Ben Bartel is the 29-year-old singer/guitarist for local acoustic-rockers Mayfield, a group whose sound Bartel equates to “a guy and a girl arguing with each other musically.”
The argument almost came to a crashing halt a couple months ago when Bartel was stricken with a crippling headache in the middle of the night, a headache that he knew was more than your typical migraine.
“Out of nowhere, I had the worst headache on the planet. From nothing to 100 percent the worst pain I’ve ever had,” Bartel told the Reader. To avoid alarming his fiancée, Bartel dealt with the pain throughout the night and managed to drive himself to the hospital the following morning. Upon entering the hospital, he collapsed.
“They took me to the emergency room and did a CT scan on my head and came back and said, ‘You have seven aneurysms in your head and one of them burst.’”
Bartel was oblivious to the presence of the aneurysms, which he was told were caused by a constricted aorta, an undiagnosed flaw in his body since birth. The prognosis was bleak.
“[The doctors] said, ‘You need to call your family, get your affairs in order, and say goodbye to your loved ones.’”
Bartel made the calls and family members flew out, expecting the worst, but Bartel began a run of defying the odds that would leave even the most brazen gambler dumbfounded.
“[The doctors] said 60 percent of people don’t survive the first five minutes of an aneurysm when it bursts. Those that do survive, that don’t get into definitive care within the first three hours, their chances go down to about 30 percent. I did neither of those things. Then I had a 40 percent chance of surviving the surgery, but then after I survived the surgery, they said I had a 70 percent chance of having brain damage. They said with the blood that’s in there you have this really huge chance that you’re going to have a stroke, and if you have a stroke then it’s most definite that you’re going to have brain damage and you’ll most likely die,” Bartel explained.
At this point, Bartel was moved from San Diego Kaiser, where he had stayed for two weeks, to a Kaiser in Los Angeles where he would stay for another three. At the L.A. Kaiser, the doctors discovered the constricting of the aorta. More surgeries were performed, and then Bartel had a stroke; once again, no brain damage and he’s not dead.
Feeling better these days, his remedy for staying alive is simple: eat healthy and exercise. Bartel’s health insurance covered most of his medical bills, and, even better, members of his church kicked in to cover everything he owed out-of-pocket.
With massive medical bills a nonfactor, Mayfield is back in the studio where they just finished four new songs. The band is concentrating on licensing and placement at the moment and is planning a comeback show sometime in September.
“I think I‘ve used up every ounce of luck I could possibly have in my whole life,” Bartel said. “I shoulda been dead at any step of the way.”