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So Many Miracles

By Julie Riddle '92

Malachi Areta '22 remembers it was a Friday night in January, nearly two years ago. His father, Lex, began feeling an iciness in his chest, but insisted he was fine. Malachi's mother, Michelle, convinced Lex to go to the hospital near their home in Spokane. She woke Malachi and asked him to sleep in his younger brother's room while they were gone. "Later I got a text from my mom," Malachi says. "'We did all the tests and he's okay. We'll be home in 15 minutes.' I thought, 'Okay' and went back to bed."

Soon after, Malachi's phone rang. "It's my mom. She's hysterical. 'We're gonna lose Dad! Grab your brother and get to the hospital right now.'"

'My Dad Was Gone'

At the hospital, Malachi hugged his distraught mother and watched a swarm of staff perform CPR on his father, his eyes rolled back, face purple.

Lex had sustained "the widow maker," a massive heart attack that often leads to sudden death. He was clinically dead for 45 minutes, "but we got a faint pulse back," a doctor told Michelle. "We need to move him to Sacred Heart Hospital." 

Lex underwent CPR throughout the ambulance ride to Sacred Heart, where a ventilator took over. They next day, doctors informed the family that even though Lex had a pulse, he showed no brain activity and his organs had begun to fail.

"In that moment, I accepted my dad was gone," Malachi says. "It felt like this was God's plan."

'This Isn't God's Plan'

So many people came to Sacred Heart that night.

"It was crowded all the time," Malachi says. "People were praying around the clock, and they set up a prayer vigil at our church. Of course I was thankful, but I was also thinking, ‘These people are wasting their time.'"

Doctors wanted to harvest Lex's organs before they failed, but Michelle would not accept that Lex would die. "This isn't God's plan," she said. In spite of her fierce belief, doctors finally told the family they needed to let Lex go.

"We went to his room," Malachi says. "My dad's face was puffed up, his eyes were yellow, with blood in them…" he pauses, overcome with emotion. "Then we said good-bye."

While Malachi and his family returned to a throng praying in the waiting room, his older sister stayed behind to sing Lex his favorite worship song one last time. But she didn't finish the song – her father had begun wiggling his toes, trying to blink his eyes, and making noises.

'So Many Miracles'

"He came back to life," Malachi says. Doctors couldn't explain Lex's revival, or the fact that his organs had begun to slowly heal. Even so, they warned that his brain remained severely damaged. "This is who he is now," Malachi recalls a doctor saying.

"Even that, my mom refused to believe," he says. "She said, 'No. This isn't God's plan.' And I was like, 'Come on. You were right before, but let's just be happy with what we've got.'"

One night, Michelle poured her heart out at Lex's bedside, begging God to restore him completely. In the early dawn, exhaustion overcame her and she slept. She later awoke to her husband's voice. "Wake up, sleepyhead," Lex said.

"He was back to his normal self," Malachi says. "It's amazing – I'm so grateful."

Lex was transferred to St. Luke's Rehabilitation Center, where he continued to recover and relearned how to walk. He takes medication and can't exert himself much physically, but he's once again pastoring House Church Ministries, the church he founded with Michelle. And he's back to being Malachi's dad.

"There were so many miracles," Malachi says.

The Areta family has walked together through the valley of the shadow of death. Their bonds with each other are now as strong as Michelle's unyielding faith in God's plan. And Malachi? "I sold my faith and my hopes short by saying 'Nah, God won't save my dad,'" he says. "But witnessing what God did, and telling the story, it changes other people's faith, and that has helped my faith." 

About Malachi

  • Diagnosed with Type I diabetes in fifth grade; volunteer counselor at Camp Stix, for youths with diabetes
  • Whitworth Track & Field athlete and Act Six scholar
  • Plans to major in education and teach high school
  • Composes and performs rap

Malachi's story appears in the fall 2018 issue of Whitworth Today magazine, available here.