Editor's note: The father of a 13-year-old boy who was stabbed at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach late last month compiled his thoughts about that terrible day in letter form. Here is what he wrote:
A Rough Road Traveled by Our Brave Son, Our Hero, Ricky:
On Dec. 29, my wife and I experienced the worst day of our lives. We received a phone call from our son's phone. I instantly knew from my wife's voice and her tone that the call was not a good call. The caller was an unknown good Samaritan. The unknown woman informed my wife (Maria) that our son (Ricky) was injured and bleeding from either a gunshot wound or stabbing wound.
She mentioned that he was at the South Bay Galleria mall just outside of the AMC Theatre. Ricky had collapsed after being viciously stabbed in six different areas (once in the heart/lung, once in his left side, and four in his left arm). The other victim was my son's 13-year-old friend. They were both just being typical 13-year-old teenagers simply sitting on a bench talking to each other inside the mall after watching a movie at the AMC Theatre.
This attack was completely unprovoked, random and senseless. The attack was done by a cowardly, low-life, dirtbag thug. Only a gutless, spineless human being would prey on our most innocent and precious members of society - 13-year-old children!
When my wife and I drove up to the mall, we saw several emergency vehicles - fire engines, paramedics, police cars and helicopters.
Once we arrived on the third floor of the mall, we noticed that the whole AMC area was roped off with yellow tape. Nobody would tell my wife and me the condition of our son. I kept asking myself, "Why won't anybody tell us what is going on with Ricky?"
During this time, all I kept thinking about was how awful those poor parents from Sandy Hook Elementary School must have felt when they were waiting to know if their child was alive or not. The feeling we experienced during this time is beyond what words can ever describe. It felt like an eternity before we finally saw the first responders wheel our son past us on the gurney. I cannot begin to express how extremely, extremely relieved I was to see that my son was awake and conscious. As the paramedics wheeled Ricky past Maria and me, I talked to my boy and let him know that we are here with him and to hang in there and keep fighting. I also told him that I loved him very, very much. I clearly remember Ricky looking straight into my eyes, raising his hand up and courageously giving me a "thumbs up" sign - as if to say, "Don't worry, Dad, I got this!"
One of our initial encounters with the first responders, was with the Station 2 Redondo Beach Fire Department. These paramedics and firemen are absolutely incredible, to say the least. They were able to keep my son and his friend alive and awake. Station 2 literally saved their lives and my wife and I will forever be in debt to these incredibly brave men. To this day, I still cannot talk about the Station 2 heroes without getting choked up.
At this point, I told my wife to ride with Ricky in the ambulance and that I would meet them at County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
Once at Harbor-UCLA, Maria and I walked along the side of Ricky as they wheeled him inside the ER. The Harbor-UCLA staff already had rooms ready for my son and his friend. This was the first time I met Dr. Kim from the trauma team. I watched Dr. Kim as he calmly, but firmly, took control over the ER room. He told everybody in the room to get focused and instructed the trauma team members as to what they needed to do. Dr. Kim informed my wife and me about the seriousness of my son's injuries and he said that they must operate on him immediately. Until this point, the firemen and paramedics were able to keep my son (and his friend) stable enough so that the trauma surgeons could fix the damage caused by the cowardly dirtbag at the mall.
I followed Ricky, as he was wheeled to the elevator, right before he was going to go in for emergency surgery. After talking with Dr. Kim, I understood the seriousness of his surgery and his injuries. However, I had to try and "keep it together" so that Ricky would remain strong and not see my deepest fear in my eyes. I told Ricky that "I loved him very, very much" and I performed the sign of the cross on him just like my wife does every night before he goes to bed. Again, Ricky looked at me straight in my eyes and bravely raised his hand up and provided another "thumbs up" sign. At that moment, I could not have been more proud of my young son. Ricky is, and always will be, my hero.
The next several hours were like walking on pins and needles. While my son was in emergency surgery, my wife and I were talking to the firemen, paramedics, police officers and detectives. They all tried to comfort us by saying that Harbor-UCLA is the very best place to be for these types of serious injuries. Several of the police officers even told us that they have already informed their partners to take them to Harbor-UCLA should they ever be shot during the line of duty. They all stated that the staff at Harbor-UCLA is second to none in treating such severe wounds. This information is what I used to "hang my hat on" during the following three- to four-hour surgery. My wife and I had to dig deep and try to find something to believe in and hold on to in order to get us through the long, excruciating hours of surgery. I was so anxious to know the condition of my son but, by the same token, I was also very petrified to know.
After only a couple of short hours of this insane incident occurring at the mall, I was astonished to see how quickly Ricky's friends and family members completely filled the third-floor waiting room at Harbor-UCLA. The waiting room was so crowded that folks had to start waiting outside in the hallway. I knew then how much my son is loved and respected by so many people. While waiting for Dr. Kim to update us, we all gathered in a large circle and said prayers for Ricky. Being a witness of this incredible support system touched my heart and soul and it truly helped to lift my spirit enormously.
After several hours of waiting, Dr. Kim finally walked in. I jumped out of my chair and waited anxiously to hear his update. Dr. Kim then provided us with the best news of my life! He informed us that the surgery was successful! I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off of my shoulders. I thanked the Lord for watching over my son and for watching over the surgeons and their staff. I shook Dr. Kim's hand and I thanked him for saving my boy's life.
