It is Thanksgiving morning, around 5 am. I woke up early having gone to bed early the night before. 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, your heart stopped for four hours while it gets 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 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 have no idea I died Friday November 15 around 4 pm. I just remember collapsing on the trail and coming to 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 Crossroads Church retreat for men called Man Camp. There were approximately 1000 men attending a weekend camping retreat near Richmond, Ky above the Kentucky River. I experienced what is called a ventricular fibrillation in the lower left chamber of my heart that vibrates so fast it can’t pump blood. It was not a heart attack; it was an electrical malfunction where the heart stops and there is no pulse. Only around 10 percent survive, and most of those are in health care settings.
I would not have survived if I were not hiking with two men who knew what to do and immediately sprang into action performing CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation, Eric Curvin and Shane Porter. Eric is an anesthesiologist 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 an AED 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 where 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, had to be traumatic; both of them have their own stories of dealing with death and near death.
So I am thankful this Thanksgiving, as are my wife, Carolyn, and children Seth, Danielle, and Isaac. As is my brother, Trip, who flew from North Carolina to be with us during surgery. His family is thankful for the gift of my life, as is my sister, and Carolyn’s family members, her sister, brother-in- law, mother, and father. As are the many people, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who responded with love, prayers, and now gratitude.
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 this 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.