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Back from the Brink of Death

On November 7, 2000, Jeff Bowman was having a bowl of ice cream while he and his wife Verna watched the Presidential election returns.

“We were talking back and forth the about the election and I head him say, ‘I’m dying.’ And I thought he was teasing, so I just said, ‘Jeff, we all are,’” Verna recalls. “And I looked over at him and the bowl had fallen onto the floor, and his eyes went into a blank stare. So I quickly ran to him and called his name and he was not breathing. I ran to the kitchen to call 911. Basically, I kind of shouted into the phone, ‘I think my husband is dying!’’’ 
Verna performed CPR on Jeff until paramedics arrived. They rushed Jeff to a local hospital, where he was put on life support. Their children joined her and they anxiously waited for a prognosis.

“It took forever until the doctor came out to tell us that they didn’t think he would live through the night,” Verna says. “It was easy to lose hope then.”
Jeff had suffered a massive coronary. To everyone’s surprise, he did make it through the night.

Verna says, “I tried to look past all of what I was seeing: all the machines and the sounds and the breathing tubes. I just tried to see him well and standing.”
Over the next several days, over 100 friends, family, and church members visited and prayed for Jeff, but his condition was not improving. On the fourth day, a social worker pulled Verna aside.

“She explained to me that things were not getting any better, and that we were going to have to be kind, and discontinue the life support,” Verna recalls. “Finally, I asked everyone to just go home, so that I could go back into the cubicle with him and just remain there with him. The liberating peace of that is when you do surrender that this is what’s going to happen. Then I just wanted to be with him to say goodbye. I had that moment to sit with him and say those things to him.”
The hospital staff also told her there was little brain activity and that if Jeff survived, he would likely be in a vegetative state. But something told Verna not to pull the plug.

“I finally just said that I knew what God could do in seven days. I want to wait.”
Over the next three days, the staff made several attempts to take Jeff off the respirator, but each one failed.

“When they continually tried to wean him of the life support system but couldn’t, it was easy to lose hope again,” she says.
The next day, Verna and their son Tommy were in his room praying, when they saw a sign of life.

Verna recalls, “Tommy said, ‘It’s OK to go home, dad. I’ll take care of mom,’ and a tear came down Jeff’s cheek and I said to my daughter, ‘How can they say he is brain dead if his heart still feels? How could he cry?’”
Her family and friends continued their prayer vigil, and a week passed.

“I remember thinking, ‘Father this is the seventh morning. This is the seventh day and I wonder how this seventh day will end. And I’m going to believe. I’m just going to continue to believe, no matter how the day goes.”
That morning, a nurse came in to check on Jeff.

“She was just talking to him like he was awake, and she was humming and talking,” Verna says. “Finally she said, ‘Who’s your favorite team?’ And I heard Jeff’s voice slur ‘Pittsburgh Steelers.’ He said it slowly but he said it plainly. It was just so amazing! She ran to the nurses’ station, and all the nurses were running and then they were calling the doctors and everybody started running down the hall to that cubicle. It was an amazing sight. I think I just reacted to the moment. I remember the emotions just flooding over me.”
Jeff says, “My first thought was, ‘Where am I and why am I dressed like this?’ I was in a hospital bed with machines all around me and I hadn’t a clue as to what happened. I had no idea why I was there. And as I started to come back and people started to talk to me, I began to realize that this thing was really serious.”
Jeff underwent therapy for several weeks, and made a full recovery.  The event showed both of them an aspect of God they had never experienced.

“The Lord just has shown us the power and majesty of an almighty God that can do things that we cannot,” Verna says.  
And Jeff will never be the same.

“Every morning before I’m out of bed, I bless the Lord for what He has given me,” he says. “It’s impossible to go through life after this, and not feel that you know Jesus on a more personal level. Every day, I see him. I see him in the raindrops, I see him in the trees, and I hear him in the birds. And it’s not enough just to know Jesus, but I love Him and I know that He loves me. I want to know Him as I do now. I want to know Him as my Savior, as my friend, as my buddy. He’s my healer.”

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