VALLEY STREAM, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A veteran on Long Island received a second chance at life on Friday.
In a coma with slim chances for survival, Michael Mendez shared his story in hopes of helping others with alcoholism. He thanked the ICU doctors and nurses at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream for saving his life, after everything else failed.
“My family decided to go out and look for cemetery plots and start making funeral arrangements,” Mendez said.
Doctors say the Army vet’s body was “literally shutting down.”
“His lungs were not working, he was on life support,” Dr. Lisa Chen said. “The chances of surviving that is very slim.”
Just walking down a hospital hallway was unthinkable months ago, when Mendez checked in with severe pancreatitis as a result of alcoholism. After 15-years of combat in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, he developed post traumatic stress disorder which went untreated.
“We were throwing everything at him, but we couldn’t make any promises that he was going to be alright,” Dr. Chen said.
Mendez spent 31 days in a coma, with blood pressure so low it couldn’t sustain life. Then one day, he had a breakthrough.
“I was sitting next to his bed as usual holding his hands and all of a sudden his eyes fluttered open,” fiancee Sarah Insolera said. “I jumped up and I started screaming.”
In the next few weeks, doctors say Mendez started wiggling his fingers. He was soon fully recovered and discharged, ready to marry the love of his life.
“This was a real wake up call for me,” he said. “The word ‘alcohol’ doesn’t exist in my life anymore.”
Mendez says life looks very different on the other side of a coma. He appreciates every day, and will spread the word that chronic alcoholism doesn’t have to mean a death sentence.
“I’m going to do it the right way this time with my second chance at life,” Mendez said. “I’m hoping my story will influence other people that have alcohol issues.”
Medical Director Dr. Joseph Marino called Mendez’s recovery “magic,” which perhaps was a way of repaying the front-line soldier for his service.
Mendez and his fiancee plan to marry within the next year.