Do You Believe in Miracles

According to Paul Wood, his miracle story starts last summer. Paul started to have vision problems. Eventually it got bad enough that he went to see his eye doctor, Dr. Andrew Chen who did a cataracts surgery. Shortly after the surgery, Paul was in Alameda Bay helping a friend with his yacht. Paul is a diesel mechanic, and his friend’s yacht was having some problems. Paul had agreed to drive over and check things out. “I was working on the yacht and in a boat like that the engine room is very shallow,” explained Paul. “So I was bending over, working on the motor, and I sat up and I hit the back of my head on a cross limber. I didn’t think anything about it and I just kept working. I foolishly didn’t have anything to eat or drink so I was getting dehydrated. When I was done, I hopped in my car. I was heading home and as I was driving my vision started crossing. I had to cover one eye so I could drive.” Paul got home and called Dr. Chen, explaining what had happened. He was concerned something had gone wrong with surgery, and Dr. Chen had him come back in right away.

Paul remembered his conversation that next day with Dr. Chen. “I went in there and he gave me some tests. He [Dr. Chen] says to me, ‘You know, this isn’t my speciality, but with my experience, I don’t mean to scare you but I want you to take me seriously,’ he goes, ‘I think you might have a brain tumor.’ I go, ‘Really?’ He goes, ‘Yeah. Are you okay?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, no problem.’ Dr. Chen says, ‘Most people would be shocked at that.’ I said ‘Look, if I die I’ll be happier in heaven than I am here. I have no fear of death.’” Dr. Chen recommended to Paul that he go see his general practitioner. Paul made an appointment with his doctor, Dr. Richard Yee. Dr. Yee sent Paul to Stockton to have an MRI done. “The guy at the MRI tells me they’ll have my results in about 45 days,” said Paul. “When I got home though they had already called me up and told me I needed to go to the doctor’s right away, first thing in the morning. So I get in to see Dr. Yee and he walks in with a long face and he’s holding the paperwork and shaking his head and getting teary eyed.” It was a tumor.

Dr. Yee did another MRI and got the same results: tumor. They did some research and got Paul hooked up with Dr. Aghi, a neurosurgeon-scientist specializing in adult brain tumors at UCSF. Dr. Aghi had Paul do another MRI and also a CAT scan. They got the results back and confirmed what Dr. Yee had found: a tumor. It was a big tumor, too. Dr. Aghi shared the measurements with Paul and talked with him about his condition. Paul remembered that first appointment, looking at his MRI scans, “So we’re looking at this tumor on the screen and Dr. Aghi says, ‘In all my years I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s very unusual to have a tumor that big in that region. Let me talk to my colleagues about it and we’ll get back to you.’” They scheduled another appointment for Paul to come back on September 12th. He came back and did yet another MRI. Dr. Aghi put the results up on the screen and said, “Yep, that’s a pretty prevalent tumor. I think what I want to do is remove it and get it out of there. Then we’ll send it to the lab for tests and we can see if it’s cancerous or whatever. But I need to get it out of there.” Before Paul left, Dr. Aghi had him do a special CAT scan. “Before I left,” said Paul, “I asked, ‘So what do you think of this thing?’ and Dr. Aghi said ‘It’s a pretty big tumor. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s pretty serious. I just want to get it out of there. My colleagues and I looked at all the images and we think that would be the best way to go about it.’” So Paul did the CAT scan and went home. He was scheduled to have the tumor surgically removed two days later on September 14th.

On September 13th, Paul got a call from Dr. Aghi. Paul remembers how the conversation went. “Dr. Aghi called me, and he goes, ‘Mr. Wood?’ ‘Yes?’ I say. ‘I gotta tell you something. We’re going to have to cancel your surgery.’ ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Is there a problem with my insurance or something?’ ‘No,’ he says. Then he pauses for a little while. ‘I don’t know how to tell you this but the tumor is gone. There’s nothing there. Four other surgeons and I are looking at your images, all 1,200 images, and we can’t figure it out. We looked at everything and we just can’t figure it out. We’re boggled.’” Gone. Just like that. The tumor that was there just hours before this CAT scan, were now gone Paul went back to UCSF and took two more scans. Both scans confirmed: no tumor. Dr. Aghi recommended Paul to another specialists at UCSF, Dr. Koe. Paul remembers their conversation:

“So Dr. Koe says, ‘Okay, here’s the beginning of it, we can see where it’s still in development. The weird part about it is when there’s a tumor or something like that there’s always a lesion or something where it comes from, but we don’t see anything at all.’ Then we’re looking at all the images as it grows and it grows and it grows and it grows to full maturity. ‘Then she goes there it is. It’s a tumor, no doubt about. That’s a tumor. Then we go to the following day, the day before the surgery, and it’s completely gone. This is crazy. We have never ever seen anything like this.’ ‘Dr. Koe,’ I said. ‘Do you believe in miracles?’ She goes, ‘I believe miracles happen.’ ‘You see this? You see this?’ I said pointing to the two images, one with the tumor and one without. ‘This is a miracle. I told you guys from the very beginning, this is just a test of my faith.’ ‘Well,’ she continued. ‘My colleagues and I were talking before you got here and we were wondering if you would do a volunteer research with us. You would come in, we would put you to sleep, we would put a stint up your groin and then we would check everything, blood, everything that we can, to try and make sense of this.’ ‘You know what,’ I said. ‘I would love to do something like that if it would help you, but you’re going to poke me and prod me and all this stuff, I’m going to spend days in the hospital, and at the end you’re going to come out to the same conclusion. It’s called a miracle. That’s what this is. You’ve just got to believe.’ ‘Oh I believe,’ she said. Then Dr. Aghi and hs team were walking out of their office and I go, ‘Hey guys, do you believe in miracles?’ ‘We do now,’ they said.”

Faith is a really important component of Paul’s story. I don’t know how this tumor disappeared, but Paul does. When you talk to Paul he has an unshakable faith you don’t see very often. What stood out to me in my conversation with Paul, is that all of us, no matter who we are or what believe, have a hard time relinquishing control of things we don’t really have control over and we tend to make things harder for ourselves. Even though we know we can’t control everything, it doesn’t stop us from trying our hardest to change and stress over things we can’t control. Paul is one of the few people I’ve ever spoken with who has truly mastered the art of trusting something or someone outside of himself. I’m happy that Paul has his health. He does a lot of good work in our community helping people who are down on their luck. People who are homeless and others who have got caught up in some bad stuff. We need people like him who feel a calling to reach out to those in the most desperate need. I don’t know what cured his tumor, but if you ask Paul, it’s plain and simple: it was a miracle.