Christopher Santizo, handsome and strong, a talented chef and promising young musician, thought he had the flu.
It was Jan. 25, and Santizo, the son of Oscar Santizo of Jim Thorpe, felt so sick he was taken to Mercy Hospital in Scranton, close to where he was living and working.
The next day, he was much worse. He was flown to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Columbia County. There, Santizo was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, or TTP.
The disorder results in blood clots in small vessels, reduces the amount of platelets needed for clotting elsewhere in the body, and can trigger excessive bleeding, strokes or kidney damage.
Santizo fell into a coma, where he remained for 26 days.
His family rejoiced when Santizo awoke from his coma. But the talented young man was left permanently disabled. Now living with his father and unable to work, he continues to undergo intensive therapy to help him regain his cognitive, speech, memory, fine and gross motor abilities. He has the support and encouragement of his family his sister, Maggie, has dubbed her brother "Coma Kickin' Cali." Cali is Santizo's nickname; he was born in California.
Coping with near death, then the sudden loss of his independence, ability to play his guitar and stamina is hard enough.
But young Santizo, who turned 26 on April 13, also did not carry health insurance. Now, his family struggles to pay the more than $800,000 in medical bills resulting from his illness.
On Saturday, friends and family have organized an event, to help the family offset the expenses, to be held from noon to 7 p.m. at the Mahoney Valley Ambulance Company on Route 902 in Mahoning Township.
The day will feature one of Santizo's greatest loves, live music.
Local musicians David Westrip, Screaming Sunday, Tom Storm and Shane McGeehan will play, and any singer or musician is invited to join the jam.
The folks at CTC Manufacturing in Beaver Meadows have made 20 T-shirts emblazoned with Santizo's picture and the words from Psalm 23, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ..."
"That is so awesome, because he flatlined twice," Oscar Santizo said.
The day will include face painting and other fun activities. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be served at noon, and a roast beef and stuffing dinner at 4 p.m.