One month ago today, my life took a crazy, wild turn in life! My husband, Jason, suffered a massive heart attack at age 38. . . and survived! Jason agreed to write this post from his perspective. Rejoice with me in this story of God’s sovereignty, provision and grace!
On Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, I decided to play some basketball at our local YMCA – something I hadn’t done in months. Our family recently joined the Y, and after running and working out recently I felt up to the challenge. As I entered the gym that afternoon, I met four other guys who were waiting to play. We formed our team and waited our turn.
We only went up and down the floor 3-4 times when I felt a burning sensation in my chest followed by dizziness. I waved to my teammates and told them I was not feeling well and took a seat on the front bleacher. That’s the last thing I remember.
The YMCA closed-circuit video system recorded what happened over the next 25 minutes. According to the video and eyewitnesses, I put my head in my hands, and then got down on all fours before falling face first onto the hardwood floor. My heart had completely stopped. No pulse. No breath.
One of my teammates, Trevor, had noticed me go on all fours, but he just thought I was winded and catching my breath. I was, after all, the oldest guy on the court! But when I fell to the ground, Trevor knew that something more serious was happening. He immediately came over to me, rolled me over and began CPR.
After a couple of rounds, Trevor instructed one of the bystanders to call 911. Soon, the entire facility became aware that there was a medical emergency in the gym. Two nurses and a cardiac PA who were also there came to assist Trevor, and they rotated giving me CPR for a total of 20-25 minutes until EMS arrived. During that time, they also shocked me three times with the AED device. At some point, one of the YMCA staff contacted my wife to let her know I had been in an “accident.”
Shortly after EMS arrived, I regained consciousness. The first thing I remember saying was, “I’m good. I’m ok.” At that point, I had no idea what had just happened! All I knew was that I was very lightheaded and surrounded by several people. Someone said, “No, you are not ok. Lay still. We are taking care of you.”
In my drowsy state, I remember EMS giving me a small pill under my tongue (nitroglycerin) and placing an oxygen mask on me. Then they loaded me onto a stretcher and into the ambulance. During all that commotion, I heard the words “cardiac arrest.” It was only at that point that I realized the severity of my condition. I later found out that I was in active cardiac arrest all the way to the hospital.
During the 10-15 minute ride, I remember having a hard time breathing (even with the oxygen mask on). I remember the EMS personnel talking to me, to each other and on the radio with the hospital. I remember praying the whole way. I asked God to spare my life. I prayed for grace. God answered immediately with an amazing sense of peace and calm. I definitely felt fear, but the fear was overwhelmed by God’s peace!
When we arrived at the hospital, the staff immediately prepped me for a heart catheterization. While all this was going on, my dear wife Sarah arrived, took me by the hand and whispered in my ear that everything was going to be all right. I believed her. God had given her peace also, and I could see it in her face and hear it in her voice.
She walked with me as they rolled me to the OR and kissed me before they took me in. I remember being placed on the table and the doctors and nurses making final preparations, but I don’t remember the procedure or anything else until I woke up in the CCU recovery room. Sarah was back by my side, and my friend and fellow pastor, Jason Ormiston and his wife Heather were also there to pray with me. I found out later that several others had gathered in the waiting area to be with Sarah and to pray.
The surgeon placed a stent in my LAD artery to repair the 100% blockage. Amazingly and thankfully, he found every other artery completely clean! By God’s grace, I only spent two days in the hospital before going home to recover. My expected full recovery is due (other than to God’s providence) to the fact that CPR was administered so quickly and correctly and to the skillful work of the doctors and nurses.
As I’ve reflected on what happened that day, I’ve been amazed and humbled at God’s grace in my life. The surgeon says my heart attack could have happened anywhere and anytime. By God’s grace it happened exactly at the “right” time and place. Statistically, those who experience a 100% blockage of the LAD (“widow-maker”) artery have a very low survival rate.
This story is not about me at all. It is all about God. Trevor (who by God’s providence my wife also met the next day!) is a recent college grad preparing to go to med school. God had him there to immediately give CPR to a total stranger. God provided two nurses and a cardiac PA with experience to continue CPR and use the AED device. Read the story as reported in a local newspaper here.
People were praying for me at the YMCA, and many others began praying as soon as they heard. I know that God answers prayer, but I also know that God, in His perfect wisdom, could have chosen not to spare my life. If that would have been the case, He would still be God. He would still be good. He would still be perfectly just and right.
The week after my event, I read Psalm 135. Verses 5 and 6 immediately captured my attention and are now some of my favorites:
“For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”
As I’ve continued to meditate on what happened one month ago, I’m growing in faith, gratitude and worship to my great God who by His sovereign providence rescued me through the capable hands of several strangers. The greatest reality burning in my heart right now is that God is sovereign over life and death. I’m learning much more than this, but this is bedrock truth that brings me great joy and confidence in God. There will be much more to learn and share in days ahead.
My prayer is that God will continue to use this event to shape me and others into the image of Christ and to better equip us to live committed to His mission and completely for His glory.