#197 Improbable Survival, Part 1


Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

It is Thanksgiving, around 5 a.m. I am less than two weeks out from quadruple bypass surgery. I actually feel pretty well and have clients scheduled for next week, so not too much disruption from having your chest opened and your heart stopped for four hours, while it g


ets a plumbing job of rerouting arteries around blockages. I really have not paid attention to the details of the surgery, but my surgeon told me if I did not have the open-heart surgery I would be dead, again, within a month. There were precious few physical symptoms to indicate that I had such serious coronary heart disease. I take care of myself physically and I go to the doctor for annual physicals.

That’s right, dead again. Those words do not even look real. I had no idea I died Friday November 15 around 4 p.m. I just remember collapsing on the trail and waking up as I was being transported down the trail. I had a sudden cardiac arrest while backpacking up a steep slope. I was participating in a church (Crossroads) retreat for men called Man Camp. There were approximately 1,000 men attending a weekend camping retreat near the Kentucky River in Richmond, Kentucky. 

I had experienced what is called “ventricular fibrillation” (VF) in the lower left chamber of my heart. This causes the heart to vibrate so rapidly that it can’t pump blood. It was not a heart attack per se, but rather an electrical malfunction, where the heart loses normal rhythm and there is no pulse. Only around 10 percent of people survive VF, and most of those survivors are already hospitalized or in health care settings.

I would not have survived if I were not hiking with two men (Eric Curvin and Shane Porter) who knew what to do and immediately jumped into action performing CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation. Eric is a nurse anesthetist and Shane is an Iraq veteran. They kept my heart and brain alive for at least 15 minutes, until the camp medics, volunteer medical personnel serving at Man Camp, arrived with a defibrillator to shock my heart back into rhythm. I was then transported to a hospital.

I would not have survived but for the grace of God. I am told that men immediately surrounded me and began praying out loud, calling on the name of Jesus. One of my best friends, Lynn Buckles, tells me my skin was ashen and my eyes were open, staring, like a dead man. I was a dead man — and he pleaded with God to raise me from the dead, as did others. Another friend, Bryan Carter said, “I have seen dead people before,” so he knew what a lifeless body looked liked. I can’t imagine what that was like for them, but it had to be traumatic; both of them have their own stories of dealing with death and near death.

So I am thankful I get to spend this Thanksgiving with my wife, Carolyn, our children, Seth, Danielle, and Isaac, and my brother, Trip, who flew from North Carolina to be with us during surgery. The gift of my life, to survive this, is a mystery. I could have just as easily died, as most do. I will die, someday … but why God allowed my healing is something to prayerfully and respectfully consider. There is more to this story, so many connections that cannot be explained as happenstance, and the telling of it will continue.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

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