A Testimony of Life
On Wednesday night, March 11, 2015, my father's life was changed forever. This is a retelling of the events of that night along with the events of the next seven days and how God worked through them to share His glory. However, in order to fully appreciate these events, we must travel back through time first to take a look at my Dad's life before that week...
My Dad was born on January 11, 1966 and was eventually adopted into the home of John and Nettie Petty and thus named John David himself. My father and I are the only ones in our immediate family with both our first and middle names being biblical names, his referring to John the Apostle and John the Baptist as well as David the King of Israel (of David and Goliath fame). At the age of 15, JD began to smoke. For 34 years, my Dad smoked one pack of cigarettes a day, and although he only smoked about half a cigarette each time he lit one up, each puff would add up to something deadlier than he could have ever imagined. As time went on in my Dad's life the Lord called him, and he answered. I couldn't tell you when my Dad became a believer, but I can tell you that I was NOT born into a Christian home, yet by kindergarten I was already aware of Jesus Christ.
Throughout the years, my Dad continued to grow in his relationship with the Lord through Scripture, prayer, church, fellowship, Bible commentaries, and doctrinal books that taught on the Word. These are things he still enjoys today. However, in the past year, God has been telling my Dad something super important, something that is pivotal for him to understand.
- He must stop smoking. -
For those not convinced that smoking can and will kill you, let this story be a testimony to the fact that my father should absolutely, 100%, be DEAD because what happened to him. Only by the power of prayer and God's grace is he alive today. Please watch this video to understand not only how dangerous smoking is on a physical and medical level, but also how dangerous it is on a spiritual/supernatural level as I believe that is also a huge part in it:
Now, I'm sure my father knew this was the case, but in pride and determination to have his way he continued to rebel, he continued smoking. We all do this on some level with whatever sin or trait we hold onto, but eventually it's all gotta go. Many people were led by the Spirit to tell him that smoking was not good for him. My Mother, his friend Steve, his other friend Gerald, my friend Tim, his Doctor Beeh (this one the day before the event), myself, and many others all pleaded with him to end his terrible habit, but he refused to give it up. This brings us to Wednesday.
Wednesday - March 11
"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit; out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." - Psalm 40:1-2
I had gotten home Friday, March 6th from school in Bozeman, MT for my week of Spring Break with my family and I couldn't have been happier. Seeing old friends, planning a barbecue at my house for the next Friday, hanging out with my family, it was great. That day began like any other day of break. My sisters went to school, Wyatt slept in, I had gone to my old high school Wheaton Academy to help out my friend Miriam Hess with lunch just as I had in high school, and my parents ran around as they always did. Later that day, my friend Tim Koch came over after I had abducted him at his home and we were planning on just hanging out, a pretty chilled night. My sister Madelynn was busy doing homework and my brother Wyatt was out rock climbing. That night my Mom had made one of my favorite meals, tilapia with saffron, and we ate as a family (minus Wyatt). Afterwards, my Mom's friend Bobbie Ildefonso arrived to pick my Mom up to head to their weekly Bible study. A while later, Tim, Madelynn, and I had migrated upstairs when my Dad announced that he was going to head out to pick my other sister Paige up from her voice lessons. This was normal.
After about ten/fifteen minutes, my brother came home and not long after that, the home phone got a call from my Dad's cell phone. Now, my Dad changes cell phone numbers every now and then so we often forget what his number is (I'm still stuck on his previous one), so we didn't answer the call. Not a minute later, the home phone rang again with someone calling from the home number of our family friend Grace Bardsley, who's house Paige was at for her voice lesson with Grace's daughter Mary. Wyatt answered the phone and got us in the car, explaining on the way that something had happened to Dad (all the while I'm trying to get a hold of our Mom who was at her Bible study). While in the car, I got a call from my Dad's cell phone (which I answered this time because I had his number in my phone already) and on the other end of the line was my 14 year old sister Paige, frantic because of what she just witnessed. In the middle of calming her down, I got a call from my Mom who had no idea what was happening at all.
