Saturday, April 11, 2009

I yelled for God, hoping my prayers would stick

He was 22 years old and sharing a room with my father at UCLA Medical Center in January 1994. The young man was being treated for gunshot wounds.

Misty-eyed, his mother, father, brothers and sisters spoke some broken English but mostly mumbled in Spanish as they stood around his hospital bed, forming a ring of hope to combat their fear.

It was difficult for me to look in their direction. The young patient's pale face was absent of any expression. Eyes closed, he appeared to be sleeping. There were no traceable signs of life except for the beep, beep, beep of the machine that was tracking his heart rate. His muscular arms and neck were motionless.

My father, on the other hand, was recovering from triple abdominal aneurysm surgery. Although we were not sure how he would hold up during the nine-hour procedure, Dad, age 73 at the time, came through it just fine.

While at Dad’s bedside, I overheard the sketchy details of the young man’s twist of fate.

By day, he was a college student at UCLA. He had been working evenings as a guard on a Wells Fargo security truck when he was shot in a hold up the night before last.

Now he had a 50-50 chance. Considering the number of bullets he had taken during the assault, he probably would never walk again if he did live.

I could not help feeling guilty as I drew the curtain around my father’s hospital bed. Pondering Dad’s post-op state, I concluded that he had lived a good long life. He had never faced gunfire, not even during his WWII service in the Navy.

All of his children were alive and doing well. Not one of us had stared violence in the face as this young man had less than 24 hours earlier.

While feeding my dad ice chips, I tried to block out the quiet heavy grief "next door." I thought hard about the young man, who really was just a boy.

I pictured him in a sea of white hospital sheets, tubes coming and going from his once virile body, a machine helping him breathe.

Anger and sadness grew inside me. He had been short-changed big time. He was on the cusp of adulthood, almost done with college, getting ready to launch a career. Now, he was hemmed in by the results of a lethal robbery during which the driver was killed.

He was about the same age as my oldest child was and I couldn’t help feeling the loss.

I wanted to push the reset button for him and his family.

I wanted to give them back what we all think we have: more hello hugs, a ton of "see you soon" phone messages, an abundance of weekend plans, a heart full of hopes and a life loaded with endless tomorrows.

I wanted the assailants, now roaming freely with stolen cash paid for with this young man’s blood, to be caught.

At that moment, I wanted to amass a whole host of miracles.

I yelled for God, hoping my prayers would stick. I wanted to let loose on him and his family an army of heaven’s angels.

I wanted to surround him with a hedge of protection. I wanted them to have what I thought I had.

2009 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a popular columnist and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place in National Federation of Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. Recently, her work took second place in the South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests. To contact Paula Damon, email or join her blog at

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