SEECA - Specialty Eye Care - Houma, LA

A Walking Miracle

Story by Janet Marcel
Photo by Lawrence Chatagnier

Arthur J. dela Houssaye, M.D., FACS, medical director ofSEECA in Houma, claims that he is living proof of the power of prayer and faithin God, and anyone who hears his story would find it just about impossible torefute his claim.

“Dr. D,” as he is affectionately referred to by everyone whoknows him, was an avid cyclist in excellent physical shape when five years andthree months ago in September 2012 his life changed forever. While training forthe upcoming state cycling championships that he was favored to win, the frontwheel of his bike came off without warning. He was thrown over the handlebarsonto the pavement head first and suffered a broken neck that resulted in himbeing paralyzed from the neck down, except for some slight movement in his lefthand, and he had a major stroke as a result of the accident. He spent the nextthree months in three different hospitals on a respirator unable to move,speak, eat or drink.

Dr. D says he experienced something he termed “soul vision”for the first month or so he was in the hospital. “I was able to look throughpeople and instantly see their souls and know if they had my best interests atheart. It was a little bit spooky and something that once you see you can’t‘unsee.’ I have actually spoken with other severely injured and very sickindividuals who has this ability, also.”

After he was extubated, he went through six months of speechtherapy before he could speak and is still in physical therapy. It was a yearand a half before he could eat, and two and a half years before he could returnto work. Because his endurance was so depleted, he could only manage to workhalf days at first.

Besides the physical pain, one component of having such asevere injury is the mental anguish you go through when all of a sudden youcan’t do anything for yourself, says Dr. D. “It was such a humbling experienceand it taught me just how much we depend on others.”

Dr. D says his faith helped him immensely during the extremelydifficult time in his life. When he woke up for the first time in ICU there wasa priest there administering his last rights and even thought he was in such adire situation, he says he felt so comfortable just knowing that a priest wasthere if he needed him, and that had such a profound and lasting effect on himand still does to this day. And even though he didn’t know just how many peoplewere praying for him while he was recovering, Dr. D says all of those prayerslifter his spirits.

“Two things happen when you have a very serious accident …you either become very close to your God or you blame him for your problems,”explains Dr. D. “I experienced the first. I was already faithful and doing allthe things I was supposed to do, but it’s different now. It’s amazing how whenyou are very sick and times are tough, the prayers that you say have adifferent meaning. I now carry prayer cards on my person all the time. I canremember lying in bed hearing the doctors telling my mother they had done all theycould for me and there was nothing more they could do and now it was time topray. And my mother said, ‘Well, we’ve got that part.’ At the time I thought‘poor mom, she doesn’t understand that’s doctor speak for your son’s in a heapof trouble.’ She thought that was a good thing.”

His mother had his name added to church parish prayer liststhroughout the diocese and organized prayer groups who prayed the rosaryconstantly outside of his hospital room. As he listened to them pray, he sayssometimes he couldn’t help but think that their prayers were a little bit invain.

“A lot of people believe I am a walking miracle … and I am,”says Dr. D. “It is just so unbelievable to think of all the problems I had …and they all got better! I looked it up on Google and could only find one otherinstance of someone, a priest in Europe, that walked again after they had abroken neck and was paralyzed … it just doesn’t happen. But that’s the power ofprayer; that’s why I tell people, ‘look, this is what the medical texts say issupposed to happen, but if you pray to God with an open heart and an open mind,expecting the best, and you truly believe, sometimes he gives you amazingresults, and I’m walking proof of that.’ You just have to believe. And if I caninspire even one person to believe and have faith, and have a better outcomebecause they had that faith, then it was all worth it.”

Dr. D says his experience has made him a lot morecompassionate toward others and it’s changed his focus a little bit from thebusiness of medicine, which is still important, to taking care of people andgiving them the kind of care that he knows God would approve of. “I’m so quickto do services gratis for someone who can’t afford It now and I do somethinglike that every day. I know what I’m able to do can change people’s lives and Itake that very seriously. I have a wonderful opportunity to be able to givesomeone the gift of vision. I don’t think I appreciated that as much as I donow.”

Dr. D expresses his gratitude for his wife, his team atSEECA, the church, the community, and all the doctors who helped keep hispractice open while he was recovering. “I am so thankful that everybody pulledtogether and prayed for e and prayed for the best outcome, because I really dobelieve that what brought me across the finish line were all of those prayersand all of that support.”

Dr. dela Houssaye specializes in premium lenscataract surgery and refractive surgery including LASIK and PRK. He has abachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University, attended Harvard andgraduated with honors from LSU Medical School. He completed a four yearophthalmology residency program at Ochsner in New Orleans where he served aschief resident. He is a board certified surgeon in ophthalmology and earned theFellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) designation, one of thehighest ethical designations a surgeon can earn. He is a member of numerousmedical societies including the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the AmericanSociety of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons, and the Louisiana State MedicalSociety.