I'm 33 years old. I worked in two positions, one I'm a Bank Manager for Wells Fargo Bank, the other is I work for California Judicial Enforcement, we serve felony arrest warrants. I was born in Memphis TN. My family moved to California when I was seven years old. We lived all over the San Francisco Bay Area. I really never had what you would call a good family life. My parents divorced when I was very young and I lived with my father for awhile then with my mother.
This is an account of what happen to Stephen Ben-Itzhar and Michele L. Kinney. Told by Stephen Ben-Itzhar, Michele's Fiancée.
Michele and I were to be married on June 28th, 1998. Michele had spent the previous night at a hotel here in San Ramon, California with her aunt. They had gone to breakfast the night before at around 10:30pm. When they returned to their hotel Michele and her aunt stayed up late and talked about everything, from Michele not being sure that she had a maternal instinct to how much she loved me.
The next morning Michele had gotten up at around 6:30am and told her aunt that she had a hard time sleeping. Michele and her aunt had gone to Michele's parents' home to take a few things over to where Michele and I were to be married.
At around 8:30am on Sunday June 28th, 1998. Michele was standing in her parents living room waiting for her bridesmaid and Michele's aunt and mother, when Michele said she was having a sharp pain on the right side of her head, "I think it's the start of a migraine", she said. Her aunt told her to sit down on the couch, when Michele did, she put her head between her knees. Her aunt walked over and told Michele to lay back and take a few deep breaths.
Michele had taken a few breaths, when her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she began having seizures. Michele's mother and bridesmaid ran in. Her aunt was yelling call 911. Her bridesmaid turned her on her side on the floor. Michele was throwing up, and she couldn't stand on her own. The ambulance arrived within ten minutes. They took Michele to San Ramon Regional Medical Center.
I was at Michele and my home during this time. I was in the shower when I heard a message on the answering machine. I couldn't tell who it was or what they were saying but the voice sounded urgent and worried. Michele had called the previous night on Saturday June 27th, 1998 to tell me that she had forgotten the toasting glasses and asked if I could bring them on Sunday to the wedding location, which was Castle Wood Country Club, in Pleasanton. So when I toweled off I went to the phone when I had recognized Michele's aunt voice she was saying, "Stephen pick up the phone something terrible has happened" When I picked up the phone, I said "What's happening?" Michele's aunt told me that Michele had been taken to the hospital. I then said which one, Michele's aunt said I don't know! She told me to get over there as soon as possible. I jumped in my car and drove like a crazy person over to Michele's parents' home in San Ramon, which was about ten minutes away.
When I arrived I again asked Michele's aunt what hospital, she said she thought it was San Ramon Regional. I then jumped in my car and made it to the hospital in five minutes.
When I arrived Michele was in the ER, her family was in the ER waiting room. Michele's aunt came out and told me that Michele was not in good shape. A few minutes later the ER doctor came out and said that her family and I could go see her for only a few minutes. When we went in Michele was lying there and looking real bad. The doctor told us that it may be an aneurysm, and they had called for a Neurologist to come see her. They told us that they didn't have any on staff and that it would be 20 minutes to a half an hour. When he arrived they informed us that they were going to take Michele in for a CAT scan, however it would take the machine 30 minutes to warm up. During that time they had also called in a Neurosurgeon, again they had informed us that it would take another 30 minutes for him to arrive.
When he got there, he came out and told us that Michele, had an Aneurysm that had burst about one to two inches behind her right eye and that they were going to have to operate. He informed us that he also wanted to do an angiogram to determine the exact location of the aneurysm. They then took Michele in for that, after which they told us that she had another seizure.
Michele's father knew the hospital administrator and asked him if they would give us hourly reports during surgery, he said yes. They told us the operation would last ten hours, also during one of the updates they said they found another aneurysm but that one had not burst. So they were going to remove that one as well. During the surgery all the hourly updates seemed positive. They told us that they stopped the bleeding and had clipped the first one and were moving to the next. They called us on the seventh hour and told us they had finished and they would be closing after they made sure there wasn't any bleeding, which would be in about 15 minutes. This was now around 10:30pm on Sunday June 28th.
They had informed us that Michele would be in the ICU. They also said that because the surgery had lasted so long that they had to leave a big portion of Michele's skull out and that later they would put in a metal plate.
Michele's mother and I entered her room. Michele didn't look good The nursing staff was doing neurological tests, like checking eye dilation, and pain responses on her finger tips and running an instrument up her feet. Both Michele's mother and I watched all of this. It was everything I could do to keep from breaking down!
Her right eye was fixed and dilated but her left was responsive a little and she had pain responses to her fingertips and knuckles on her chest. After the nurse left I was holding Michele's right hand and her mother her left. I said, baby I love you so much and you're a very strong women, if you can hear me squeeze my hand at which she did. I guess just to make sure the it wasn't just a reflex Michele's mother said Missy squeeze my hand and she did! Michele's mother and I did a high five and say "Yea!". Even the nurse sitting in the doorway said that's a good sign.