She had been called by my Dad's phone, my phone, and texted by others, but she was in the middle of Bible study so she had no idea what was going on. I had told her what was happening and to meet us at the ER at Delnor Hospital in Geneva, IL (as we assumed that's where they would take our Dad). So, after getting off of the phone with me, my Mom went back into her study and told her friend Bobbie that they needed to leave. However, I feel the need to note that this week's Bible study was not the same as their normal study and instead it was a panel about healing as opposed to their regularly scheduled program, so my Mom and Bobbie were on fire from the moment they left their group (who immediately started to pray for my father). Looking back on that night, my mother remembers hearing ambulance sirens while at her study, but didn't even put two and two together until later.
When the four of us arrived at Grace's house, the ambulance was just leaving. I jumped out of the car as it departed and ran inside to find Paige, who was still in shock. Grace and Mary had shown her so much support and love, I don't know if she would have been able to make it through those first ten/twenty minutes without them. Wyatt had made the mistake of parking the car as he, Madelynn, and Tim were running towards the house. I yelled at Wyatt to get back in the Jeep and follow the ambulance and as he went, Paige, Madelynn, Tim, and I piled into my Dad's truck to dash over to the hospital, with Grace and Mary not far behind.
On the way there, I learned what had actually transpired earlier that night as I made Paige recount the events. My Dad arrived at Grace's house just a little bit before Paige's lesson was over. We don't know if he had felt any pain, tingling, or dizziness before it happened, but by the time Paige got into the car (as she also ended her lesson early), he was already mid-event. At first she didn't think anything of it. Our Dad yawns often, and he seemed to be doing that, and sometimes to play with us he taps us with his hands, and he did that, but real quickly she realized that this was all wrong. Paige took our Dad's phone and immediately called 911, running back inside to Grace's. She didn't know how to describe what was happening and handed the phone over to Grace who got them there as soon as possible. She saved our Dad's life. In the meantime, the father of the girl who's lesson was right after Paige was a doctor and rapidly jumped in to help. From what I could gather, he laid JD flat in the grass after getting him out of his truck.
After that, the paramedics came. Now, I don't know what transpired in between that time and when they arrived at the ER, all I personally saw was the ambulance leave when I arrived and Paige couldn't remember much of it at all, but at some point in between them arriving at Grace's house and arriving at the ER, my father died.
But this is not how it ends. They did revive him. He was brought back to life and rushed somewhere where he could be treated immediately and properly. This brings us back to the story...
As Wyatt is following the ambulance, we are about five to seven minutes behind. Driving my Dad's truck, I took every shortcut and turn I possibly could in order to get to Delnor in the next 30 seconds. I NEEDED us to be there, all the while trying to calm my sister down, trying to pray, and remembering the song by the band Demon Hunter called "I Am a Stone" in order to keep myself confident and focused. When we arrived at the hospital (literally right as we saw Wyatt get inside the ER), we met our grandfather who had arrived with our grandma and who greeted us at the door. We bolted in to find that my Mom and Bobbie were already there and reading Bible verses on healing, in constant prayer. My Mom continued to comfort Paige who still wasn't quite sure what to do with herself. At this point, we were not sure if our Dad had a heart attack or a stroke, and we were praying for a heart attack because with a stroke it's your brain that is damaged the most where with a heart attack it's, obviously, your heart.
As time went on, people continued to pile into the ER to support us. Friends, family, and members of the church came to be there for us during this time with others still at home getting on their knees in prayer. With about thirty people in the ER lobby, we formed a circle, held hands, and began to pray for my Dad. Eventually, my family went in the back to talk to Dr. Towne, our father's surgeon. He had told us that not only had our Dad suffered cardiac arrest, but that he had been dead for almost ten whole minutes. I would find out later that he had not only flat lined before getting to the ER, but in the ER as well. He told us that our Dad had about 98% of built up plaque blocking one of the main arteries to his heart, which triggered the event, causing the blood-flow to stop. When Wyatt asked him how that could have happened he told us that smoking was the cause, something we had figured at this point. Luckily, JD had a heart attack and not a stroke, but that didn't mean that he was anywhere near out of the woods yet; in fact, they were still worried about possible brain damage.
