In late 2009, Louis Deliz became the victim of the ever growing hit and run epidemic in Los Angeles. Louis spent eleven days in the I.C.U. and was kept alive by machines as he was out in a chemically induced coma for approximately 8 days, living at the hospital for a total of 49 days.
I first met with Louis in March 2010, roughly two months after he had been released from the hospital and wrote the story of his near-death experience on Bikesidela.org. Three years later, I met with Louis for a second time and found myself sitting cozily in his West Hollywood apartment next to his loving Service Dog, Lucy. He is still the same Louis I remember, but brighter, happier and more positive than ever.
Louis tells me Lucy was a friend’s dog that he had always taken care of while the friend was traveling. When this friend needed someone one to take care of Lucy for long term, Louis went through the steps to make Lucy his Service Dog. He jokes, his friend has “visitation rights” – but you would never know they have only been together for 6 months as it seems Louis and his chocolate labrador have been in each other’s lives for years. Lucy’s ultimate purpose is to help Louis as he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Panic Disorder. The two spend every moment of every day together hiking, walking, shopping, exploring. Lucy even has her own carriage that is pulled off the back of Louis’ bike.
A half hour into our conversation, I notice Lucy’s agitation and constant grumbling toward Louis. Louis smiles, acknowledges Lucy’s persistency and takes his medication. All at once, my admiration for Lucy in Louis’ life multiplies. She is magical.
When I ask Louis what he has been up to for the past three years, he tells me that the Court Recorder sought him out after his trial. Though Louis wanted nothing to do with anyone let alone hear any advice, she finally got through to Louis and introduced him to Nichiren Diashonin Buddhism.
I am schooled in under twenty minutes.
But it’s not what Louis is telling me that I am drawn to, but the passion I find in his voice as he describes himself as becoming a different person and working on these new self discoveries. The basis of the religion is your point of view, in Louis’ opinion. One simply, yet religiously, chants for things ceremoniously or privately, essentially praying. Louis says that chanting gives him the strength to focus, to feel good, to follow through and to accomplish things in his life. “A lot of it is about trying to make yourself better and that’s what i do all day, I try to make myself better.”
I finally get the nerve up to ask him about his court case and he opens up even more. He still goes to court every few months for restitution updates based on medical, losses due to no work, attorney fees, etc. He tells me that Celine Mahdavi is considered a model probationary citizen and is now looking to knock her hit and run charge from a felony down to a misdemeanor.
The problem that Louis has is that she will get away with what she has done just like she got away with getting a DUI on the night that she drunkenly hit Louis and left him for dead on La Cienega Blvd. The officers on the scene believed Louis was already dead and didn’t think a DUI would count if they had manslaughter on the table. Once they realized there was a possibility that Louis could live, the officers’ efforts went to keeping him alive, not to get Mahdavi’s blood alcohol level. When she received her formal probation, her license was taken away for three years.
Still, to this day, Celine Mahdavi has yet to apologized or even acknowledge Louis in the courtroom. Louis “chants” for her to gain understanding, to find a reason to live in this world and to become a better person. He explains the emotional stress he is under every time he enters the courtroom, but Lucy has changed all of that for him. Safe and relaxed, Louis pushes on. He also holds no grudges against Judge Fox for the sentencing. He believes that Judge Fox followed the law, so what needs to change is the law.
Six months ago I was side swiped from behind by a tow truck that came into the bike lane on my way to work. Though my collision is, by far, less serious than Louis’, this irrational fear of being hit again has changed the way I ride a bike. I ask him, “Do you find yourself riding your bike differently, he laughs, and honestly says, “yeah, A LOT slower.” Immediately, I know what he means as the fear still lingers with me. Louis either rides his bike on the trainer in his apartment or goes to the 24 hour fitness to ride their stationary bicycles. “I’m too stressed to ride on city streets.”
Louis started racing again last year, got his butt kicked, as he puts it and tells me, “racing is easy because there’s no cars. Cars don’t exist in a bike race.” With a smile a mile wide he plans on racing this year, too. Louis also helps out in his community by volunteering with “Meals on Wheels” every week and enjoys playing ping pong with his best friend from the group home he stayed in during the transition from his aunt’s house to his apartment in West Hollywood.
I ask Louis what he looks forward to, and there’s a brief pause that has not happened during our entire conversation. He takes a deep breath and tells me that he looks forward to getting the money needed to have his face restructured, fixed – the scars from that horrifying night erased forever. He still needs to have his upper jaw straightened in this process, which means breaking it again and resetting it. He will need skin graphs taken from other parts of his body. The battle is not over physically nor emotionally.
After sitting with Louis and listening to how far he has come, what he has conquered both on a personal level within himself and with the outside world, including Celine Mahdavi and her family’s cold shoulder to his suffering, his motto rings clearly in my memory and becomes the reason I choose to get back on my bike and ride today and every day after.
“Do you have any words, thoughts,” I ask Louis.
He replies, “Never give up.”