It’s hard to say which was in worse shape: the run-down century-old church or the cancer-ridden 56-year-old man perched on its crumbling steps. For years, Greg Thomas would sit on those very steps and pray when he walked his dogs along the country lanes in rural Minnesota.
‘I was sitting at the church one evening, pouring my heart out to God,’ Greg says. ‘I kept looking at the building and the shape it was in. I said, ‘Before I leave this earth, Lord, I’d like to do something for you.’’
Incredibly, as Greg scraped paint and replaced boards, he felt himself growing stronger every day. The more he worked on the church, the better he felt—he didn’t even need the strong prescription pain meds his doctor had prescribed. ‘My oncologist was blown away,’ Greg says. ‘She said, ‘Whatever you’re doing, keep on doing it.’’
And the church? After five years of Greg’s labor and love, it has been restored to its former glory too. Greg finished his main project this past summer, but he will probably always be involved in maintaining its beauty (he still wants to replace some windows, for example). Greg held his third- annual open house there near Christmas, inviting the entire community. ‘While I was restoring the church,’ Greg says, ‘God was restoring me.’
The Role of a Lifetime
The silent killer. That’s what doctors call an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
‘I stepped quickly back, confused,’ Ryan says. ‘I tried to get Mr. Malloy to break character and tell me that he knew he had an aneurysm. But he wouldn’t.’
Perhaps no one is more aware of this lifesaving good fortune than Jim’s wife, Louise. ‘Soon after Jim’s surgery, I met two women whose husbands bled out and died from an AAA,’ she says. ‘We are so grateful to Ryan.’
Battling a Deadly Brain-Eating Amoeba
Fight like a girl. That’s what 12-year-old Kali Hardig’s parents told her on Friday, July 19, 2013.
There was nothing else to say. It was impossible to believe that just the day before her crushing headache and relentless nausea started, Kali and two pals had been giddily playing king of the hill at a water park near Benton, Arkansas.
Still, doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital jumped into action, pumping Kali’s body full of antifungals and antibiotics as well as a rare, unapproved German drug they got from the CDC; lowering her body’s temperature to 93 degrees and putting her in a medically induced coma in an attempt to reduce brain swelling (this is what it’s like to be in a coma);
She Was ‘Dead’ for 45 Minutes
They literally ran her back to the operating room.
Forty-year-old Ruby Graupera-Cassimiro had just had a completely normal C-section, giving birth to a beautiful baby girl on September 23 (these are the myths of having a C-section all women should know). But when her medical team moved her to the recovery room, she fell unconscious. Suddenly, Ruby—now a mother of two—was in full cardiac arrest.
After about two hours, her doctors knew there was no hope. They brought her extended family into the room to say goodbye. After Ruby’s family returned to the waiting room, where they, along with a few nurses, frantically prayed on their knees for a different outcome, the doctors stopped pumping her chest. They were ready to call her time of death.
It turned out that some amniotic fluid had leaked into the uterus and traveled through Ruby’s bloodstream and to her heart. Called an amniotic fluid embolism, it causes an air block in the heart and prevents blood from flowing. ‘These embolisms are rare, and we don’t know a lot about them,’ Dr. Knurr says. ‘Usually the patient passes away or has significant brain damage.’ (Her doctors don’t know what happened to the amniotic debris; they assume it dissolved on its own.)
‘Someone else was running the show that day; there’s no doubt in my mind,’ Ruby says today. ‘I don’t know why God chose me, but I know he gave me this life again for a reason.’
The Heart That Healed Itself
He had been throwing up for four days. But clearly, this was not a mere stomach bug.
On August 17, 2012, 23-year-old Michael Crowe ‘froze up’—eyes open and staring into space—on the couch. He quickly snapped to, but when it happened again a few minutes later, his mother rushed him to the local emergency room.
There they learned that Michael was in real trouble. His heart was pumping out blood at just 25 percent, an alarmingly low rate. By the time he was transferred to Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha an hour later, it was down to 10 percent.
For 17 days they waited, while Michael’s condition continued to worsen. His heart stopped twice—once for an entire day (being hooked up to the ECMO machine prevented him from dying). Doctors had to fend off blood clots and excess bleeding.
Many patients with Michael’s condition die, or get a heart transplant, or survive but have permanent heart tissue damage. But today, as Michael works through his third year of pharmacy school, his heart is in perfect shape. ‘I’m so grateful that I got a second chance at life,’ he says.