As we finished up with the doctor, we saw my Dad get moved from the catherization lab to the Intensive Care Unit. We initially planned to follow my Dad up to ICU so we could see him, but we changed our minds so that we could update those who showed up to support us and our Dad.
Outside of myself, my Mom, my siblings, grandparents, and uncle, this is a list of those who cared enough to show their support by coming to the ER that Wednesday night (if your name is spelled wrong, I am sorry, take it up with my mother, this is her mental list):
Mary Hunt LeCuyer
Sybil and Hannah Bickford
Deb and Tony McGhee
Laura Van Der Snick
Pastor Joe and Carri Poweziak
If I missed anyone I apologize and please let me know immediately so I can put your name(s) up, because we want to thank you all especially for showing up and being there for our family. We love you all and thank you for your constant support.
My family, along with Bobbie, Tim, Dawn, some others, stayed for a large portion of the night at the ICU (his room was 217), I know for a fact that my Mom, Tim, and I were there until about 3:30 AM because we didn't get to bed until around 4. It was a very long night, but through all of it, even though it didn't look good, even though my Dad could have easily stayed dead, my Mom and I knew that everything was going to be alright and were confident that the Lord's will would be done.
Thursday - March 12th
"Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteousness; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on a ten-string lyre. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, shout for joy." - Psalm 33:1-3
The next morning, my Mom woke up early after three hours of sleep and left for the hospital. She neglected to wake me up to go with her, telling my friend Tim (who stayed with us that night) that I needed my sleep for today. While this wasn't un-true, I woke up slightly irritated. After showering and eating a bagel for breakfast (Tim's mom brought us Panara at the house that morning), we headed out for the hospital. By the time we had walked into the hospital, I got a call from Dawn Clemens who asked me to help her bring in Panara for the day. So Tim and I walked right back outside to grab the extra food and we all brought it up to the waiting room in the ICU where we had set up camp. I can't remember exactly who was all there when we arrived. My sisters, grandparents, and Mom for sure, who else I don't remember.
Our aunt and uncle Patti and Brian Petty (my Dad's brother), along with our two cousins, did arrive that night to be here and support our Dad and our family, which was awesome and when my Dad finally woke up it was good for him.
What we found out the night before was that they had put my Dad in an induced coma in order for his brain to take a rest while he was healing so he wouldn't go into shock or risk injuring himself. At this point they were still worried that he would have some sort of brain damage, thus they had him under a cooling blanket which lowered his body temperature (kinda like Captain America) in order for his body to solely concentration on healing. He was not breathing on his own until later that evening; they were going to be keeping him frozen for about 24 hours since after he got out of the ER before they were going to warm him up and wake him up.
Sometime past midnight that night, they began the process to "de-thaw" my Dad as the 24 hours since his time in the ER was up. I remember leaving that night and his hand squeezing mine, I don't know for sure if he was responding to me or not but I would like to believe that was the case.
Friday - March 13th
"The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you." - Psalm 9:9-10
The next morning, we were told that they were going to wake our Dad up around 2 PM and we were excited. His de-thawing process was going smoothly and he was doing much better than the day before. Once they woke him up, they had to lay him flat and keep him still for about eight hours to make sure his body was functioning the way it was supposed to.
Later that afternoon, my sisters, brother, mother, and I went to go see him. It took them about an hour to bring him out of his coma and get him ready for us to see. When we did it was a miracle! He was able to understand what we were saying and nod in response. At this point his vitals were really good and he was off some sort of medication already, I forget which it is but I believe it was some sort of heart medication. They said over-all his heart was in good condition considering. By the time we left they were in the process of removing another tube that he was connected to, which was awesome news as they had already removed a few by this point!
