The sense of freedom from gripping the throttle, the breeze hitting his face, getting a good sweat from the gym were all that was on Army Veteran Michael Meltzer’s mind the morning of July 15, 2019, as he made his way to Florida Atlantic University.

Within a blink of an eye, that ride of freedom turned into red wailing siren lights, doctors surrounding him on a hospital bed and the sound of monitor alarms ringing.

Every mother’s worst nightmare became Marcy Meltzer’s reality. She watched from an observation window as her son’s life was in the hands of a medical team. “It was like a movie, what you see on television,” she said.

Veteran standing with two canes

Friends call him Miracle Michael

The broken bones and ruptured arteries from the collision could not stop his heart. For six months. Michael’s eyes remained sealed shut in a coma. But his mother knew, what she refers to as his go-getter spirit, that the day would come when his eyes would open.

Little did the trauma doctors know was that Michael’s strength would prove many medical predictions wrong. They didn’t think he could push the buttons at his bedside (signifying a yes/no response to questions), let alone again speak and move on his own. Today, there is nothing Michael can’t do.

“The medical review and predictions were that Michael would not awake or be able to do anything again, that he would be bedridden for the rest of his days. But I did not believe it,” Marcy said, with a grin.

Home-based primary care team brings sense of ease

Once Michael was discharged from the hospital, Marcy was left to what she thought was to care for her son alone. That all changed with the arrival of the Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC) team from the West Palm Beach VA. They came to her son’s aid and hers, too.

The team of doctors, physician assistants, dietitians, social workers, psychologists and physical therapists brought a sense of ease to their new way of life at home.

“I was overwhelmed when they first came,” Marcy said. “They were just amazing. They took such a burden from me. They helped Michael progress to where he is today, because of their care. I had nowhere to turn and they were there for me. They would comfort me and boost my energy. Emotionally, it helped me a lot because I was by myself.”

As Michael progressed, the team would adjust his personalized health plan and continue to advance his development based on his new needs.

“Miracle Michael”, as his family and friends called him, said, “I am very thankful for the help given. The VA team helped me when I could not help myself. Everything from the diet to the mental health, that was all of them. They really stepped up and took care of me.”

Tattoos on Veteran’s arm

Tattoo of motorcycle wheel with wings

“Always something you can do to improve you.”

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

All of the physical exercises to regain his mobility as he worked to break from the restriction of being bedridden were only targeting the exterior aspect of his recovery. The missing piece was his interior mindset and wellbeing. That’s when mental health stepped in as part of the HBPC team.

“VA helped me think about my goals and how to achieve my goals,” Michael said. ”My quote that I live by now is, ‘If you cannot survive the bad, you will not live to see the good.’ Your worst day should not be your last. I am much more capable now compared to the first day I came home. There is always something that can be done, whether it is working out or talking to someone. There is always something you can do to improve you.”

Beyond his mental health therapy, Michael sought out “ink therapy,” and now both arms are completely covered in tattoos. He sees ink art as his way of telling his story, including the quote he now lives by. One tattoo represents his ever life-changing event with his once motorcycle wheel paired with a set of wings.

After almost 20 procedures, he has not lost determination. He will soon walk across a graduation stage—with a diploma in hand—with a master’s in science in Geomatics Engineering from FAU.

As a once pronounced dead Veteran, he tells his fellow Veteran brothers and sisters, “I came back, and so can you.”

By Andrea Madrazo

Public affairs officer, West Palm Beach VA

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Published on Oct. 22, 2022

Estimated reading time is 4 min.

Views to date: 823

2 Comments

  1. Arnold Cabral October 28, 2022 at 1:14 pm

    Can someone please tell me why the Veteran Veteran Medical Centers employees cannot email their Senators or Representative please.

  2. Patricia Carley Kelley October 22, 2022 at 6:08 pm

    I love the team with the V.A. home health team!! They have been amazing for both my husband and myself. I can call anytime day or night if I have a concern which is so amazing! Don’t know what I would do without the fantastic team we have!! These are the most caring doctors, nurses, dietitian and social workers I’ve ever been around, we are not just a number to them but actual people! They have spoiled me so bad I wish I could get the same treatment from my doctors lol

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