Imagine waking up and finding that your wife was not breathing. That’s what happened to an Oklahoma man. His quick thinking saved her life, but after several days in the hospital and his wife in a deep coma, he decided to pull the plug. What happened next shocked and amazed everyone.
14. She Stopped Breathing
At just 31 years old, Ryan Finley had the perfect life. He was married to his soulmate, Jill, and they had a loving family and friends. But on a Saturday morning in May, everything came crashing down. Ryan woke up and realized that Jill was totally unresponsive. He couldn’t wake her up. She wasn’t breathing.
13. Emergency CPR
Ryan immediately called 911. It had been ten years since Ryan had taken a CPR class and until that moment, he hadn’t needed to use it. He quickly started doing chest compressions while waiting for the ambulance.
12. Verge of Death
Paramedics arrived and found Jill on the verge of death. They used paddles to shock her heart back to life and rushed her to the hospital. At Oklahoma Heart Hospital, Jill was put on a respirator because she couldn’t breathe on her own. They put in her a suit to lower her body temperature so they could minimize brain damage due to lack of oxygen.
11. Grim Prognosis
Although Jill was alive and her heart was beating, she was in a coma. Ryan stayed by her side day after day, often sleeping next to her on the bed. He passed the day reading the Bible and talking to his wife. However, days when by without any responsiveness. Doctors shared a grim prognosis: only one to two percent of people ever woke up and lived normal lives.
“It was grim,” Ryan said. “I’ll put it that way. Everything they told me was grim.”
10. The Worst Day of His Life
Ryan knew his wife would not want to live that way. He had kept a diary throughout the ordeal. On June 6, 11 days after he had found his wife comatose, he wrote, “Today could be the worst day of my life. I essentially have to decide whether or not she will die or not.”
9. Saying Their Goodbyes
The doctors let the family have as much time as they needed and then they took Jill off life support at around 6 pm. “She’s my soul mate and my wife, my everything in this whole world. And it was up to me whether or not she lived or not. That’s a bad thing to go through.”
8. Hanging On
Jill was still in a deep coma, but she did not die immediately. Ryan had to go to court to have a judge sign papers permitting Ryan to make the decisions about her care. By the time he returned to the hospital, it was 11 pm. Jill was still alive.
7. The Final Rally
He returned around 11 p.m. to sit with her and wait for the end in the hospice where she was being cared for. Doctors, nurses and the hospice team had prepared the family for the signs of death. “About 11:45, she started getting restless,” Ryan said. “People told me they call it the last rally. When a person is about to pass, they tend to regain some body function, be able to talk or move — things that they hadn’t been able to do previously.”
6. “Take Me to Ted’s”
Ryan believed that these were all signs that Jill was about to pass. “I thought that was it, that was the last rally,” he said. However, Jill soon went from mumbling to clear speech. “Get me out of here,” she told her husband. Then she said something else, something that showed she did not have brain damage at all. “Take me to Ted’s and take me to the Melting Pot,” Jill said, naming her two favorite restaurants.
Ryan was stunned. “I asked her questions,” Ryan said. “Simple addition, what our phone number was, our dog’s name, our cat’s name. She answered them all correctly, all of ’em. And I knew, ‘This isn’t the last rally.’” In fact, Jill was fully conscious and out of her coma. This wasn’t the end: it was the beginning of a new journey.
4. Heart Surgery
Doctors diagnosed Jill with a previously unknown congenital heart condition. The next step was surgery to implant a pacemaker. Then, she was moved to a rehabilitation center. She remembered little of her ordeal. “When I was in the coma, I don’t remember anything,” she said. “I don’t remember anything from the heart hospital. I do remember the big shower they wheeled me into every day. Other than that, I don’t remember anything.”
3. The Road Back
The road back was not easy. “I did go to inpatient therapy, and I remember all of that. All of the nurses, and occupational therapists and speech pathologists — I remember all of them,” Jill said. “They helped me tremendously.” And through it all, Ryan was right by her side.
2. Normal Life
Jill still has to work extra hard to pronounce some words, but she appears to be the same person she was before the coma. “Pretty much, I am normal,” Jill said. “I have a little speech that I’m working on. And my short-term memory is off. But other than that, I am doing great.” Now she and Ryan are closer than ever before.
1. A Hero
Ryan was nominated for an Oklahoma Heart Hero award for his CPR work, which saved Jill’s life. “We cherish each day, each minute, each hour now,” Jill observed. “Not that we didn’t before, it just puts it more in perspective. We just spend every minute that we can together — going to the grocery store now, we go together, go everywhere together. One of our friends, [said], ‘I’m so jealous. You guys are like newlyweds,’” she said. “It’s crazy. It’s absolutely crazy,” Jill said. “It is truly a miracle that I’m here.”