by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
(May 27, 2008) The family of the West Virginia woman who awoke after having no brain wave activity for more than 17 hours is giving “Jesus Christ all the glory” for her miraculous recovery.
“It was a miracle from God,” said Tim Thomas, son of 59 year old Val Thomas who “died” after suffering two heart attacks on May 24.
“I give Jesus Christ all the glory because the doctors did their part, the nurses did their part, but the doctors don’t know what happened,” Thomas told WSAZ News. “But we know what happened. Jesus Christ brought her back.”
The family’s ordeal began at 1:30 a.m. on Saturday morning when Val called her son to say she was having chest pain and needed him to come over right away. By the time he arrived, paramedics were already there and his mother was lying face down on the floor.
“There was no color in her,” Thomas said. “She was grey and cold. I immediately started to pray for her. I knew there was no life in my mom at that time. I didn’t think she was going to make it, that she was going home with Jesus Christ.”
For a time, he seemed to be right. She was eventually rushed to Charleston Area Medical Center Memorial Hospital where she “died” several times.
“Memorial ran EEGs [electroencephalography] but didn’t find any brain wave activity,” Thomas said. “She flatlined three times and they shocked her four times. The doctors said if it happened again she was wouldn’t come back at full state – maybe 20 percent at best.”
A respiratory machine kept her breathing, but rigor mortis soon began to set in.
“Her skin had already started to harden and her fingers curled,” Thomas said. “Death had set in.”
The hospital fought valiantly to save her, however. They hooked her up to a special machine that induces hypothermia, a treatment that involves cooling the body temperature for up to 24 hours before warming a patient up again. But even after this procedure, her heart stopped again.
At this point, she had no neurological function and had been without brain wave activity for more than 17 hours. But she remained on a ventilator while organ donation was being discussed by the family.
“At that time I was praying to God for a confirmation of the decision I was about to make and I told Him I wouldn’t make that decision without a confirmation so I could have peace with what I was doing,” Thomas said. “We’re a devout Christian family. My pastor and my family had been praying and praying all day long, for 17 hours. We were reading scriptures and praying that God would perform a miracle.”
The heart wrenching decision was finally made to take to his mother off life support. “I had peace with it,” Thomas said. “We had all said our goodbyes, and started making funeral arrangements.”
That’s when something miraculous happened. “When they were taking her off of life support, mom’s arm moved, twitched,” Thomas said. “There were two nurses in the room and they thought it was just nerves because she had no heart rate, no brain waves for 17 hours. Then my mom spoke and said, ‘Where’s my son?’”
Val Thomas was alive! And even more miraculous, she suffered no permanent damage from the ordeal. Doctors are so baffled she has been transferred to the Cleveland Clinic to be checked out by specialists.
Like her son, Val believes the Lord granted them a miracle and she wants the whole world to know it.
“I know God has something in store for me, another purpose. I don’t know what it is but I’m sure he’ll tell me,” she told local news media.
“God works in mysterious ways,” her son said. “And I think that anybody who needs hope, who needs a miracle, whose loved one is fighting cancer, there is hope. You just have to pray.”
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Cases such as Val Thomas raise important questions about end-of-life issues. In “End of Life Issues: What You Don’t Know Can Kill You” our panel of experts discusses what you need to know to protect yourself and your family during the last moments of life.