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Ella Mangelos died 3 times

She saw visions of the Virgin Mary

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Ella Mangelos died 3 times

Ella Mangelos Velthoen – a chef like her brother John – is a teacher in her own right who tells a story of dying three times in the hospital and talking with her deceased father and seeing visions ...

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED January 21, 2013 11:59 p.m.

Ella Mangelos Velthoen will never doubt her Greek religious faith again following a four-month medically induced coma where she experienced talking with her deceased dad Paul and seeing several visions of the Virgin Mary.

She said she had clinically died three times with doctors bringing her back to life in a series of scenarios that took her out of the classroom for the remainder of the school year having to leave her 25 9- to 12-year-old “strategic learners.” They were at the first and second grade levels in a blended class, but old enough to be in much higher grades.

Ella didn’t speak as a child herself until the second grade and then it was in the Greek tongue that was the only one spoken in her Ripon home.   Her dad didn’t want his children speaking English.

“Mrs. Stouffer taught me English.  We’d sit on a bench at school and she’d say, ‘You tell me a Greek word and I will tell you the word in English.’”

“She would say, ‘Good Morning,’ and I would say the equivalent, Kali Mera.  Mrs. Stouffer would greet me that way even after I had grown up,” she chuckled.  “I grew up in Ripon and had great teachers and wonderful parents.”

Ella recalls another teacher, Mrs. Madsen, as being so fair with blue eyes and a tiny waist: “She was so much like Donna Reed in a beautiful dress.  I was in awe with her every day. Just a beautiful woman.”

Before Ella became deathly ill, she was an elementary teacher at the Title One Harrison Elementary School in Stockton saying she had fourth, fifth and six grade students in one classroom all from the trailer parks on Wilson Way.   Her goal was to get them all up to first and second grade levels.  Ella said she was trying hard to give them a two-year growth spurt.

She said she had gotten ill at school with what she thought was the flu just after Christmas vacation,  not knowing Fall would come before her near complete recovery.   Her husband Allen had given her soup at home, but she was too sick and couldn’t keep it down.  He took her to the emergency room at Memorial Hospital in Modesto.

It was nearly six hours before she was seen, she recalled, as she was shaking all over. 

“My navel was the size of an orange.  It was actually an intestine that had come out and thought to be needing a simple, quick surgery for a hernia,” she said.  “But I aspirated in surgery and my lungs were almost destroyed from stomach acid.  They had to put me in a medically induced coma and I rallied three times.”

The coma was necessitated by the severe damage the acid had done to her lungs, she noted.

She said the first time she rallied, she was very ill, adding that the doctor opened her up and found several large tumors.  The doctor met with the family and said her chance of surviving surgery was poor since one of the tumors involved a major artery.

Her husband Allen insisted they operate to give her a fighting chance at life.  When the doctor questioned him, he replied that she would fight for her life. “You don’t know my wife,” he stressed.

She said her incision was left open, held together with a shoe lace type binding, because they had to operate on it further.  The surgeon said it was very challenging like sewing Jell-O, she said.

“I got a little better but then I got septic again.  Each time I became critical they called the priest to come to the hospital.  Father Emanuel Pappageorge said he knew I was going to make it,” she said. 

Ella said she developed cataracts in her eyes from massive doses of steroids.

She said she had died three times and her family was beginning not to believe the urgency of the calls from the hospital.

In February the hospital called family members at 3 a.m. and said they should come to the hospital and say their good-byes.  Three Greek Orthodox priests rushed to her side and said prayers of forgiveness saying that God would do whatever his will.

With her family also in the hospital room and the priests in prayer, the attached monitors began to show improvement with respiration and heartbeat moving back into a normal range. While in a comatose state, she said heard many of Pastor Fr. John’s sermons.

“I’m not that religious, but I knew I was dying when I saw the Virgin Mary.  I felt nothing when I saw the flickering butterfly that was the biblical symbol of the Virgin Mary.  I thought, I’m not ready.”

She said she could hear perfectly during the medically induced coma.  The nurses were great.  One routinely sang in Greek over her head. They would always kiss her on the cheek and say “Good Morning, baby” and tell her she was beautiful.

She said she also saw her dad, Paul, who had been deceased for many years.

“I saw a big door and I knew he was on the other side of the door,” she said. “I said ‘Daddy, I want to be with you.’  He said no, and slammed the door.  Why would he do that to me?  He said I needed to go back.”

She said three times during the coma she had seen a bright light in the form of a butterfly.  After she had recovered, she looked up a passage in Greek biblical books that stated the Virgin Mary would come in the form of a butterfly – something she had never read before her hospitalization.

Ella also had visions of seeing Asinth Mellis.  She was twirling and dancing, wanting to dance with her to a song about a carousel.  After getting back home she looked up Asinth’s history and found she had, in fact, sung a song about a carousel.

“When I was in the coma an oncologist near my bed said I’d never walk again,” she said. “He asked a nurse how many people she knew who had been on steroids for four months and walked.  The nurse replied, none.”

Her husband Allen asked doctors how long it would be until his wife got well and could go back to her teaching job, getting a negative response that it wasn’t going to happen.  After she was removed from the medically induced coma, she was anxious to get off the medications.

Several tumors were discovered on her thyroid in a checkup and they had metastasized, she said.  That called for more surgery and radiation.  Doctors ordered a CT scan and an MRI.  They discovered several brain tumors as well.

“I got in the elevator with Allen after that and started to cry,” she recalled.

But the radiation for the thyroid tumors had killed the brain tumors and she was going to be OK.  In meeting with her neurosurgeon-oncologist, Dr. Griffith Harsh at Stanford,  she asked if she could hug him, kissing him on the cheek, thanking him from the bottom of her heart for what he had done.

She got out of the hospital June 25 remembering she walked very, very slow.  She said she had a few questions about her religion before everything happened to her, but they had all evaporated through her miraculous recovery.

“Every day is great.  That September I went back to work.  But, the first thing I did was to go back to church in a wheelchair.  You could hear a pin drop in church as I slowly shuffled up the aisle to go to communion with Allen helping me.”

At home she was determined to get up stairs to her bedroom, crawling on her hands and knees in both directions.  She added that her hair had been cut off at the hospital and she had become a bald woman.

“So anyway, I have no fears.  I am so fortunate having a wonderful church community telling me they love me.  There is more love in this world than anything else,” she said.

And Ella is walking today, almost like nothing had happened to her so tragically.

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