One More Chance

One More Chance

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

One More Chance

Heaven’s the perfection of all that can be said or thought—
riches, delight, harmony, health, beauty;
and all these not subject to the waste of time, but in their height eternal.

~James Shirley

One night in April 1997, my husband Andrew was having a routine evening at work. It was dark and the day’s warmth had given way to the coolness of a spring evening. Andy was the supervisor that night for the local emergency medical services that provide advanced life support to most of our county. He was hoping for a quiet end to his shift when a call came over his radio that there was an unconscious person at the local Kmart. He turned his truck in the direction of the strip mall and hit the lights. He would provided back-up and support to the team of paramedics and EMTs that responded ahead of him.

When Andy arrived, a middle-aged man was sitting in the shoe department of Kmart acting somewhat combative and confused. The man talked with the ambulance crew, then became unresponsive, and then began responding again. Within a few minutes however, he was unconscious and on the floor. When the paramedics placed the heart monitor on the man’s chest, they saw on the display what they call a fatal heart rhythm, ventricular tachycardia or V-Tach. His heart was beating incredibly fast and not effectively pumping blood to his vital organs. In this state, he wouldn’t be able to survive long.

My husband and the team began their work. They quickly administered the prescribed medications and contacted the emergency department physician to give them orders. Soon, however, it was obvious that the medications had failed to work and the man’s condition worsened. Their next step was to defibrillate (or shock) him with an electric current to attempt to get his heart back into a healthy rhythm. By all accounts, this man was clinically dead, or would be soon.

After an initial electric shock, the man came around but then deteriorated and again lost consciousness. His heart returned to that awful rhythm. After another electrical shock, he was brought back to consciousness. But instead of calm and compliant behavior, he was confused and belligerent and was obviously angry with them because, he said, they had “brought him back.”

The man was transported to the Emergency Department at the hospital close by and Andy came home from his shift. He told me how interesting the call had been. He was perplexed that the man was angry with them for saving him, while most people are grateful beyond words.

After that, we didn’t think much more of the day, it was just another day at work for Andy. That is, until about a month later when a letter arrived at the emergency department, addressed to the ER staff and ambulance crew. The letter was from the man who they’d rescued in the shoe department of Kmart.

In the letter, he thanked everyone for their love and understanding toward him when he needed them. He said that he had since undergone by-pass surgery, and had a device implanted in his heart that would keep the rhythm normal and he was growing stronger every day.

He also apologized for getting angry with the crew when they revived him. The rest of the letter confirmed to Andy why he does what he does:

It read:

...I’ll never be fully able to thank you for what you’ve done for me but will try by moving forward with the rest of my life, making it as vibrant and positive as an example to others who may feel it’s okay to ignore their health the way I did.

Then he shared:

I went to Heaven... at least twice! It was a glorious experience and I still revel in the sense of peace and serenity I experienced in those few, brief moments. I now fully understand and accept that it wasn’t my time to go to this glorious place. I know enough now not to fear death, but also enough to love and respect life and to seek the plans I know God still has for me here on earth. For the rest of my life, I have the pleasure of living now with more than a mere belief in my Creator and the place He has waiting for us all, but rather with the fact that these things are all very real and are meant for all who chose to follow Him.

That truth set his life on a course that will change not only him, but all of us.

~Audrey Gilger

Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul 2

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