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Miracle man

April 24, 2001

Hamlet Nalbandyan

LA CRESCENTA -- Maria Pelayo resorts to praying whenever her son goes

for a swim or shoots a basketball these days. After all, it was praying

that made it possible for him to do those things.

It was less than eight months ago when Maria's world was turned upside

down. Her son, then a powerful athlete with a future as bright as the sky

was on that Sept. 17 afternoon, went for a swim and almost never came

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back.

An accident by the beach at a friend's house fractured Carlos Pelayo's

C5 vertebra. The former Crescenta Valley High boys' water polo player

would then pass out and almost pass away.

"When I flipped him over, he was pale white," remembers friend David

Mulcahey, a teammate of Pelayo on the Falcon boys' water polo team and

the first person to pull Pelayo out of the water.

Adds David Herrera, a long-time friend of the Pelayo family who gave

Carlos CPR and revived the person who considers him a brother-like

figure: "There was nothing. No pulse, no breathing. I gave him CPR for

four to five minutes, but nothing was happening."

Carlos Pelayo, 19, came as close to dying as you can possibly come.

But he would have none of that.

YOU'LL HAVE TO SEE IT, TO BELIEVE IT

"He's a walking miracle," said Pelayo's high school coach, Pete

Loporchio, after Pelayo made his first public appearance at a CV boys'

water polo match on Oct. 19, just a month after the accident that nearly

took his life.

Those words are echoed ever more so today.

Rarely a trace of the injury remains on Pelayo. He can do pretty much

everything that he did before the accident.

Things like taking a swim, which he does when he's not busy between

coaching the Falcon junior varsity boys' aquatic program and attending

Pasadena City College on a full-time basis.

Or playing basketball, which he does twice a week with some of CV's

greatest mentors -- past and present -- like John Goffredo, Jim Smiley,

Jim Beckenhauer, Peter Kim and other Falcon coaches.

But the things that Pelayo truly enjoys doing are the things that we

all take for granted. Things like walking, buttoning a shirt, brushing

your teeth, driving a car or drinking water.

Those were some of the things that doctors said Pelayo might never be

able to do again.

"They told me that somebody who suffers an injury like mine is either

paralyzed for life or dead," says Pelayo. "They said that it would take

six months before I could even sit up out of my bed.

"And that it would take at least 12 to 18 months before I could make

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