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‘A living miracle’: Dancer seeks purpose after cheating death

Justin Covington

Justin Covington

Michaella Tastad dances in physical instructor Tracy Kofford's beginning modern dance class at Santa Barbara City College on Wednesday April 24, 2013.

Linda Sturesson, Arts Editor

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One City College student once danced in Paris and Hawaii, but after a car accident in Sacramento, November 2011, 20-year-old Michaella Tastad slipped into a coma that lasted for 8 days.

She had to learn how to walk, talk and write all over again when she woke up. Today, she’s taking her third dance class at City College.

She was diagnosed with a 10% chance to live. Doctors said if Tastad survived she would be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life.

“Six months after the accident, I started driving … and I got a job,” she said and smiled. “I’m proud of myself for that.”

Tastad’s first memory of waking up in the hospital was sitting in front of a mirror in a wheelchair. Her mother stood behind her, brushing the one side of her head that still had hair.

“My mom said ‘You’ve been in a car accident and they had to take your skull out and … shave your head,’” said Tastad. “She said ‘We can either shave this side or leave it long … and I said ‘just shave it. Shave it all.’”

Urijah Faber, a martial arts champion and Tastad’s older brother, knew how hard it was for his sister to get rid of her long hair. Somewhat famous for his blonde locks, Faber shaved his head in solidarity.

“She’s 13 years younger than I am, so it’s been almost like a parental relationship we’ve had,” said Faber. “It’s great to see the recovery that she’s had. She’s been a fighter and that’s something that you can’t teach.”

Tastad’s boyfriend for the past four years, Max Bruce, is a former military private. When he found out about her accident, he went AWOL from the army to be by her side.

“I get a call … from one of my friends and he says ‘I hate to tell you this but you need to come back or else the [military police] are going to come get you in Sacramento,” Bruce said. “I just told them ‘I don’t care’ … they can take me but I’m going to see her if that means getting arrested.”

Three months later, Bruce received an honorable discharge. The accident put her life on hold. Now, she’s taking a modern dance class with physical education instructor Tracy Kofford.

“I don’t change the way I approach her or how I treat her as a student,” said Kofford. “I think that she knows her body well enough to make the decisions on what she needs to do for hereself.”

Tastad’s mother, Suzanne Faber, said she is a natural dancer, born to dance.

“I am in disbelief and in joy at the same time at how far she’s come,” said her mother with tears in her eyes. “She’s a living miracle … her doctor says the same thing and it’s clear that she has a purpose here on earth and it wasn’t her time yet. I’m so thankful.”

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‘A living miracle’: Dancer seeks purpose after cheating death