she appeared to be having a heart attack. As they prepared to move her to the Cath Lab, her heart stopped. The dreaded monotone beep and an alarm sounded. The doctor raced back into the room and they revived my mother with the defibrillator paddles and CPR compressions. From that moment everything took on an entirely new level of urgency.
We went to the waiting room while they operated on her. An hour went by. Then two hours. No word yet. I was very concerned. I felt called to go down the hall to see if I could learn anything, and just as I arrived at the security doors the cardiologist came out. He informed me that my Mom had suffered a major heart attack. They had placed a stent in her primary coronary artery to open the main blockage, yet they were not able to open a blockage of secondary branch of the artery which remained blocked.
I was admitted to the room where they were working on her. A doctor was working with an arterial line in her leg. There was blood on the sheet around it. I saw her in her bed with an oxygen mask over her face. Her eyes were open and she was talking to me, but it was very difficult to understand her. Her lungs were filling with fluid, and so they needed to sedate her and intubate her. I held her gaze as she lost consciousness and told her I loved her and to please hold on. I was not sure if I would ever hold her gaze again. They hurried me out of the room so they could intubate her and continue working. After another couple of hours, they moved her into the Surgical Intensive Care Unit.
I entered her room. It was full of machines. There was a rack with about 8 different medicines all going into her IV bag. She was heavily sedated, and holding on to life itself. We made arrangements for my sister to fly directly from San Francisco, and thank God we were able to get her on a plane on short notice. I held my Mom’s hand and asked her to hold on for the seven hours it would take for my sister to arrive. Finally, around 11:30 Saturday evening, my sister arrived at the hospital. I was completely exhausted. I went home to sleep and promised to return the next morning at the crack of dawn.
There was an eerie calm in the room Sunday morning. The parking garage at the hospital was totally empty as were the halls and corridors. I made my way upstairs to relieve my sister who had spent the night in the chair by my Mom’s bed. The room was dimly lit and rhythm of the ventilator and the occasional muted alarms of the several machines monitoring her heart created a surreal soundscape. It felt like I had arrived on the command deck of a spaceship.
They told me that my Mother’s condition was very grave. She was in the bottom 10% of patients who make it to the ER, and at 81 years old, this was quite a shock to her system. They wanted to give me hope, but at the same time they did not want to give me unreasonable expectations. The palliative care nurse made her appearance and wanted to know if they should try to revive her if she had another episode. She was very nice, but I had to hold firm and let her know that we were focused on recovery and return to health and not ready to consider palliative care. The staff at the Surgical Critical Care Unit were onboard with this mission. At no time did they ever give up on her. We did not give up either, nor did she.
I called my Padrinho and he told me that it was up to me to do a special prayer. He told me to take some of our sacrament and call upon the healing guides of our doctrine and of Jesus Christ, and to pray. He told me to miniaturize myself in my vision and enter her heart to bring the healing. He said they would hold a healing work for her in Rio de Janeiro.
I stayed by her side until about 1:00 in the afternoon when my sister returned from taking a shower and getting some food. The Church is about a half a mile from South Miami hospital. I had told Glauber the day before about the situation, and I had asked him to lead the work in my absence. Stephanie asked what she could do, and I asked her to be strong and lead the singing for the work. Remember she was also recovering from surgery, and instead of taking care of herself, she was helping to lead a seven hour long Santo Daime Cura. It was her maracá that would set the tempo and hold the work. It was her singing that everyone else would follow. What I was asking her was no small feat. But she firmed herself and held down the work. Her strength and firmness in this situation were nothing less than awesome.
I walked over to the Church at about 1:20 in the afternoon. This was just after talking to the palliative care nurse. My Mom was sedated, and intubated. Her cardiologist had given her a 25% chance of living. She was, however, stable at the moment. I asked if they could remove the breathing tube and let her wake up again, and they said maybe the next day. With this grim news I walked to the Church.
About 30 people had arrived for this work, including visitors from Orlando, Dallas, and the west coast of Florida. Everyone had been informed of the special purpose for the healing work to pray for healing for my Mom. Stephanie had selected and printed several pictures of my Mother and they were arranged on the center table around the double bladed cross that marks the center of the work space.
I oriented Glauber to the sacrament which we had produced at our sacred ceremony which happens at a safe location many hundreds of miles from Miami. I advised him as to how much he should serve. At 1:45 in the afternoon I took a serving of the sacrament myself and walked back to the hospital. The force arrived fast and strong as I was walking. A line from a hymn that my Madrinha Nonata had received came to me very strongly. The line says “cuando eu chegava em sua casa, eu ja estava irradiado.” The hymn recounts a story of her father, Padrinho Sebastião, who established our branch of the Santo Daime in the village of Mapia in the middle of the Amazon. According to the story, he had gone to his brother in law’s house to do a healing there, and the line says “when I arrived at your house, I was already irradiated”. Which means that he was already actively channeling the healing guides.
I felt myself irradiated as well. The hairs were standing up all down my arms and I felt a shiver down my back. The force of the sacrement was growing beyond what I would normally expect from a small serving of sacrament. I went up to the hospital room and relieved my sister who went down to the cafeteria to get something to eat. My Mom was sedated and sleeping. The rhythm of the ventilator set the tone of the room. Occasionally one of the machines would chime a soft alarm… blood pressure, blood oxygen, heart rhythm, temperature. All of these data points seemed to rely on the myriad machines and tubes. A balloon pump in her aorta, that had been threaded through her femoral artery, helped maintain blood pressure.
I entered into concentration and prayer. I prayed for the Daime to bring healing to my Mother. I opened my vision and imagined myself becoming very small and entering her artery and traveling to her heart. I prayed to activate what we call “biophotons” which are pulses of light that are created by our intention, I saw the biophotons appear and they were obliterating dead cells in her heart. This was new to me. I had never thought of obliterating dead cells as a part of a healing process, yet this is what I saw happening. This does not at all reflect any special healing powers or abilities on my part. Instead, I was just channeling and bearing witness to the divine power summoned by all the prayers that were being made for my Mom at the time.
I have learned something about treating an intubated victim of a heart attack. The ventilator machine supplies supplemental oxygen. When my mom was first intubated, the oxygen level she was receiving was 100%. Verious medications also supported her blood pressure and other factors. The strategy is to gradually reduce the medications and the supplemental oxygen. Once supplemental oxygen is reduced to 40% and the medications reduced significantly, then they can remove the breathing tube. When I had left at about 1:00, the doctor had informed us that the earliest this could happen would be the next day. The subtext was “if it is ever possible.”
After I finished my prayer and meditation, I opened my hymn book and softly sang the healing hymns of Padrinho Sebastião. I could feel the energy of the healing work that was going on in the Church just a half a mile away. I could feel the energy of the prayers from Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Céu do Mapia and across the United States. There was such an outpouring of love and support from our brothers and sisters in the Santo Daime.
I remember the exact moment when things shifted. I was singing softly a hymn that says “Jesus Christ, is on the earth, he is a great healer, he heals whoever seeks him, according to their merit”. I felt a wave of emotion come over me and I prayed “oh god, please let my mother and me be deserving of the healing that we are praying for.”
At that exact moment, a nurse tapped my shoulder and asked me to leave the room so they could remove my Mom’s breathing tube. At first I was confused, because the doctor had predicted that it would not be possible to remove it until the next day. But the data points supported this action. The oxygen was at 40% and the medications had been reduced. The conditions for removing the tube had been satisfied, and the best practice is to remove it as soon as this occurs. I went outside texted my step father that they were removing the tube. I sent that text at 3:04 pm on Sunday the 6th of November.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon her condition continued to improve.
My mom and I have a running joke that if I fail to visit her for a glass of iced tea, or if I fail in some other way to perform the obligations of a good and loyal son, that she will report me to the Chinese and my social score will be reduced. So for instance, I might say “Mom, please don’t tell the Chinese, but I can’t come by this afternoon.” That sort of thing. At the end of the afternoon on Sunday I looked at my Mom, who was awake and conversant in her bed, and I asked her “Ok Mom, I’m glad you are better, but tell me, what are we going to tell the Chinese about this?” She laughed. This was at about 7:00 in the evening. I had been there the better part of 13 hours, except for the one hour I had gone to the Church. My sister was planning to stay the night in the recliner chair in the room.
I left the hospital and went over to the Church. As I entered, they were serving the final serving of Sacrament. The singing of the healing hymns had just ended and they were preparing to celebrate by singing the beautiful hymns in the hymnal “Nova Dimensão” (New Dimension) which was received by Padrinho Alfredo. I accepted an ample serving of sacrament and sat in a chair in one of the rows of men. I did not have my uniform, which we call a farda, and so I sat down in my blue T-shirt and jeans. Glauber was in my usual chair at the head of the table and Stephanie was sitting by him. I gave a report on my mom’s condition and everyone cheered they were so elated.
Over the course of the next few days, my Mom’s condition improved very rapidly. On Tuesday the doctors mentioned that by the end of the week she should be able to leave the Surgical Critical Care Unit and move to a regular hospital room. This was such good news. However, when Thursday came, there was simply no reason for her to stay in the hospital at all. She went straight from the SCCU back to her home. Thursday evening she was walking up the stairs, her dogs were jumping in her lap, and she was drinking iced tea. Her recovery was nothing short of a miracle. Truly.
It’s a funny thing when faced with such powerful direct evidence of divine intervention and the power of prayer. I was blessed with a revelation as to how this mechanism works. In this revelation I saw the present moment as a small boat on a vast ocean. Across the vast ocean is the infinite possibility set of everything that could possibly happen in the world from that point forward. When we pray, or set an powerful intention, we do not change the ocean or any of the coast line that contains it. We simply bring the reality we have selected into our conscious experience. All of the other potential realities still exist. Nothing changes when we pray except our path through the multiverse. Every possible version of the future exists in the infinite probability set, and we create our experience through prayer and intention setting.
But many simply cannot see this. A few in my family commented that it was only my Mom’s determination that go her through her ordeal and they credit the presence of family with helping her to maintain her motivation and drive to live. Of course, this is true. My Mom would not have pulled through if she had not held on to the determination that she wanted to live.
There was a moment in the darkest hour, when my sister was on her way, that I could feel my Mom’s spirit in the room. She was unconscious and intubated, and I spoke to her from beside her with my hand on her shoulder, careful not to disturb all of the wires, tubes and catheters that protruded from her bed. “Mom, I said, please hold on until she gets here.” I felt her spirit return to her body. And from that moment she started to heal.
The truth is we all have a choice. We can see God in everything, or we see God in nothing. When we see God everywhere, then the signs of God’s power are obvious and the signs are numerous. When we see him in nothing, well, we simply do not see the signs or any of it. How bleak. For me, standing witness to my Mom’s recovery while people all over the world prayed, was nothing short of a miracle. It has renewed my faith. It has brought me holy peace. And this is what my Mom reported. We asked her if she remembered anything, and she said, as she lost consciousness and held my gaze at the beginning of the ordeal, “I felt peace.”
Everyone is ok now. My daughter in law will be returning next week. Stephanie is fine, and my Mom is watering her orchids. Thank you God and Thank you to all who prayed. Thanks also to those who did not pray, but who showed up anyway and offered support in the material world.