Healing and Helping Michael Lehman

The Rev. Michael Lehman was hiking in Los Angeles with a friend when he spotted Adventist Health Glendale perched atop a hill in the distance. He would have never imagined that just a short time later, he would be a patient there.

Lehman was stepping out of the shower when he began to feel lightheaded.

He made it to his couch, where he momentarily passed out. When he came to, he chalked it up to being tired or skipping a meal.

He called an urgent care center, and a doctor told him it could be something serious, or nothing at all, but to go to the emergency room to be sure.

Remembering Adventist Health Glendale from his hike, he drove to the hospital — something health professionals say he definitely should not have done at the time.

That’s because an MRI revealed two of Lehman’s arteries in his neck that supply blood to the brain had dissected due to a seemingly harmless fall during a hike a month before.

Lehman’s right vertebral artery had completely clotted, and his left vertebral artery was hanging, free-floating like a flap, according to Adventist Health Glendale interventional neurologist Dr. Mikayel Grigoryan, who performed Lehman’s procedure.

“The picture looked very scary, and his case is not a case where you have guidelines or recommendations,” Dr. Grigoryan said. “You don’t have randomized trials for catastrophes.”

Emergencies like Lehman’s can be frightening, but they’re the kind of moments that Dr. Grigoryan thrives upon. Every case is unique, he said, “but that’s the beauty of the job.”

In Lehman’s case, Dr. Grigoryan reconstructed the left vertebral artery, which wasn’t completely blocked. The other artery healed itself, and Lehman’s balance eventually improved enough so he could resume his normal routine, including playing the marimba at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, where he is a senior associate minister. After his recovery, Lehman sent a video of himself playing the instrument to
Dr. Grigoryan.

Although he’s a minister, Lehman said he’s dubious of “miracles,” but that he’s been thinking a lot about his experience — about the hospital and the team who cared for him, about all the education, time and dedication they put into their work to preserve life, and how they were all there when he needed them.

“That in itself to me is a miracle,” Lehman said. “Whenever we tap into loving one another, to healing and helping one another, that’s where the spirit of God is. In that sense, the whole experience to me was a miracle.”

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