Saturday - March 14th
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let your hearts not be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Make a joyful shout unto the LORD, all you lands! serve the Lord with gladness..." - John 14:27
By 9 AM the next morning when I arrived, my Dad was awake and talking. He was breathing on his own, barely connected to any machines, and sitting in a chair that was not the bed he had been lying still in for over two days. It was the third day and he was, mostly, back to normal.
They had given my Dad a fair amount of morphine that morning and he was still recovering from all the medications they had him on in the past few days, not to mention the heart attack and surgery itself, so throughout the day he would continue to forget people who came to see him, people he talked to, and what had happened to him. I couldn't tell you how many times we had to tell him that he had a massive heart attack that day! Eventually, my uncle and his brother, Brian, wrote a note on a piece of paper that we would just hand to him each time and tell him what happened. To this day he doesn't remember anything that happened on this Saturday (and luckily that Wednesday either).
It was interesting and at times pretty funny to see how he would react each time we told him his situation. Sometimes he would laugh and refuse to believe it, thinking we were pulling a prank, other-times he would break down and cry, apologizing profusely for putting us through that (this one occurred whenever Paige was in the room as she was with him when it happened). Many of his friends came to see him like Gerald and Cory and others who he would continue to forget came, and then was glad when we told him they did. He talked to his friends Steve and Russ that day as well, but later in the afternoon had no recollection of it.
When Wyatt, my uncle Jon, and I were about to go out to dinner that night, we thought it would be funny to go and ask our Dad for gas money. By then he just laughed saying he had no money on him (or pants) and then we had to explain once again what had happened to him days earlier.
One of the things that he just couldn't wrap his mind around was the idea that he had been in the hospital for days. It was a foreign concept to him that made him feel uneasy, which is totally understandable.
That morning my Mom was sent Hosea 6:1-2 by her friend Bobbie, which read: "Come, let us return to the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight." This verse is especially powerful in this situation as my Dad was awakened on the night of the second day, yet it wasn't until the third day when he was able to rise out of bed and function. The Lord was working through this situation the whole time and He was making sure we knew it.
Oh and we had a massive party in the ICU waiting room that night... Sorry Dad, you missed out.
Sunday - March 15th
"Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves, we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations." - Psalm 100:3-5
Sunday morning we were told that my Dad was being transferred from the ICU to a normal room on the floor above. The day before he was off of his medications and anti-biotic, which was awesome, but the highlight of the day this time was getting him into a normal room (308). Apparently he had been walking the halls of the ICU that morning before moving to his room as well. All he wanted to do was go home, and no one could blame him, but he needed to be observed for a while longer.
Nothing huge happened that day, friends and family came to visit him, we hung out with him most of the day, watched Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises with his friend Gerald and I staying a few extra hours to watch The Dark Knight, and then just let him rest.
Monday - March 16th
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I got up bright and early Monday morning to be at the hospital as I was to spend the whole day with my Dad. The girls had to go back to school so they didn't fall too far behind, Wyatt went back to his, and Mom had errands to run that morning before she showed up. So luckily for me, when I walked into his room my Dad was already awake and watching a Supernatural marathon on TNT! We watched that for a few hours until Mom showed up and others followed soon after.
He was doing very well that day, in fact, with the help of a nurse and a walker, he was getting around just fine! He will have to watch what he eats for probably the rest of his life to some extent and won't be able to drive for about a month, but he was doing extremely well for someone who had been dead close to a week earlier!
Our family friend Russ Dizdar is planning on making my Dad a shirt that says "I've been Lazarized!"
That night we spent as a family in the hospital, along with the Hanson family who came by as well. I think my Dad was just really happy we were all there just as we were just happy that he was.
Tuesday - March 17th - to NOW
"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven." - Ecclesiastes 3:1
That Tuesday was a great day, because that day the lovely Kathy Cunningham came by to see my Dad after being in constant prayer all week and he was finally able to come home! He was so glad to be getting out of the hospital, and we were right there with him. In fact, my Dad even came to see my sisters play in their middle school volleyball game that afternoon, and boy were they excited to see him there!
