Malik Saunders married Adriana Diaz on the 10th Anniversary he was in a near-fatal car accident. The couple married on Oct. at San Juan Mercy Hospital. (OBSERVER photo by Robert Maryland)
Malik Saunders married Adriana Diaz on the 10th Anniversary he was in a near-fatal car accident. The couple married on Oct. at San Juan Mercy Hospital.
(OBSERVER photo by Robert Maryland)

CARMICHAEL — This past fall, talented local poet Malik “Mista Malik” Saunders did something significant 10 years to the date that he was in a life-threatening automobile accident.

Saunders married Adriana Diaz in front of his family and hers at Mercy San Juan Hospital. The marriage ceremony is in stark contrast to Saunders’ condition a decade before on that same date.

“On Oct. 15, 2004, I was placed in an induced coma at Mercy San Juan after a near-fatal auto accident,” Saunders told The OBSERVER. “That was always a day of pain and frustration. On Oct. 15, 2014, it was turned into a day of love and marriage.”

In 2004, Saunders was a backseat passenger in an automobile cruising down Auburn Boulevard. The driver, a friend of Saunders, was driving but, Saunders says, he was “playing with the car stereo and not paying attention.”

Just after midnight, a truck moving in the opposite direction of Saunders and his friends’ car, he says, pulled in front of the vehicle to make a turn. Their car slamed into the truck.

After the sudden impact, Saunders said he “passed out” for a moment, but when he snapped out of it there was severe, physical damage to his body. The crash caused him to suffer a busted back and the seat belt across his lap crushed his diaphragm.

“I kept screaming to the driver, ‘I can’t breathe’ because it had shut down my lungs. I was gasping for air,” Saunders said.

Eventually, Saunders was taken to Mercy San Juan Hospital in a fire truck. He credits the firefighters for saving his life. Saunders also says that Drs. Charles Halstead and Mark Owens are two of the reasons why he still walks the earth today — it was surgically a massive undertaking.

When he emerged from the coma, Saunders was in the Intensive Care Unit for three weeks and remained in the hospital for an additional two months. The best part about the whole ordeal, Saunders says, is that he is alive to tell the story.

Ironically, the doctors were also present at his marital bliss to Mrs. Diaz-Saunders. Tracy Johnson, a chaplain at San Juan Mercy, officiated the the Saunders’ marriage ceremony.

After the accident, Saunders was in an induced coma for seven days. It was a long recovery both physically and mentally. Ten years later, Saunders is still physically impaired.

Saunders’ children — 22-year-old daughter Adriana Malika and 15-year-old son Isaiah Malik — helped him regain his thirst for living. He also has a grandchild that he posts photos of on Facebook from time to time under the moniker, “A Soldier’s Story.”

“Yeah, that my little chico,” Saunders, smiling, said of his grandson.

Saunders is also a gifted and highly sought-after poet in Northern California. He performs at many venues around Sacramento, the Bay Area, and at fellow poet Terry Moore’s spoken words shows. Saunders passionately shows off his skills by including his near demise in words and phrases. He uses it as an educational tool to convey his message.

Saunders, born in Sacramento but spent most of his years in Sonoma County before returning to the area, is putting the finishing touches on a new book.

Saunders’ “Pain MediZen,” is a book of short stories and poems featuring local spoken word artists and authors such as Gerry ”GOS” Simpson and Marichal Brown. The book will explore the concepts of pain, suffering, discomfort, resiliency, joy, happiness, and more. Zen, in Buddhism terms, is an expression of mediation and absorption.

“It will be about what they consider pain,” Saunders said of the entries written by the poets. “It can be bodily pain, mind pain, or something you may be going through and how you feel about it. I came up with the idea because pain has become a big part of my life and I am trying to find a way to turn that pain into Zen.”

One only needs to read his 2008 published book, “Serendipity: Memoirs from the Fifth Floor” to get a real understanding of Saunders’ life before and after Oct. 15, 2004.
The book is an emotional, heartfelt, spirited account of Saunders’ first few years of recovery. He dedicated the book, filled with poems, to his children.

“Like I’ve said, ‘Giving up is not an option,’” Saunders said. “I’m trying to move forward, and hopefully, bring people with me as I move forward. Poetry is part of the healing process for me. A nurse at the hospital told me to share my stories because one day it’s gonna save a life.”

By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer