By Mark Ellis —
Randall Hall was once a free-wheeling playboy who traveled the world, went through women like “potato chips,” and dashed around town in his Mercedes 500 SL convertible. Seven clothing boutiques from Laguna Beach to San Francisco provided access to beautiful women ready to lay claim to his indulgent lifestyle.
Then he tried to move in on someone else’s girlfriend one night at a bar in this coastal enclave. The woman’s boyfriend savagely attacked Hall after he left the bar, which left him unconscious, lying face down in an alley with blood oozing from a cracked skull.
To save Hall’s life, doctors at Mission Hospital induced a coma and removed a portion of his skull to relieve pressure on his brain. After five surgeries and complications due to infection, doctors failed in their attempts to bring Hall out of the coma.
He lapsed into a persistent vegetative state for two years. Over time, his body atrophied and curled into a fetal position. His doctor estimated that only 30 percent of his brain function remained.
Hooked up to breathing and feeding machines, with no response to sounds or movement, doctors recommended they remove life support.
From the beginning, Hall was a rebel who dropped out of school and became a professional escort at 17-years-old. Drugs, alcohol, sex, and travel fueled his innate passions, but in his early 20s, he found Jesus Christ at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. “It lasted for about a year,” he recalls.
Then he fell back into his old lifestyle, which kicked into high gear. He was a
prodigal powered by jet fuel. Hall believes God used the assault and subsequent coma to rescue him from his downward spiral. “I was a bad person,” he admits. “I always took other men’s women,” he says, a practice that led to the violent assault.
“I was going to hell if I died, but God saved my life,” Hall believes.
“The doctor told my older brother to disconnect me, because my brain was 70 percent dead and if I woke up I would be a vegetable my whole life.”
Older brother Alan – the good, responsible brother who parallels the “older brother” in the biblical story of the prodigal, refused the doctors’ request. He thought he saw occasional flashes of recognition in Randall’s eyes that gave him hope. Randall’s mother concurred with Alan, while his father sided with the doctor.
Alan did voluminous research on comas, and brought in a holistic health practitioner, David Strassburg, to employ the Feldenkrais method, which uses muscle training in an attempt to re-establish connections with the brain.
In January 2002, doctors replaced the portion of Randall’s skull that had been removed after the attack to relieve pressure on the brain. The new procedure restored normal atmospheric pressure.
A month after the surgery, Hall began to awaken from the coma over a two-week period. Alan believes the surgery and the use of the Feldenkrais approach brought his brother out of the coma, but Randall forms a different conclusion.
“No human saved my life,” he declares. “God allowed me to die for two years so He could save my live. Doctors can only do so much – they’re not gods.”
Coming out of the coma did not mean a quick return to normality. “When I woke up I was like a newborn, mentally,” he notes. “My brain was washed clean. I cried for the first year.” The second year, his mental and emotional maturity resembled a five or six-year-old. By the third year, he was like an adolescent. Over time, his memory returned and he believes it is fully restored today.
The neurologist cautioned the family that even if he came out of the coma, it was unlikely he would walk or talk again. He is doing both today — and driving his own car — something no one thought possible.
“My surgeons don’t understand. Usually there is no recovery from a coma,” he notes. “They don’t know what God can do.”
One of Hall’s caregivers, Danielle Schuster, led him back to the Lord in 2007. While she cared for Hall, she planted “little seeds” into her conversation. One day, he asked her to take him to church. She packed him into her car and drove him to Life Church in Mission Viejo, where he entered with the aid of a wheelchair.
Hall has endured over 55 surgeries. One surgery corrected his eyes so they would track together, another procedure removed an excess bone growth on his femur the size of a baseball so he could walk. Another made surgical repairs to his scalp.
Fortunately, Hall purchased medical insurance one month before the assault. Despite over $3.0 million in charges since 2000, he is thankful his insurance company, Aetna — along with Medicare, never cancelled his policy.
Hall has made attempts to meet and forgive his attacker, but the individual has been unresponsive to Hall’s overtures. Friends who know about the man’s reputation cautioned against such a move, warning “he might finish the job.”
Still, Hall remains full of thanksgiving for his coma. “Before the coma I denied Jesus. I heard His voice in the coma. He taught me the real meaning of love. Now I’m His.”
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