Why Me? A Pastor’s Inspiring Testimony
By Bill Barkman
The date was November 18, 2020. I was coming home from a nearby city. My wife Glynda was home, grading papers for her junior college classes. Thoughts of stopping by the grocery store or stopping at the office to tidy up loose ends flowed through my mind, but a persistent voice kept saying, “You don’t have to stop. You can go home.” For a person who trends toward work-addiction, that’s not a voice to which I often hear or listen; but I listened that night. I’m thankful I did.
Arriving home that evening I leaned over the sofa and kissed Glynda on her forehead as she graded some amazingly poor papers. I told her to plan on dinner out in one hour. As she graded more offerings, I sat down in the next room to balance our accounts. All was good with the world and we were having an impromptu dinner date.
Ten minutes later, Glynda called my name in a voice that made me think an unwanted pest had gotten into the house. Going into the family room to do battle with a mouse or spider, I found her in full cardiac arrest, gasping and unresponsive.
Within thirty seconds of her cardiac event, 9-1-1 was on the phone and I was doing CPR. EMS arrived three-and-a-half minutes later and took over. Intubated and receiving compressions, the medics couldn’t find a pulse.
As they prepared to cease life-saving measures, they sensed a blip of a heartbeat, and continued care. Another thirty minutes with no response, and they once again prepared to let her go. Again, another blip of a heartbeat kept them going.
All I could pray, as Glynda lay on the floor with a crowd of EMS personnel working on her and around her, was, “Lord, I don’t know what’s coming. Whatever is ahead, glorify yourself in Glynda and the outcome. And, Lord, give me the strength I will need for what lies ahead.”
After another twelve minutes, one medic thought she detected a heartbeat, though the other didn’t think it was. But they loaded her in the ambulance and started off for our regional hospital, twenty-two miles away.
At the emergency room, there wasn’t much hope. There was no neurological response, no pain response and, when MD came out to talk with me, it was to say be prepared to make a tough decision. In her emergency room, I looked into lifeless eyes. Our oldest son called in and we spoke with the attending physician as he described a worst-case scenario.
We decided to give Glynda an opportunity to survive before letting her go. She went to ICU and received a CT scan, EEG, and EKG. Her heart, which stopped due to an arrythmia, was only pumping 30 percent into the upper chamber, when it should have been a normal 70 percent. The scans were inconclusive, but brain damage doesn’t always show up on the first scan. We now, however, had a benchmark. Our two sons came into town the next day, but visitors were not allowed due to the pandemic and a hospital full of COVID-19 patients.
The next night at 12:30 AM, Glynda’s ICU nurse called to say she had an irregular heartbeat and they had been unable to get in rhythm, and that we may want to come in to ICU. “What are you trying to say? Is this an end-of-life event?” The nurse went on to explain that it was a precursor to death. We went to ICU and, because they thought Glynda would die, they let me spend mornings and evenings with her despite restrictions.
After a week of mixed news, the cardiologist performed a heart-catherization and found nothing. All he could say then and today is, “We can’t tell you why what happened, happened.” Her heart returned to pumping a normal volume of blood. Her neurologist redid her scans and they were the same as before—inconclusive. So, she said, “It’s time to wake the girl up!”
They tried, but every time they attempted to wean her off the ventilator and remove the breathing tube, she crashed. After several attempts, the safe course of action was to perform a tracheostomy and continue her on a ventilator. The amazing grace of God was that Glynda—by this time—recognized me, even though her other responses were very dulled.
After six weeks in ICU, Glynda was relocated to a long-term acute care hospital in a nearby major city. They were successful at weaning her off the ventilator and removed the tracheostomy. From their acute-care ICU, she was moved to their rehabilitation wing.
After another six weeks in the LTAC hospital, she came home. She was suffering brain trauma from the extended lack of oxygen. She wasn’t 100 percent, and won’t be for a while, but she’s 90 percent there. The miracle is that she can take care of most of her needs and is improving with various therapies.
Her doctors, nurses and therapists have been amazed and said things like:
- “In my ‘decades’ of emergency medical care, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
- “We cannot tell you why this happened or how she survived and has thrived.”
- “No one we’ve worked with who has this level hypoxic/anoxic brain trauma has ever regained a high level of function with the hope of improvement.”
- “This is a miracle (this is miraculous). A child might go with ten minutes of oxygen deprivation and survive, but a person age sixty-five surviving eighty-two minutes is unheard of.”
- “I’ve been an ICU MD for over thirty years, and never seen a husband or wife handle a crisis like this with such grace.”
God has indeed glorified himself in what happened to Glynda. Dozens of people have stepped up to say that her story has given them hope, inspiration, faith, belief, and strength. For some people, in tragedy they say, “Why did this happen to me?” I look at God miraculous grace and say, “Why did this happen to me?”
All I know is that I can’t explain what happened. Career medical professionals can’t either, but I asked God to glorify himself—and—to God be the glory!
Editor’s note—Bill and Glynda Barkman are ordained ministers with a long history of vital ministry in the Church of God. Bill is currently serving as a hospital chaplain in ecumenical ministry. Since Bill’s initial report, he adds that Glynda’s heart has shown no sign of every having a heart attack or cardiac arrest. By mid-January, she was out of rehab. By the end of March, she had graduated from all physical therapy, occupational therapy, and passed all cognitive assessments. Praise the Lord, he is just the same today!
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