It Could Happen to You

December 11, 2023
Bill Hill

It was later spring, 2021. My wife Linda had slowed down to short walks from a battle with terminal cancer and I noticed that I was easily getting winded from much exertion. So, I returned to the gym.

On June 25, 2021, I arrived at the gym after 10:30pm. Only two others were there that night besides me. While I was on the recumbent bike, one of them heard a sound from my direction. He dismissed it initially as a workout grunt. A little later he wanted to spend some time hitting the punching bag, only ten feet from the recumbent bike. So, he walked towards me to ask if I minded. I was sitting straight up, but he got no response. He asked a second time. Still not getting a response he walked towards me. As he got closer to me, he noticed that I was white as a sheet. He checked my pulse and there was none. He then realized it was not an exercise-induced grunt he had heard earlier, but instead, it was my agonal breath—the last breath of someone experiencing cardiac arrest due to lack of oxygen. He called for his training partner. Both were former lifeguards. They got me off the bike, started CPR, and noticed my color coming back. Realizing I was not responding one ran to get the defibrillator off the wall while the other continued CPR. They slapped it on me, triggered it, and brought me back to life. I started gasping for air, foaming around the mouth, and started to breathe again. I had been rescued from a massive heart attack in the left main coronary artery. Left alone for ten more minutes I would have died.

My Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ orchestrated my steps to be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment and the right people. Yes, He also orchestrated Alex and Anthony, to be in the right place at the right time in a specific location with the right knowledge and willingness to rescue a heart attack victim.

After the cardiologist examined me, he met with Linda and informed her that I was the sickest person in the hospital and he would try rescuing me with the use of an impella pump, which would function to circulate my blood at a rate of three litres per minute. This device is a mechanical ventricular support system that bypasses the left ventricle to allow it to rest. Nevertheless, he warned Linda that he did not believe I would make it through the operation. He also had to insert a stent into my artery so that the blood could flow properly. Unknown to Linda my blood circulation was less than one liter per minute. (A heart normally pushes 4-6 litres per minute, although our organs and brain can survive with three litres per minute. Any less and they are damaged from lack of oxygen).

Linda was told to call our family to be with her because they really believed I would die. My son and daughter immediately headed to Wilmington. However, the hospital staff was insistent that Linda have someone with her as soon as possible. It was after 1:00am. She hesitantly called our church friends, the Goggins, and the Messers. They came and prayed with Linda through a very intense period.

Later, the cardiologist told Linda the procedure was successful; but then he added, “I do not think he will make it through the night.” And then he said, “If he does make it through the night, he will probably have brain and organ damage…but there is nothing you can do. You should go home and rest.”

Linda was at her wit’s end, but she said she would be all right to drive home. She was asking God for consolation. As she started the car up, the song “Be Still My Soul” was playing. This was the answer she needed, and she was comforted.

I had been placed in an induced coma for the procedure and for several days after. The impella pump needed to remain until my heart could take over. By the fifth day, they believed it was time to see if my heart would sustain me.

Success! They were able to remove it and my heart performed as required, but I was still not responsive for two days. And then I remember my son and his wife singing hymns to me. I started directing with my hands. Hallelujah, there was a connection between my ears, brain, and hands. What a sign it was!
My mouth was dry as a bone in the desert. I would have done anything to wet my mouth, but the answer was “no.” I then began thinking—okay, gum lubricates your mouth, and you do not swallow it. So, I convinced my sweet, dedicated nurse to let me chew gum and promised not to swallow it. She finally agreed and I got some gum. But wait, here is the marvelous news. I had thought in my mind a plan of action to get my way and persuasively achieve the results desired. My brain was good. And so were all my organs. Praise the Lord! Once again, God my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ miraculously preserved my brain and all my organs (except my foot) such that they all are fully functional.

My foot was in severe pain. I could not move my toes or raise my foot up and down. After countless doctor visits I finally saw a neurologist who after reviewing the MRI said that my foot nerves had died due to insufficient blood flow.

I did not see this as a mistake or a curse, but simply that God was using this to put me in front of dozens of medical staff to give Him glory (Acts 9:15). Also, I believed that the Lord was still working on me to make me what I ought to be (Phil. 1:6). It was not my time to die—that will come in His time (Ps. 139:16).

The first time I saw my neurologist, nearly three months after this event, I could not move my toes, nor could I move my foot up and down. She could not give me any hope of it ever being restored from the type of damage to the nerves. When I saw her again three months later, I could wiggle my toes. She was excited and said that this was marvelous. After a year, my foot nerves were slowly reviving—I could wiggle my toes and move my ankle. When my neurologist saw this, she said, “That is miraculous. You are a miracle.” I say I have an awesome God. I started in a wheelchair, progressed to a walker, and then to hiking poles. After two years I am now walking without assistance.

That night at the gym, I did not suspect anything. Nonetheless, I was not afraid of dying. I have assurance from the Bible that God loved us (John 3:16), even though we are ungodly sinners (Rom. 5:6). He sent His Son to die for our sins. Having trusted Christ as my Savior, He has given me a passport to eternal life in heaven (Rom. 6:23). He died for us so that we might live with Him forever (Eph. 2:4-10). If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, I pray that you will today.