As I said before, there were some rules he had to follow. He's been prescribed a few medications that he has to remember to drink, he can't be left alone, he can only go up and down stairs once a day, no driving, and he has to remember to rest.
After he first work up and was able to speak we found out very quickly that my father is a terrible patient. He just doesn't listen and wants everything to go back to normal! But after a few days of being home, and after I had left that Thursday morning to come back here to Montana, he finally began to crash. Every time I've talked to him on the phone since then he has been very tired, which is completely okay! With how well he's recovered when he should have been DEAD, I think we can all understand that him being tired and resting is normal for this sort of thing, even if there's really no normal about it at all!
I actually talked to my family for a little bit today (Sunday - March 29th) and after listening him quote Gary Busey's Amazon Fire TV Stick commercials and yell at Duke during the NCAA game, like my Mom said, "He's back!", and we all couldn't be happier about it!
But he's not completely back... Not exactly, and that's a good thing! My Dad hasn't had a cigarette since the day of the heart attack, he's quit, he's done with it! Praise God! On top of that, there are other lifestyle choices he's going to have to learn to make but like everything that'll come with time...
" I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6
I want something to be made clear about this whole event, my Dad should be dead. I know I've said it a few times but I want it to sink in. My Father, JD Petty, died for close to ten whole minutes. His heart had stopped. He had no pulse. He was not breathing. He. Had. Died.
But the truth of the matter is, he didn't stay dead. He was raised from the dead. Some would call it a "miracle of modern medicine", and yeah, on some level that's true, but I would just call it a MIRACLE. Plain and simple. God's hand was on this entire situation. From the doctor being at the scene when the heart attack happened to the fire department being only 2-3 minutes away, from the best surgeon in the area being on call that night, from my Dad's car being parked and not on the road, from Dr. Samuel who is also a believer, to my Dad being awake on the third day! Make no mistake, this entire event is a testimony of LIFE brought about by Jesus Christ Himself through my Father that will be used to share the love of the Gospel with those who hear it! Although for my Dad it was meant as a wake-up call, for those of us who were there and in prayer it's a testimony to the power of prayer and that our relationship with the Lord isn't something to be laughed about it's something to be thankful for! Thankful that He hears our cries, thankful that He is GOOD, thankful that He is merciful, and thankful that He does love us!
Here's the God's honest truth people, we are all sinners, and because of that we all deserve to go to Hell, to suffer eternal damnation apart from God, that is our fate once we die! Yet, in His goodness, in His grace and mercy, God came down to Earth as a man, in the form of Jesus Christ, and He flipped the world upside-down. Jesus came to this world to save us from sin, and by sacrificing Himself on a cross, He took on our curse, our sin, and allowed the wrath of God Himself to be thrust upon Him as He died for the world. But, after three days, He returned from the grave victorious, conquering death! And when He ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within His church, so that we would never be alone, even when we're standing alone. This is the good news of the Gospel, this is the HOPE we as believers look towards for salvation, peace, and truth.
When Jesus said that He was the ONLY way to God, to Heaven, He was telling the truth. If we don't choose to believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, if we don't turn from our wickedness and move to follow Him, if we don't renounce this world and live for His glory, if we don't put our faith and trust in Jesus alone we will suffer that same wrath that He suffered on the cross, but in Hell, away from God's mercy, for eternity.
Had my Father died that night and stayed dead, I would have been crushed emotionally, but in my mind, in my soul, in my spirit, I would have known that he would have been with the Lord in Heaven and that he would have been free from sin, and pain, and death, waiting for us to join him there. I would have had that hope and faith and assurance that I would have seen him again and that it would have been alright. What about you? I'm not asking you if you are assured that your parents would have been okay, I'm asking if you know you would be in Heaven with the Lord had it been you who died that night? If not, I pray that this Testimony of Life will open your eyes to what truly matters in life, I pray that this will challenge your heart and your spirit. And for those who are sure of their salvation, I pray that this would be an encouragement to you! That you would know that the Lord still does work miracles today and that He still does care about each of us and will never forsake us.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28