The trauma team was large in number so I apologize in advance for not naming everybody that helped to save my son's life that night. I know some of the key surgeons were Dr. Dennis Kim, Dr. Sarai Green, and Dr. Brian MacLaughlin. Again, words can never, ever express our gratitude to these amazing, unbelievable surgeons and their supporting staff that night. Honestly, how do you ever express, in words, your deepest appreciation for saving your son's life? It seems impossible to do with words alone. We are forever in debt to these wonderful, brilliant doctors and their staff.
Shortly after we were informed of this amazing news by Dr. Kim, we were allowed to go up to the pediatric ICU to visit my son. I will never forget walking into the room and seeing my son hooked up to tons of wires and tubes. As tears started to roll down my face, I felt very intimidated and a bit dizzy. I recall the PICU RN greeting me and taking the time to explain what all the various tubes and wires where doing for my son. This helped me to be less intimidated and to understand the need for each device. Some of these astonishing PICU nurses were Traci, Marion, Wilaine, Evie, Belinda, Maria, Diane, Mai and Anne. I apologize for names I may have missed. These nurses took such astonishing care of Ricky. Maria and I are so very grateful to each and every one of them.
The PICU physicians were nothing shy of absolutely remarkable. They were all so knowledgeable, friendly and they comforted us every step of the way. They all immediately made us feel right at home. Again, I apologize for not mentioning all the staff by name but some of these amazing PICU physicians were Dr. Bonnie Rachman, Dr. Richard Mink, Dr. Neetha Vilasagar, Dr. Hoyoung Chung and Dr. Daniel Lamb.
I must admit, this whole experience reminded me of how important it is to "never, ever, judge a book by its cover." Harbor-UCLA may not be the "prettiest" of hospitals from the outside, but like most things in life, it's not how "pretty" things are on the outside but rather how "pretty" they are on the inside that really matters. Well, I can tell you first hand, the Harbor-UCLA staff is pretty darn miraculous and beautiful on the inside!!! The trauma team, the PICU physicians, the PICU nurses, the administration staff, and the social workers were all simply amazing and wonderful!!
I do not believe these remarkable individuals just happened to fall into their careers by chance, but rather that they were all born to do this type of amazing work for those who really need them the most. Had the process been broken during any one of these phases, the outcome of my son's life may have been quite different - for the worse. All of these teams played a pivotal role in saving my son's life on Dec. 29 - as well as his friend's life.
Our friends and family are second to none! Maria and I are so blessed to have the BEST friends and family members in the world!!
My Mom and dad flew down from Washington within hours of hearing the news. Ironically enough, my mom is an RN and she was literally retiring that very same day. She called in and notified her staff that she would not work her last day. On my mom's first day of retirement, she flew down to California and has worked countless hours as Ricky's personal RN! It's unbelievable and mind-boggling to me how these things "just" happen like that. What are the odds? My sister Jenny and her family also came down from Washington and helped us out tremendously. My sister Shelly stayed at our home and watched Jacci and Christian for a few days so that we could be at Ricky's bedside around the clock. Ricky's pro-skater cousin, Anthony, made Ricky's dream a reality by having Daniel Sandoval (pro BMX bike rider) visit Ricky at the hospital. My longtime school friend (since kindergarten), Dana, worked her contacts and has lined up an L.A. Kings visit for my son. How cool is that!
My wife's family has been astounding. My mother-in-law and my wife's sister, Ana, have helped by watching our kids, bringing us meals, and praying for us. Ricky's cousin, Briana, made the family and friends personal bracelets to show support and love for Ricky.
Finally, all of our friends have been there for us since day 1. They have visited us, prayed with/\for us, brought us food, provided us with gift cards (and even lottery tickets - thank you Mr. Broadhurst), brought Ricky a DVD player with movies, picked our kids up from school, helped our kids with homework, etc. I could literally go on and on with all of the marvelous help we have received from everyone. Maria and I appreciate it and love you all for being there for us!
Ricky is a fighter. He fights each and every day to get his "normal life" back. He was transferred from Harbor-UCLA to our provider's hospital on Jan. 13. After 2 1/2 weeks in ICU, Ricky was finally transferred out of the pediatric ICU to the pediatric floor. After three days in the pediatric floor, Ricky was finally released to go home. Ricky continues to improve each day. It will take many weeks before he fully heals from the physical wounds.
I was talking to my son the other day from his hospital bedside. I was telling him, "Son, unfortunately, there will always be evil in this world. However, there will also always be very, very good, kind, amazingly decent people, too." I told him "during this past two-week period, for every one evil person we encountered, we must have literally interacted with more than 100 awe-inspiring, kind, miraculous individuals. These individuals ranged from the good Samaritan who called us that awful night, the awesome first responders at the mall who saved my boy's life, the detectives and Redondo Beach police officers working endless hours to catch this low-life, spineless thug, our astonishing friends, our incredible family members, our awesome neighbors, Ricky's school, and the amazing Harbor-UCLA staff!"
Like my Grandma Fern always used to tell me when I was a young boy ... "on every dark day, there is always a silver lining in each cloud above. Sometimes the silver linings are easy to identify and other times you may have to search long and hard for it." On Dec. 29, I did not have to look far for our silver lining - our silver lining was evident everywhere I turned!
God Bless you all. We love each and every one of you!
Richard (Ricky's Dad)