As Catholics, the concepts of divine intervention and miracles are at the forefront of our spiritual life, expressed through homilies and gospel readings.
THE BIUNDO FAMILY FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: CRISTIN, VALENTINO, ENZO AND MARIO. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BIUNDO FAMILY
One family’s story of an unthinkable event and the experiences that followed, just may strengthen the notion that miracles can indeed happen in daily life.
HOW IT BEGAN
July 11 was a typical summer day for Our Lady Queen of Angels’ eighth grade student, Enzo Biundo. At 2:30 p.m., on this typical Monday, Biundo was dropped off at a summer tennis program he was participating in at the Newport Beach Tennis Club. He had just won his first tennis tournament a week before and was looking forward to perfecting his game. This practice session did not start out as particularly taxing for Biundo – the coaches had instructed the players to jog a couple of easy laps around the courts and prepare for warm-up.
However, while stretching with his teammates, Biundo collapsed. He had suffered a cardiac arrest.
His coaches immediately took action. A 911 call alerted the Newport Beach Fire Department. Three fire department personnel from Station # 7 happened to be next door to the tennis club at a local shopping center buying food for the station and their close proximity was key in the quick response.
First responders Captain James Boland, EMT, Fire Fighter Pete Garcia EMT and Fire Fighter/Paramedic Geoff Cathey arrived on the scene within minutes after Biundo collapsed and begin administering CPR and medications.
The call from 911 did not initially come in as Pediatric Cardiac Arrest, according to Kristin Thompson, division chief with the Newport Beach Fire Department, Emergency Medical Service.
“They came in cold, not knowing what they were walking into,” she said.
Members of the fire department can have various specialties. Some are EMTs and others have more specialized training, as with paramedics. All Newport Beach firefighters also receive training in pediatric cardiac arrest. Boland, Garcia and Cathey had advanced training in pediatric cardiac arrest, called PIT.
Paramedics Aaron Reed and Jeremiah Martin were also quickly summoned to the tennis courts, both were on their last day of the pediatric cardiac arrest training program. Biundo was transported to Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Cathey, Reed and Martin rode in the ambulance and continued to administer to him while giving and receiving updates on how to best handle the situation.
Upon arrival, 17 doctors attended to Biundo. Possible broken bones and neurological issues from hitting his head on the hard tennis court surface were also a concern.
Biundo’s parents were on the outside looking in, with only worry and hope. For the first 48 hours, he was in a neck brace and had a breathing tube inserted – but most importantly, he was alive.
THE BIUNDO FAMILY IS REUNITED WITH PARAMEDICS WHO SAVED ENZO BIUNDO’S LIFE DURING A SPECIAL EVENT HELD IN SEPTEMBER. COURTESY PHOTO
At the seventy-two-hour mark, Biundo’s speech started to slowly return, but he was disoriented. Initially, he was slated to be in the ICU for seven to 10 days. It was during this time that his great determination and what Our Lady Queen of Angels Pastor, Fr. Steve Sallot called “Enzo’s incredible resilience” surfaced. When told of the plan to keep him in the ICU, Biundo pushed back. He asked doctors what he could do to leave the hospital sooner.
On July 15. Biundo was released from the hospital and returned home. On Aug. 2, he underwent open heart surgery. It was a challenging time for the Biundo family. He had always been an active and he now had to take things slowly and recover.
His recovery included a challenging six-week rehabilitation program at UCLA and a gradual partial return to his studies.
He returned to Our Lady Queen of Angels full time on Nov. 14. Biundo is interested in attending J Serra High School next fall and the University of Notre Dame for college. One day he hopes to become either professional tennis player, race car driver or entrepreneur.
The community of Our Lady Queen of Angels rallied around the Biundo family during their time of need. Principal Julie Tipton noted that the school’s room parents provided meals for the family, brought them Holy Water from all over the world and prayed as a school community. Families started a “feed of support” with an Instagram account for updates. This account was dedicated to the journey of the Biundo family and
kept the school community connected.
The school administration and Biundo’s teachers met as a team with his parents to make his academics manageable and keep him connected socially.
“There are communities within a community,” said Fr. Sallot.
A SPECIAL REUNION
This past September, the City of Newport Beach Fire Department held its annual event honoring members of the department. James Boland, Pete Garcia, Geoff Cathey, Aaron Reed and Jeremiah Martin, who were credited with saving Biundo’s life, were honored.
The event brought a sense of closure. The paramedics had forged a special connection with Biundo. The Biundo family gifted each man with a watch which had a special inscription. Biundo’s father Mario noted that the watches were stopped at the date and time when his son’s heart stopped. He then asked them to re-set their watches to the current date and time and “all move forward.”
July 11 proved to be a test of faith at the highest level.
“Before this event, God was with me every day in my dreams,” said Biundo. “I can trust God more after the heart attack, knowing he is always with me.”
Biundo’s mother Cristin praised God for His healing power.
“I felt the energy of God keeping our son alive,” she said. “We witnessed a miracle.”
Mario Biundo agreed.
“We knew miracles were possible and we just got confirmation of it.”