Forty minutes without a pulse or heartbeat. Given up as dead.
That is the experience of Ahwatukee resident Jerry Ervin – a father of three, husband to Allison Ervin and international speaker, leadership coach and trainer – after suddenly collapsing while going about his routine one day last month.
“I’m a healthy 52-year-old and yet, on June 16, I collapsed while riding a treadmill at the gym,” Ervin said. “I went 40 minutes without a pulse. When my wife arrived at the hospital at around the 38th minute, they were ready to pronounce me dead.”
Upon being notified of her husband’s collapse by the EOS gym, Allison Ervin rushed to Chandler Regional Medical Center to be at her husband’s side. The couple are anticipating their 25th wedding anniversary in December.
Her Bethel Chandler Church Pastor Mike Gowans prayed with her by phone the entire way to the hospital, while his wife, Pastor Julie Gowans, set the church’s prayer chain in motion.
Seeing her husband in the emergency room was an unsettling experience for Allison. And then, being led away to a quiet area where she was told to expect, at best, Jerry might awake with severe brain damage brought her additional angst.
It was while she was hearing these sobering words and attempting to comprehend what it meant for her and her family, another doctor emerged to proclaim they’d found a pulse.
That was the first of many miracles for Ervin after suffering a major heart attack.
“I remained on life support for a few days,” he recalled. “Some doctors informed my wife and family that the expected outcome didn’t look good. It was possible I’d be on life support for a long time or, even if I got off of life support, because I’d been 40 minutes without a pulse and oxygen to my brain, that my brain would be severely damaged and I’d be in a vegetable state.”
Faith heard the prognosis yet believed for a better outcome.
“My family, pastors and other friends listened to the doctors’ reports, but said God gave them a peace about believing that I was going to come out of this better than what they were suggesting,” she said.
“The doctors all did a great job and had to give my family the facts based on what they saw, but God superseded their projected statements.”
While the family waited bedside, friends and colleagues from around the world wrote to assure them they were praying for Jerry. His church, where he and Allison are leaders of the church’s Young Adult Ministry, continued their prayers.
It was time for yet another miracle – or several.
“It was the fifth day when my wife and mother were in the room with me and my mother asked me if I could move my toes, and I did,” Ervin said. “Then she asked me to squeeze her hand, and I did. This was the first sign of me being aware and responsive.
So they decided to take the tube out of my throat and take me off life support to see if I could breathe on my own. Amazingly, I was able to breathe without assistance, and later began talking to people that came to visit me.”
Allison, owner of an Ahwatukee hair salon, recalled the five days of sitting at her husband’s bedside were tumultuous.
“Throughout the five days there were a lot of ups and downs, but we had a big support system with family, friends and our church community. It was an emotional roller coaster listening to the doctors’ prognosis, but at the same time continuing to believe God for a good outcome,” she said.
“It was difficult at times to manage the family with all of the responsibilities, but I knew that I had to stay strong for Jerry and our family. I am just so thankful that Jerry beat the odds and it’s amazing how fast he’s healing and has recovered.”
Jerry concurs with her amazement.
“Everyone was amazed because within a week of this all happening, I was sitting up talking to people. I was able to eat and drink with no problem and my brain was perfectly normal. I was comprehending things and remembering activities that they were asking me about.”
Ervin, his wide engaging smile back in place, gives thanks to God and the many people who prayed for him through this unexpected and near-knock-out punch.
“With an army of believers praying for me around the world, God did a miracle. Within five days, I was talking, coherent and responding to doctors, family and friends,” he said at home.
“My brain was perfectly normal, and I was comprehending things, and remembering activities that they asked about.”
When he walked through the floors of the hospital, Ervin was surprised to be the focus of many other patients.
“I was able to walk on my own, and as I walked the floor of the hospital, everyone was calling me ‘The Miracle Man’, and were coming up to me and introducing themselves. It all didn’t make sense at first until family and friends started to come in and tell me what all had happened, he said.
“I didn’t understand that my story had spread all throughout the hospital and even doctors and nurses were calling me Miracle Man when they saw me. This made me even more emotional because God had touched the hearts of medical professionals and they knew that this was a miracle because there was no medical explanation as to why I was walking around, talking, eating, etc.”
When asked if he recalled any ‘out of body’ experiences, he recounted a night time vision that moved him to tears.
“About a week later after my heart attack, I was up late one night and I was thinking about all that I had heard from people and I was just crying thanking God for His love and grace. Then as I had my eyes closed, I saw for a brief moment a white silhouette figure and there was a gray-like mist all around him. I saw him from the back and he was walking slowly,” Ervin recalled.
“Then I noticed from the back that he was carrying me like the way a parent picks up their child that fell asleep on a couch and lifts them to carry them to bed. Of course, I started bawling my eyes out because I realized at that moment that Jesus had carried me through this situation and was there with me the whole time. That is why my body and mind came out of this on the side of being a miracle.”
Hannah and Elijah, both Desert Vista alumni, had both flown in to be at their father’s hospital bedside – she from London where she was enrolled in a Christian Fashion internship and he from Kona, Hawaii, cutting short a Bible School program one week short of his completion.
Ervin’s mother, Linda Butts, flew from Virginia to be with her son.
Only weeks later, Ervin is back at home with his wife and three children, Hannah, Elijah and Noah Ervin, a Desert Vista senior.
“I have no brain damage or any other major issues. They put a small stint in my heart. All of the doctors, nurses and medical staff are calling me “Miracle Man”. They absolutely can’t believe the amazing progress that I made in such a short time,” he said.
His progress, following the major heart attack and the 40 minutes without a pulse, continued to be miraculous.
“Although I’d made extraordinary progress and beat all of the medical odds, the only thing that was still a problem was that my kidneys were not functioning. So even though I’ve been out of the hospital since July 1st, I still have to go for dialysis three times per week. I believe now that my kidneys are starting to work,” he said optimistically.
Ervin says every day is a gift, and a true miracle.
“I am thankful that God wasn’t finished with me here on earth and used me to demonstrate his miracle working power,” he said, adding:
“Even all of the doctors and nurses acknowledged that this was a miracle because they did all that they could, but nothing that they did would have kept me from being on life support for an extended amount of time. For sure, nothing that they did could have prevented my brain from being severely damaged, except for a miracle.”
Ervin, who at 6’3” kept himself in great shape by working out regularly and maintaining an active schedule of speaking and ministry, knew it would take time to get back to his prior routine.
“Yes, this has been a big wake up call to the fact that life is precious. I always knew that none of us are promised tomorrow, but going through this really makes you reevaluate your life and what’s really important,” he said pensively.
“It also makes you appreciate the little things in life that we take for granted. Going through this I also have a great level of empathy for those that are going through health challenges.”
Ervin and his wife will continue their leadership in their church, as they are able, working with their church’s college age students.
Their community involvement in outreach programs for the needy – school backpack drives, Thanksgiving Food Box and Angel Tree Christmas drives, remain on their calendars.
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