They told us that it would be 48 to 72 hours before Michele would wake up because they had to put her in deep sedation and lower her blood pressure very low. So Michele's mother and I stood by her all night, I on her right her mother on her left. During the early hours of Monday June 29th, at 3:00am, Michele was not responsive hourly to her neurological tests. However Michele would still respond when they suctioned her lungs. She would cough and turn her head. During this time I was really having a hard time.
Someone had called my friends and they had come over to help me. I really had a very hard time with this and they've helped a lot. During the day I would talk with Michele, telling her that I loved her so very much and that she was going to be fine. I told myself that there could be four possibilities. One, she could sit up in bed in a few days and say Hi! Two, that Michele would wake up with a little neurological impairment. Three, that she would wake up with a lot of neurological impairment. Four, Michele would die.
I felt like I had separated the logical and the emotional aspects of this but the emotional side keep winning and I would find myself feeling, hate, fear, total despair, and what scarred me, a sort of numbness. Michele's heart rate would jump all over the place as well as her blood pressure. Which really concerned me, but they said that's normal?
Tuesday June 30, again Michele would not do so well during the early morning hours but she would respond a little better during the day. The nurses told me that I needed some rest and to eat something, I couldn't do either! But they told me that if I didn't go home that they wouldn't let me back in to see her. So I left for a few hours, went home and made some coffee then headed back up to Michele. When I arrived they had a priest there. Michele was catholic, but she never went to church, and I'm Jewish and I never go to the temple. The priest was there because Michele's mother had asked that Michele be given the last rites. I have never heard the last rites, so when I heard this I became very scared. I went in to see Michele after they had left. It was just Michele and I tried to be strong for Michele, because they say that even when a person in a coma they can still hear you.
But, I couldn't be strong. I broke down completely. Michele's mother came in with the nurse and said get him out of here! My friends took me out and walked me around. It helped a little. One of my friends told me that he wanted me to stay with him. His wife had just given birth on the Sunday Michele went into the hospital, he was going to be my best man! He told me that I could stay as long as I needed to.
Wednesday July 1st, we were informed by the neurosurgeon that he had checked Michele's neurological status. He said that Michele had no response to anything and that he pronounced her brain dead! However they needed a second doctor to confirm so they were going to have a cardiologist come in.
Thursday July 2nd, in the early morning hours, Michele was not at all responsive even to deep pain, or when they suctioned her lungs. However when I was watching the nurse perform these neurological tests, Michele's right pupil responded ever so slightly. The nurse checked this three times, and I as well saw some movement. So the nurse called the neurosurgeon and he said that he wanted to have a neurologist perform some tests.
He came into Michele's room and introduced himself and said that he was going to perform some very exacting tests and asked if we wanted to leave. Michele's mother said yes, however Michele's father, brother and myself stayed because of the eye movement we had to be sure!!!
These tests were horrible, they put ice water into her ears, they ran a cotton swab over the surface of her eyes, they pinched her really hard, they clapped loud next to her ears, they tested her reflexes. And after what seemed like an eternity he looked up at us and said he didn't see anything!
I walked out of Michele's room and went outside where my friends had been waiting. I was mumbling pacing around and crying. Michele's bridesmaid came over to me and said that we were going to say our good byes to Michele. I went into her room, just Michele and me.
She looked so bad, her eyes were part way open and wouldn't close. They were dry and looked like a dead animals eyes you see on the side of the road. Her hands were bloated and her fingers swollen, she was so very cold.
I stroked her head, kissed her forehead, kissed her eyes, kissed her lips and kissed her little feet. I then whispered in her ear that I'll always love her and that I would miss her so very much!!!
I've always had this ability where l can look at something or someone and remember exactly every detail. I walked around Michele's bed and began to tell myself remember. I stopped short because this shell of Michele was not what she was or is! I broke down again, this time really bad. The next thing I remember is being in a car on the freeway with my friend driving. He told me that I had collapsed and that a nurse and he carried me out to his car. When I regained somewhat, I really didn't want to live anymore, I have nothing left, Michele was my whole life!!!
I work for California Judicial Enforcement, and we carry firearms. I had them in my duty vehicle that was in the hospital parking lot. My partner took my weapons. To tell you the truth if I had gotten to them I would have ended this miserable life of mine! Because I couldn't get to them and after a little while I started thinking that if I killed myself I wouldn't be able to carry on the legacy of Michele L. Kinney my fianc�.
I'm the only one who really knew Michele, she had always said her parents treated her as though she still was a little girl and I treated her like a strong, beautiful, intelligent, and compassionate woman. So this is why I'm writing this so when the months become years and time continues to move on, I will be able to remember what happen when, Michele L. Kinney, fianc� of Stephen Ben-Itzhar, died on our wedding day, July 2nd 1998, 15 days before her 30th birthday
Michele, I will always love you, and miss you!!!
Love always and forever,
Your Husband in Sprit